This story begins in Nov. 2006. Some events are out of order, so just disregard wherever applicable. Thanks.

Merry'd Life

Christopher moved around to the passenger-side of his car and opened the door for Lorelai. She climbed in and smiled at him as he closed the door after her.

"Hurry up, babe. I have to be home in time for the Who's the Boss marathon," Lorelai yelled. He smiled at her as he walked around the front of the car while looking at her through the windshield. He didn't respond until after he got inside and secured his own door.

"You hate that show. You mocked it when it came out, and that's all you want to do now. You can't possibly have anything else to say about poor Tony Danza."

Lorelai watched as he fastened his seatbelt. "You obviously don't know the powers that I possess. You've known me since I was four, yet...I'm having problems believing this right now," she stated with a playful disappointment. This made Chris laugh.

"Three. We've known one another since we were three."

"Even worse!" she guffawed. "You were the first to show me yours. And in return, I showed you mine. And together, years later, we put them to some very good use. And still, when it comes to the Gilmore mock, you question, you doubt! You fool!"

This brought on more laughter from Christopher. Moments such as this delighted him more than he could ever say. Lorelai seemed to always be the one to place memories up for discussion. She loved the past. This is what he had come to realize. They'd known one another since toddler age so there were lots of memories. And in the few short months they'd been together, in the few short weeks they'd been married, they had run through that list with a fine-tooth comb.

She was happy when they talked about their related upbringing. She was happy being around the one who shared in her misery as an adolescent. He found joy in seeing her laugh. Along with this feeling came satisfaction at knowing that no matter what they went through, no one could ever replace him in those memories. He often worried about filling the shoes of the guy who she'd been committed to for two years of her life. She had never remained with someone that long before. That was intimidating, and for a person like Lorelai, it spoke volumes. Christopher wasn't even sure if their sporadic "relationship" over the past twenty years would equal two years if tallied. One maybe. A big fat maybe.

But now they had forever. It would put that two years to shame. Times like this, seeing her eyes sparkle and gleam as she discussed the them all those years ago, he knew he had nothing to worry about.

"Okay, okay, I give up. I'm sorry I ever doubted you, oh Mighty Mocker of the Gilmore Clan. You're the best. And now we will head home so that Mr. Danza can get what he has coming to him."

Lorelai folded her arms and turned in her seat to face him. "You gave up way too easily, Christopher."

"Isn't that the key to a successful marriage with you womens?" he asked playfully.

Lorelai smiled. "That's a nice theory, but I prefer the fight. It's my way of feeling superior."

"Well, I'm a lover, not a fighter." He looked over and winked. "Can we make a compromise?"

She shook her head in amusement. "We always do," she conceded.

Christopher returned attention to the road as he smiled with contentment. Lorelai's eyes remained on him. She brought her lips in and rubbed them together thoughtfully. Her mind picked up and ran with the few thoughts that she allowed free travel in her mindspace these days. What she looked at now was her future. This was her life. Happiness was the name of the game, and she'd been denied it for far too long so she sought ways to make up for it. Being with Christopher made her happy. It made her forget.

"Hey, Chris, do you remember that time we went to the movies to see Just One of the Guys?" She chuckled as she watched Chris' lips spread more in recognition.

"No, I can't say that I do," he said in a way that begged for her to not bring it up.

She hit his arm. "Sure you do, Honey. We were squeezing past Shamu's doublemint twin on the way to our seats, and you tipped our full bucket of popcorn over on that guy's head in the next row," she finished brightly. Chris shook his head. "I don't see why you wouldn't remember such a fantastic night."

"Oh, that night," he joked. "The night I almost got the crap kicked out of me by the big, burly biker looking guy!" He shuddered. "I half expected him to throw on a red cowboy hat and yell for me to 'step into a slim jim!' "

"Your memory's improving."

Christopher chuckled. "I swear Lor, that guy was huge. And when he stood up, it was worse. He looked like the giant that fell down the beanstalk. What was he even doing in that theatre?"

"Just there for a night of teen comedy. Even Mister T got his kicks somewhere."

Chris playfully rubbed his thigh, close to his bottom. "Speaking of kicks..." he stressed.

Lorelai smiled and rubbed his arm soothingly. "It wasn't that bad. You were a fast runner back then."

"Yeah. Really cool when you're trying to impress a girl, huh?"

Lorelai scoffed. "Impress me? Rory had already been conceived and spit out. I'd say you'd already done a decent job of impressing me."

Christopher thought for a moment. "Oh yeah," he said remembering. "That is right. Where was she that night anyway?"

"Emily decided to spend some time with her. Emily and the nanny, of course."

"Right, right. If I remember correctly, I had to all but beg and plead to get you to finally leave her." He looked over and found her smiling. "Not to mention, I had to promise to babysit for a few nights."

Lorelai's eyes fell as her smile slid from her lips. She nervously brought her fingers to her chin where she scratched a spot that didn't itch. She looked at Chris once again and created a smile. "It's not really...called babysitting when it's your kid, Chris." She shrugged, smiled wider. This was still happy times. "It's more like raising," she finished.

He nodded lightly, not seeing that he'd punctured an unhealed wound. "Yeah, I know. I liked to be with her anyway, but that night I would have promised anything to get some alone time with you. It was so hard to do by that point," he said, looking over at her with a boyish grin.

It took the world's restraint to keep from mentioning how that outing marked the last before he took off in search of himself, leaving Rory and her alone. Lorelai's lips stretched wider, and she turned her eyes from him. She swiveled her knees and faced the proper way as she cleared her throat. "Good ole days, huh?" she said.

"I'll say." He moved his hand atop hers and grasped it. She looked back at him, summoning the smile back. Her hand was brought to his lips, and she felt a kiss being pressed to her ring finger, above the circular metal that promised a lifetime. She squeezed his hand to show affection. Let it go just after. Smoothed down her skirt with urgency like any wrinkle would cause the fabric to disappear and leave her naked. Her eyes went to her window, and she watched darkness. Darkness watched her. Happiness now required a flashlight.

She thought hard on what sustained her in this new life. She needed sustenance always.

"What about when we were fifteen? Do you remember when my mom and your mom waited fo--"

"Lorelai," Chris interrupted laughingly, "calm down and breathe. You sound like you're in a word race. Talk about coffee overkill. We're switching you to decaf, Miss Lady," he said as he once again took her hand. She looked down at the tender way in which he held her. He linked his fingers with hers. Continuing to stare, she felt her heartbeat slow. With this, she was able to remember how much he cared. She was able to remember how much she cared. How much she would always care about him because of his very permanent position in her kid's life. This also sustained her. It became foundation for the happiness.

She took a deep breath. "Sorry," she said quietly. She pointed to her head. "Gets kind of crazy in here sometimes."

He laughed heartily. "I definitely know."

Both her hands came around his. "I know you do, babe. We've got ourselves a lot of history."

She said this as a reminder. To Christopher, it was a declaration. "That, we do," he stated proudly.

Lorelai sighed and an authentic smile lighted her lips. She was back. She was back and feeling okay about this new life. She'd begun to flee, question. Panic. The panic was the worse. But now she was back. Happiness sometimes liked to play hide-and-seek.

Chris' Volvo sped through the dark street. It was late, so the area that usually had its share of travelers was quite empty. They would see a car, then would not see another until one or more songs had played on Chris' CD changer. They were coming back from Yale after spending the day with an overworked Rory. Parents' day in Lorelai's world had never been plural. It was now, and that fact went as a gigantic check mark on her pro list. That had to be a good thing. Destiny and all that.

The Volvo, though many negative remarks could be said about its appearance, had one major positive that Lorelai enjoyed. It always provided a smooth ride. No bump was felt no matter how rocky the road. And these days, she appreciated that bumpless ride more than anything. As they drove along, both she and Christopher were able to tell immediately when that ride was compromised. They exchanged confused looks, and he turned the music off. The noise grew. Christopher slowed, and the sound seemed to become louder with that decrease in speed. Something had gotten lodged in the tire, and suddenly they were being directed left. Chris grasped the wheel as the car crossed the divider line. He gained control fast and stopped the car on the opposite shoulder with a slight screech. As he pulled over, the tire that had taken the hit had no more inflation. They now knew firsthand what it was like to ride on the rim of a car.

He brought the car to a stop and put on the flashers, along with the emergency brake. He looked around for a moment before turning eyes to Lorelai. "Whoa."

She lifted her brows. "You can say that again, Joey Russo."

He nodded. "Guess we have a flat," he said airily.

She smiled, choosing not to take the road of sarcasm. It was way too easy. "Yeah. Guess we do," she agreed with a sigh.

He chuckled. "Are you alright?" he finally asked. She nodded. "Okay, uh..." He grasped his door handle. "...you stay here. I'll be right back." At her nod, he stepped outside and assessed the situation. He was only outside for a minute before he was opening the door and leaning in to look at her. "It's definitely a flat," he announced.

Lorelai leaned her head against the seat. "Guess I can kiss my marathon goodbye, huh?"

"Not necessarily." He looked at the back driver side tire again before he was regarding Lorelai. "Any chance you know how to change one of these things?" Lorelai laughed out loud causing Christopher to do the same. "I'm guessing that's a no then," he concluded.

Her laughter subsided as she opened her purse and rifled through it. "That was the funniest thing I've heard all week," she commented. Finding her cell, she retrieved it and held it up. "I am, however, quite efficient in the art of phone dialing. I have roadside service on my cell phone." She didn't mention how it was because of Luke's insistence.

"Well, you just started to rock a little bit more than you already did. Marry me, will you?"

Lorelai looked through her directory. "Sorry, Hon. I'm already taken." She found the number and pressed SEND, bringing the phone to her ear. "Apparently by a guy who's too scared to get his pretty little manicured nails dirty." She stuck her tongue at him, and his jaw dropped in offense. He climbed back in the car.

"Wait, wait, wait, give me that thing," he said, taking the phone from her. He ended the call and dropped the phone back inside her purse. "I'll show you how much of a man I can be, pretty lil' lady." He took off his jacket and rolled his sleeves. Lorelai looked like she was about to explode in laughter.

"Chris, I was kidding. You don't have to do this. Chris!" she yelled as he climbed back outside with a wide grin. She opened her door as well and met him at the back of the car. "Christopher, let's call someone to do this," she said. She knew that he had no earthly idea what he was doing. "Baby, be serious."

He opened the hood and located the spare. "This is serious. Man serious--the most vital kind of serious." He started looking around the tire. "After this, I'm going to go off somewhere and spit and scratch myself like I have crabs."

Lorelai watched his hands fumble around the tire. Her mouth hung open a little as she thought of what she could say that wouldn't bruise his precious little male ego. All jokes aside, she really wanted to get home without dying in the process. "Have you ever done this?" she asked tentatively.

He shrugged, concentrating on what he was doing. "Nope. Seems simple, though."

She nodded slowly. "Have you at least seen it done?"

He replied with a light air, but he sounded insulted or annoyed. "Lorelai, relax. I'm a guy. This stuff is like encoded in our brains. I'm sure it'll be fine."

Lorelai smashed her lips together, folded her arms, and turned away. Maybe prayer would help. Christopher started to mumble his confusion of how to get the tire out of the enclosed space. Lorelai looked into the distance, and no sooner did she do this did she see a set of headlights appear followed distantly by another set. Even though she and Christopher were on the opposite side of the street, she stepped off to the side even more. The first car drove by honking their horn. Whether it was a pervert in the driver seat who liked what he saw or someone who thought they'd take a moment and mock the car that was stranded, Lorelai wasn't sure. Either way, they kept on driving.

She turned back to Christopher with an audible exhale. Unfolding her arms, she leaned over the trunk. "It looks like all you have to do is twist this little thing right--"

"Oh!" Chris chuckled. "Didn't see that. Thanks."

"It's my pleasure," she replied, folding her arms back. She turned around quickly when she realized the second set of headlights had not yet passed. The car was still approaching, but at a slower pace. She moved closer to Chris, bumping him.

"What's wrong?" he asked not bothering to look up. Lorelai didn't say anything. She just watched the strange vehicle slow down even more before decidedly pulling over behind them.

"Somebody's stopping," she said. Chris turned at seeing the bright lights.

"Let me know if you hear a chainsaw," he mumbled. Lorelai nodded.

"Every man for himself," she added.

"Nice to know where you stand."

The set of headlights dimmed to parking lights, and Lorelai froze. The car, which was suddenly revealed to be a truck, drove even closer.

"Stay close okay," Chris said nervously. He reached over and gripped the wrench. Lorelai shook her head.

"It's okay, Chris," she muttered as she lowered her eyes to the dirt.

"What do you mean?"

She tossed a glance at the truck. The door was now opening. "It's Luke," she told him quietly.

Chris' eyes went wide and they went from Lorelai to the good Samaritan. "Luke? Luke as in--"

"Hey, you guys need some help?"

"That'd be the one," Lorelai whispered. She turned to Luke and watched him approach. She smiled faintly. "Hey...uh Luke," she said.

He did a firm nod, offering a smile of his own. Then, he turned eyes to Christopher. "How you doing?" he asked respectfully.

Chris just looked at him. They hadn't been in each other's presence since Luke had shown up and punched him on his doorstep after That Night. "I'm dandy. Thanks for asking," he said with attitude.

Luke nodded, accepting that answer easily. His eyes went inside the trunk of the car. Lorelai's eyes were now back on the ground. She looked at Chris to find him looking at Luke like he was ready to pounce. His eyes moved to her, and she lowered hers once again.

Luke took in the scene for a moment, and he wondered if Chris knew what he was doing. He didn't take him for the manliest of men. "Can I give you a hand here?" He asked the question directly to Christopher, but his attention went to Lorelai as he determined how comfortable she was with that possibility. He watched her lift her eyes to him slow as if she was following a countdown in her head.

"No, we're fine here. But thank you a lot, okay?" This, of course, was Chris.

Luke's eyes stayed on Lorelai until her internal countdown had come to an end. She placed focus on him finally. She blinked and tried to look away, but this ended only in her looking at him with more intent. She swallowed thickly and regulated her breathing. She didn't think about him nowadays. She didn't see him nowadays, so whenever he entered her mind or her line of sight, her body reminded her of his past position. He looked as if he had not one memory of the disaster that made up the end of their engagement. He just looked like Luke. Always the savior.

Luke took side steps and inspected the tire that had two large nails stuck deep inside. Lorelai's eyes fell to his black pants, his stylish shoes. He had on date clothes. Luke ignored Chris like he was a fly buzzing in somebody else's ear. He moved back to where he'd been. "You guys need help?" he asked, this time to Lorelai.

Lorelai looked quickly at Chris. He was getting mad. Had already packed his bags and was standing in the village of mad getting ready to declare himself mayor. She knew a situation was about to be presented, and without question, the side she took would have to be her husband's.

"No, Luke, we're fine. Like Chris said." Showing that she wasn't afraid to mention his name was a slam dunk kind of move--one that would surely spare an argument when she and Chris got home.

In her mind, Luke nodded an acceptance of that answer, then turned to walk away to save her from any future moments that would only end with her foot in her mouth. He walked over to his truck where he climbed inside, shut the door, and started the engine. That was all in her mind. In her reality, there was a slamming of his truck door, but Luke was still standing in front of her. She looked over to find a short-haired blonde approaching.

Her eyes moved with this woman. She didn't realize she was staring until she was playfully asked by the woman if there was something hanging out of her nose. Lorelai didn't acknowledge having even heard her. She blinked and looked at Luke. Her mind was telling her to smile, to look away, to introduce herself, to do something that would rescue her from this look that she was now giving Luke.

Luke grew uncomfortable. Seconds started to stretch out way too damn long. He looked at Chris and found him now looking at Lorelai's piercing stare with confusion. She didn't notice. The swim coach tossed glances between him and Lorelai, not sure where to rest her eyes. Luke glanced at Lorelai and cleared his throat. With that, she looked away. Rolled her eyes away. Shook her head like she was disappointed in him, hurt by him. He wasn't sure. But she hid nothing.

"I think you should go. We're good here." Chris continued to buzz like a Raid-laden housefly that refused to just stop living.

Luke rolled his eyes. He was not about to stand there pounding chests and comparing man lengths with Lorelai's husband. She had made her choice. He was not trying to interfere with that. But he would not leave her stranded out there with Chris and his skill-less ego.

He pointed a finger to the trunk. "That tire looks flat."

"It's fine," Chris replied not even turning.

"When's the last time you checked it?" Luke asked calmly.

"I said it's fine."

Luke turned eyes to Lorelai. She was looking at him, but as his eyes connected with hers, she looked away. Luke rubbed a hand over his chest, and he nodded at Lorelai. "By the way, this is uh...Susan," he said gesturing to his companion. Lorelai's eyes went back to Luke, not to the person who was being introduced. "...who," Luke continued as he looked at Susan, "I asked to please stay in the truck," he finished with a plastered smile.

She waved her hand. "It was so stuffy in there, though," she replied.

Luke nodded. "Susan, Lorelai," he said pointing, "And Chris."

She smiled. "Friends of Luke?" she asked.

Lorelai's eyes zoomed to Christopher. Chris wore a frown that he immediately directed toward her before looking away. "Not even close, Susan," he answered. He turned and started unscrewing the spare tire. Lorelai's arms went across her chest. She didn't know exactly what she had done to set Chris on edge but she was positive she'd learn soon enough. She glanced at Luke uncomfortably before moving in to Chris. She needed to smooth things over, make sure he was okay before things got too far out of hand.

"Hey, Honey, do you n--"

"Lorelai." He held up a hand, requesting not to have his personal space invaded right then. She backed up. "Just..." He paused for a long moment, his lips so tight they looked like they'd been glued, "Let me handle this, okay?" he finally said.

She nodded, her eyes going back to Luke, then the ground nervously. "Okay," she said quietly.

Luke's hands went in his pockets. His and Lorelai's eyes met again.

"Luke is really good at fixing things." Both pair of eyes turned to Susan. Chris continued his task. Susan smiled. "It's what I learned tonight at dinner. That and the fact that he has a very large...alcohol threshold," she finished finally. She laughed like she'd told the world's funniest joke. Lorelai and Luke exchanged a quick look. "You totally thought I was about to say something else, didn't you?" she asked hitting Luke on his arm.

His brows lifted, and he gave her a tight smile. "You got me," he said in surrender. He looked at Lorelai again. She looked amused, but it was shielded. They weren't quite in that place anymore. Luke shook his head thinking of Susan's Susan-ness which he really didn't want to share with anyone. Why didn't she just stay in the damn truck? "I didn't drink that much," he defended to Lorelai. She shrugged a small shrug. Smiled all on the inside. He looked at Susan and sighed. "It was just few a drinks, and ya know..." He gestured back to his pick-up. "you really don't have to stand out here. It's cold, and you're probably cold. You can go--"

"So can you," Chris said aloud.

Again with the damn buzzing.

"You can go sit in the truck," Luke continued, "I'll only be a few minutes."

Chris finally got the tire unfastened and he took it out and bounced it to the ground. It didn't bounce back up. Luke watched this before turning away with a small snort.

Lorelai looked at Luke sidelong before she faced Susan. "How'd you guys meet?" she asked her.

"April."

Lorelai's eyes dropped. More people able to spend time his pride and joy. This situation, which was just growing in hilarity, was now a lot less funny. Susan went on, not missing a beat. "I'm April's swimming coach, and when I got Luke to take my class--" Lorelai's head shot up.

"E-excuse me?" she asked leaning forward, almost choking on the words.

"Luke took my swimming class," she said even more clearer.

Lorelai walked closer like Susan had become her new best friend. "You're kidding me." Her hand went to cover her mouth. "Wow."

"Even got him to put on a speedo."

Lorelai looked at Luke, and she bit the inside of her cheek as she waited for his loud objection. Of course she knew that wasn't true. He just shook his head, his face turning the shade of rose petals. His eyes lowered. Lorelai watched his drawn lids. A smile crept across her lips. She intuited something that eased her. He hated this woman who he was with. She wasn't his type at all. Her humor wasn't one that he appreciated, and he had probably gone out with her because of his kid. Lorelai knew firsthand that it was nothing like your pre-teen calling you a pathetic spinster to make you wanna jump back in the saddle feet first with the first person suggested.

"So, you guys hit a bar tonight or something?" she asked Susan.

"No, he hit the hooch pretty hard at the vegan restaurant I suggested."

Lorelai nodded. "Interesting," she commented. "Alcohol at a vegan restaurant." Her eyes went back to Luke, and this time their eyes locked. "Didn't know they had such a thing."

Luke shrugged and looked away. "Me either."

There was a small silence. "But they do and...you took advantage," she finally said, directing a comment at him for the first time. "Must've been a fun date."

Again, he shrugged. He started to speak, but Susan beat him to it. "It was an awesome date! And who knew he could look so delicious?" she said, eyeing him. "Here I was thinking that I'd hit the jackpot with Shelly's dad! He's got nothing on you, Mr. Luke Danes."

Lorelai studied her. "Shelly's dad?" she repeated with interest. "So, what, are you like a...dad digger?" she asked.

Susan laughed. "A what?"

Chris let the tire fall to the ground, and his hands went to his hips. He threw a hardened look toward Luke before his attention went to Lorelai. For seconds, he watched her exchange conversation with her ex's date. This was not polite chit-chat. This was the kind of crap done when someone felt absolutely no threat coming from the new lover. And they wanted to let it be known. It was derogatory and always meant that the competition was failing miserably while being sized up. Anyone on the inside of this little show would find it funny. But Christopher was not finding himself on the inside. Lorelai was his wife, and hearing her unapologetically size up another man's woman was not okay.

"Look, man..." All eyes turned to Chris. Involuntary interest was taken in his tone which sounded like the beginning rumble of Hurricane Oh Shit. Lorelai regained herself, and the smile slid from her face as she moved closer to her husband. Christopher spent no time showing how unimpressed he was by that. He pointed to Luke as he went on. "I told you we're fine. This is my last time telling you that you can leave. You're not welcome here," he said firmly.

Lorelai's eyes closed and she raised her head to the sky.

"I'm not welcome?" Luke asked plainly.

"I think a duh is somewhat called for here."

Luke looked around. "In the street? I'm not welcome in the street?"

Christopher huffed and puffed like a bull. His fists clenched, and Luke almost laughed when he saw this. He nearly prayed for him to start feeling froggy. But he remained mature, kept his composure. He sighed. He was not there to cause trouble. He wanted only for Lorelai to be okay. And in a car with four good wheels. If they never spoke again, he would always want her safe.

"You want me gone, I'm gone," Luke conceded.

"Good." Venom still spilled even with Chris' relief.

Luke pointed toward the spare. "Right after I help you with this," he added.

Chris scoffed and looked at Lorelai. He wanted more than anything for her to jump on the same page he was on. It was a very big page with lots of room for company. And he knew that these unwelcome words would mean much more when spoken by her. But she remained silent. She stood like a bystander, a look of detachment on her face. Her husband and her ex argued in front of her, and she looked like she was relaxing her mind and body to begin a yoga session.

"Lor!" he exclaimed.

Lorelai turned tired eyes to Chris. Five seconds ago, he was wanting silence from her. "What, Chris?"

"I have something in the truck that'll fix this flat," Luke said. He turned and left, gently pulling along a very confused Susan in the process.

Chris looked after Luke with disbelief. He threw glances to Lorelai trying to get her to see the problems that he saw with this scene. She only appeared depleted, unwilling to put up her dukes in this fight that was obviously moving closer and closer to her present. "Tell him to leave!" He said this more as a plead, a question as to why she hadn't already done this. It wasn't an order.

Lorelai looked over to where Luke was. He was helping Susan back inside the cab. With the closing of the door, he went to the bed of his truck. She turned back to Chris, rubbing her head where she was sure a pain was about to spring up. "Just let him fix the tire," she said wearily.

"Lorelai! You can't be serious," he said leaning in to catch her eyes.

Lorelai glanced over once again. She wanted this conversation to be over by the time Luke came back. "Christopher, you..." She paused, trying to find a more gentle way for her words to come out. Apparently, she required more time than she gave herself, "You don't know what you're doing," she said bluntly. "Luke does. Let him fix the tire. For God's sake, let him fix the tire."

He nodded fast, backed away. "Way to stand by your husband, Lor."

"I do stand by you, Chris. I work overtime to stand by you."

His head tilted. "What exactly does that mean?"

Lorelai rose eyes to him and spoke in a tone that was still low. Tired and low. "I don't deserve this from you. You have no clue how tired I get trying to defend myself when I have done absolutely nothing wrong." She pointed an arm out to Luke. "I didn't call him. I don't call him, I don't see him, I don't even think about him, Chris! How's that for standing by you?"

Chris' jaw flexed. "I'm sick of seeing that guy, Lorelai. I'm sick of him popping up."

Lorelai looked to where Luke was still rummaging through his truck. "He doesn't pop up," she refuted exhaustedly. Chris looked at her, confused. She clarified. "He's...there. He's just always there." She rolled her eyes to the ground. "It's who he is, Chris. He's always been that way. There's no ulterior motive; that's one thing that I can promise you."

He scoffed so loud, it echoed. "Great. And now you're defending him." He kicked some rocks with his expensive shoe. "Lor...you're just really...not getting it."

She paused, staring at him intensely. "You and I, we're meant to be together. Remember?" He stared at her. "Those were your words. So, I have to ask, if that's something you really believe, why are you so worried about Luke?" This came out much more harshly than she meant for it to. But there was no room for apology because to be quite frank, she was just sick and tired.

He continued to stare at her, and now she was staring at him. They stood like two statues frozen in battle. The words burned Christopher's throat, and it took seconds to move past that sting. "You say that like I'm alone in that belief."

Wind whipped past them, picking up leaves and dirt and moving it elsewhere. But Chris' insecurity was left intact. There wasn't a wind big enough. Lorelai just looked angry despite this. She didn't pick Chris' ego up off the ground, dusting it and kissing it like she'd grown accustomed to doing. When he got upset with her, her feelings were the last thing on his mind. She felt it was high time she learned the satisfaction of that feeling. Even with Chris' pout which she knew was about to follow, she was not going to cave. Anytime his anger was not met with compassion and patience, he flipped to a damn sulk. If it was, then he settled comfortably into that anger, no problem.

They both could hear Luke approaching. Lorelai's eyes fell. "We'll talk about this at home," she said quietly. Chris watched her turn her eyes on Luke. "Hey," she said in a kind voice accompanied by a sincere, gentle smile. This smile looked like the tiny specks of color that appeared instantly after a heavy rain on a sunny day. The kind that came so easy and was the beginning part of something much more beautiful. Christopher saw this, and as a result, he formed more hate for the man before him.

Lorelai pointed to his can of fix-a-flat. "Thanks for doing this, Luke."

"It's not a big deal," he said with his trademark brush-off.

She shook her head. "Why am I not surprised you'd say that?" she asked. He shrugged.

"This is just great," Chris mumbled.

Lorelai sighed, eyeing Christopher. She figured by the time they got home, she'll have reached deep inside to find some clemency. Enough to get her and Chris back on track. But currently, there was none to speak of. "Thank you anyway," she said with insistence toward Luke.

He nodded. "If you want, you can go sit in the truck until this is fixed."

Chris looked at Lorelai wide-eyed, eager to see what her response would be to this thing that wasn't about to happen over his dead body. Lorelai could see Chris out of the corner of her eye. She didn't have to look at him to see his feelings about Luke's offer. She was far from stupid and didn't need any reminders of how to protect an investment.

"That's okay. I'll wait in this car."

She gave one last grateful smile before she turned to the Volvo. She went to the passenger door and climbed inside before either could object. Sure, they were getting ready to jack that four thousand pound car up off the pavement, but what was an additional hundred or so pounds of added weight? Besides, Lorelai already knew she had one hell of a night ahead of her when she and Chris made it back home. The last thing she wanted to do was stand out there and add more fuel to that blaze.

She got inside, only then realizing that leaving Luke and Chris alone probably wasn't a good idea either. But she stayed committed to her decision. She was all about commitment these days. With a slight turn of the ignition key, she filled the car with music and searched hard for a moment of tranquility.

Outside, Luke and Chris stood in place.

Chris was the first to speak.

"I appreciate you stopping and helping. My wife and I appreciate it," he stressed with calm. He pointed to the can that contained the only solution to a spare that had no inflation. "I'll be sure to pay you back for this. And again, thank you." He pointed to the distance and finally let loose the words that he really meant. "Now, you can go."

Luke rolled his eyes and squatted over the tire. "I'm not leaving. So, you can save your breath by going five minutes without saying that," he said imperviously. "Get your lug nut wrench." He looked up at him. "You do know what that is, don't you?"

Chris glared at him. "Yeah, I do know what a lug nut wrench is," he said. "But what I don't know is why you can't seem to take a hint," he spat, working hard to keep his voice low. "Nobody wants you here. Especially Lorelai."

Luke sniffed. Allowed seconds to pass as he emptied the can. "I always try to keep a can of this stuff with me. You should probably think about investing in some yourself. Comes in handy," he commented aloud as he pressed on the tire.

Chris' hands slapped his sides. "Why won't you just go away? Huh? If you had any idea how pathetic this was, you'd knock it off."

Luke's jaw tightened. Air continued to filled the tire. "Just a little bit more, and this should get you guys home."

Chris frowned, staring at the top of Luke's lowered head. "And if you ever punch me again, you better be ready for a fight."

Luke shifted. "Oh boy, boy, boy," he said to himself.

Apparently Luke's nonchalance and unwillingness to be led astray by simple words only encouraged Christopher. "You obviously don't know what Lorelai and I have. We have twenty-five years! Twenty-five. What makes you think you can compete with that? What do you hope to accomplish by doing this?" he asked, now sounding amused.

"Please shut up."

"Acting like a lapdog. It's pathetic."

Luke paused. Tightened his hand around the can. The seconds that passed were the longest in history. But it was the time needed for Luke to grab ahold of himself. Finally, he looked up and spoke like he was physically trying to fight back words. "You feel better? Got all that off your chest?" Small silence. "Hm?!" The sheer intensity of that sound caused Chris to jump, and he cursed himself the moment he did. Turned even that anger to Luke.

"Fuck you."

Luke stood instantly, and Chris couldn't hide his initial stun. The change in height happened so incredibly fast. Still, he took a step forward.

"What did you say to me?" Luke's lips barely moved. His chest rose and fell like he'd run a mile. Never had he been so mad. He turned and placed one foot inside the tire. That pivot showed that Chris had dug and dug and had finally made it to the final straw.

Christopher felt adrenaline piling up in his favor. He wanted just one opportunity to punch back. Just one. That hit from Luke all those months ago had damaged both his face and his psyche, and he had a lot to prove.

He braced himself. The stance he took made him look like he was about to start a middle school wrestling match. "Come on!" he urged. "Come on!"

Luke's foot lifted up and out of the tire. Slow. His fingers were at his sides, stuffed inside of tight fists, the color gone from his knuckles. He looked at Chris hard, his eyes that of a madman. Chris was nervous, but that held no candle to the terror that ripped apart Luke's insides. He had never experienced anger this raw, and that terror came only from knowing that his rational mind was nowhere to be found. Three steps would place this man within reach. Prison flew through his mind. April looked at him through thick glass while speaking on a phone with no jack.

There would be no weapon to dispose of. His weapons would be locked up along with him. His weapons would be what would get thrown in cuffs.

Luke's three steps became four. Chris had been inching back...in his crouching tiger, hidden dragon fighting stance. The look on Luke's face unnerved him. He erected himself and decided that face-to-face would let him know that he meant business. His fists balled too, and he briefly thought about whether he should throw the first punch and stop him in his tracks. He backed down from this, and before he knew it, he no longer had the space to get a good swing. Luke was on him close.

"I don't like you." Luke's voice was low and gravelly. Controlled, even though he felt none at all. His own ears didn't recognize the sound there. "You're weak. You're a weak, spineless excuse for a human being, and I. Don't. Like. You. I don't even like the air around you." He got closer. Almost touched his nose with his nose. "Don't you ever talk to me like that again. Do you understand me?"

Chris' body knocked the car. Lorelai looked over from her tranquil moment with Chris Daughtry telling her where Home was. She saw the scene and gasped. Her heart leapt from her chest, and she struggled with the door handle.

Chris' nose flared, and his anger did nothing but grow. He frowned so deep, he looked like a vampire monkey. Lorelai emerged from the car yelling, screeching, terrified.

"Stop! Guys, no. Please, guys!" She slipped on the road, she scurried so quickly. Her screaming got Susan's attention, who seemingly had blinders on until that very moment. Luke's truck door was the next to open and close. Lorelai only made it to the back of the car before Chris' hands went to Luke's chest, and he pushed with all his might. He wanted his personal space back. Luke took steps away at that push. Came back at him in a way that made Chris panic and almost piss himself in fear. He reached a fist back, got some force behind that sloppy punch, and brought it to where Luke's jaw had been. But Luke had reared back and was able to actually see the punch in its final stages. It exhibited no skill whatsoever.

Lorelai stopped in her tracks and her hands went to her mouth at Chris' swing. There was little she could do now. She expected fists to start flying and blood to start pouring now that that first punch had been taken. Susan stopped beside her, and she added her own howl of fear to the already out-of-control situation.

Luke erected himself after ducking Chris' wild punch. But he didn't hit him. He also didn't take any chances that Chris would try the same crap again. He stared him in the eye, grabbed Chris' wrist with just one of his hands. Chris' other hand came over that tight grasp to take away sudden pressure, and Luke bent that hand in a direction that no hand was ever meant to go. He twisted it in a way that had Chris turning to face the car fast. He cried out like a cat being violated by a German Sheppard.

Luke took that injured hand around, then further up Chris' back as he slammed him into the car. Once.

Lorelai started moving again. "Luke!"

Twice.

Tears slid from Chris' tightly closed eyes. There was so much pain. "Stop, stop, stoooop!"

"Luke, you're going to break his arm!"

Three times. He tried to knock the car over using Chris' body. Spit slid down the back window as Chris' mouth remained opened in agony against the hood.

Lorelai flew over. She pulled at Luke's jacket. When that proved ineffective, she moved her hands. Gripped either side of his stomach. That was the first time she'd touched him in months. She didn't pull at him; she didn't try to somehow hurt the man who was causing her husband so much pain. She moved in. Went from his rear to his side, placing one of her hands under his black jacket to his back. She was so close, she looked like she'd somehow become a part of the violence.

The slamming had stopped at three, and Luke now held Chris against the car, deciding if he should just finish moving his twisted hand up his back. Snap it right off.

Lorelai's touch brought him back. Like a switch had been hit, he was suddenly able to hear Chris' cries, whereas a second ago, he'd heard nothing but the pounding of his own heart. Loud and fast, getting louder and faster at every passing second.

"Luke, listen to me." Ten seconds ago, Lorelai's voice was laced with fear and shock as she begged them to not start this. Now, she sounded strong. They had a bond, her and Luke. Nobody could ever hurt her the way he had. Because no one had ever had as much of her heart as he had. He broke her, hurt her badly. But right now, in this moment, she trusted that bond. If Luke heard no one else, he would have to hear her. Lorelai knew firsthand how little choice he would have in the matter.

Susan came to Luke's rear, feeling as if she should be helping in some way. Lorelai only saw her in her peripherals, and she held a hand flat out to her. She let her know without a word that she could handle this situation. She could handle Luke. Without help from someone who barely knew him.

Her hand returned to his back, and it slid up tenderly without permission from her. She was rubbing him, calming him.

"Listen to me," she began again, "You have to let him go. You're mad, and I get that." Her hand continued movement. "You didn't take a punch, and I thank you so much for that, Luke. I do." She took a moment and looked over at Chris who was whimpering and trying not to whimper at the same time, resulting in more drool and tears sliding from his face. Lorelai returned focus to Luke. "You're hurting him really badly. Look at his face, Luke."

Luke tore his eyes from the back of Chris' head and brought his eyes to his wet face.

"I'm gonna kill you! I-I'm gonna kill you!" Christopher managed.

"Christopher, shut up!" Lorelai snapped. She could see Luke calming, returning to his regular self, and Chris' words were going to do nothing to speed along the process. Apparently, he didn't like his arm very much.

Luke was shocked at himself, his actions. As he came down more and more, he felt detached from this scene that he was perpetuating. Still, stepping away from it didn't come easy. His hatred toward this guy went deep like cancer.

He took a step back, not loosening his grip. Lorelai's hand slid from his back. Her other one stayed on the side of his stomach. "Let him go, Luke," she whispered.

Luke's hands fell away.

Lorelai's hand went flat against Luke's stomach, and she urged him back further. She went with him. Both their eyes moved to Chris. They appeared Bonnie and Clyde to their wounded enemy.

Chris lowered his arm slowly from where Luke had had it hemmed up. He lifted his face from the hood, wiping away moisture from his lips and cheeks before he turned to face his audience. His labored breathing was all that could be heard. He faced forward and leaned on the car, strength gone from his body. He cradled his arm, mad that he'd have such a painful reminder of the last five minutes. For weeks, he'd have this reminder.

He gave Luke the meanest look he could muster. But he was in no position at all to back it with actions. His eyes went to Lorelai in anger and shame. Without blinking, his attention went low. Lorelai knew immediately what had stolen focus. She took her hands off of Luke's body and stepped away. Chris looked into her face with an expression that told her the physical pain now made up only a fraction of the whole. Lorelai looked away briefly before deciding she would not accept the role of the bad guy. She could not keep apologizing for his insecurities.

"Are you okay?" she asked softly as she took a tiny step forward.

He scowled like he tasted vomit. "I'm fine. I'm not sure if you really care, but I'm fine. Why don't you go back over to him. See if he hurt himself while trying to break my goddamn arm off!" he finished, screaming the last part toward Luke.

Lorelai looked back at Luke quickly when she heard him move. She braced herself. But all she saw was Luke turning and walking toward the rear of the car. "Shoulda kept it to yourself," he retorted casually.

Chris followed him with his eyes, looking like he wanted to tackle him to the ground. He watched Luke speak quietly to Susan before she nodded, said a few words back, then went to wait in the truck. Luke watched, making sure she got inside safely before he sighed, turned, and bent down to pick up the fully-inflated tire.

Chris moved over fast. Lorelai had to step back to avoid getting mowed down. The tire was snatched from Luke's hands with one good arm and one arm which had massive pain being ignored. "No! You do not touch--don't you fucking dare touch my car!" he said, spit flying from his mouth at his angry words.

Lorelai sighed with depletion and neared them again. "Guys, please don't do this."

Luke shook his head. "It's okay, Lorelai, don't worry about it. If he doesn't want me to touch his car, I won't." He held his hands up and moved away. He walked a few feet, then began to pace, his head lowered as he worked to stay calm. "Lorelai, if you still have that service on your phone, call and have them come fix the tire, okay?" he said just loud enough to be heard. His eyes remained low, his pace continued.

Chris glared at Luke before regarding Lorelai. "I said I'll fix it, and I will."

Lorelai looked worried. "Chris."

"What? You don't want me to fix it? You want to take his suggestion over mine?" he asked, hurt.

"It has nothing to do with--"

"Or better yet, just let him fix the tire. That's a great idea. He's already assaulted me. Why not let him emasculate me, then we'll call it a day."

Lorelai looked drained and definitely felt it. She was in a nightmare. One that kept getting worse and worse. It didn't even seem to have a beginning. Just a messed up middle, and hopefully a fast-approaching end. She begged for that end.

"Fix the tire, Chris." This was said with exhaustion. Showed no fight left to fight.

"Thanks for the faith." He started moving, working.

"Just...fix the tire, Chris."

He leaned down and picked up Luke's can, tossing it at his feet. Luke glanced up but kept pacing, not taking the bait. Chris lifted the tire from the ground and leaned into his wife. "I'd never put you in a situation like this. You need to tell him to leave, Lor." He muttered this just before he turned to the car.

Lorelai looked over at where Luke was still pacing. She rolled her eyes back to Christopher. "Just fix the tire, Chris," she repeated.

"Stop talking to me like that," he stopped and said tightly. "You sound condescending."

She let out a large breath, folding her arms over her chest. "Yeah, well, maybe I have reason to. Have you thought about that?"

Christopher shook his head and stooped by the back tire. He began to loosen the lugnuts. Luke stopped pacing and looked over. Chris saw him do this, and he paused briefly before continuing on. His jaw muscles clenched. "I don't need a babysitter," he seethed. He placed the jack under the car and made the mistake of using his injured hand to pump. He grimaced, glanced at Luke, and switched hands. He worked more vigorously, his anger getting the best of him. "I don't need supervision!"

"You don't have to lift the car that high. If you do that then your--"

"You just really don't know when to shut up, do you?"

Boy was that directed at the wrong person! Luke frowned at Chris' words and looked over at Lorelai. She met his eyes, shook her head tiredly. She thanked him with a look. So much sincerity lay in her eyes. She wanted him to know how grateful she was that he was not following Chris' lead. If he were to do that, it would definitely be more than she could take.

"And you know what I love the most?" Chris began again. He didn't wait for an answer. "I love how you would just assume that I've never done this before. Like just because I don't walk around in a flannel and jeans 24/7, I'm a stranger to manual labor." He tossed a look to Lorelai. But she didn't seem to care enough to reveal his ugly truth.

Luke brought his hands to the sides of his head where he massaged his temple. He began to pace again.

Chris continued to work.

"Here you are standing out here, minding business that doesn't belong to you at all...and you have a date in the car." He forced a laugh. "Am I the only one that finds something wrong with that picture? I said it before, and I'll say it again. Pathetic."

Lorelai had begun a small pace of her own. She stopped abruptly. "Christopher."

He looked at her, but she said nothing beyond just calling his name. He went on working. He quickly got the new tire in place and started lowering the car. He looked up at Luke as he continued this. "You'll have to forgive me if I'm being a little rude." He motioned toward his limp hand. "Must be the pain talking," he said sharply.

Luke sighed, kept pacing. "Well, I wish the pain would shut the hell up."

Chris scoffed. "And I wish you'd go to hell. So, I guess we can both keep wishing on a star, huh?"

Luke started counting in his head. Anything to keep his mind off of Christopher's voice. He would have taken Chris' advice and left had it not been for his inability to do so. He physically could not leave until he knew for sure that Lorelai had a way to get out of that predicament. Not until he witnessed her getting out of it.

When Chris stood, Luke stopped and looked at him in surprise. He had finished that job quickly.

"You're finished?"

"Kiss my ass."

Lorelai rolled her eyes at Chris and walked around to the passenger-side, speaking calmly when she felt anything but. "Christopher, you're really showing me a great side of yourself tonight. You have no idea." She climbed inside, unable to take anymore of him in that moment.

Luke ignored words spoken, focusing wide eyes on the tire. He took a few steps while pointing. "Did you make sure you tightened the lugnuts?"

"What do you think?"

"Are you sure? You finished really fast, and if you didn't--"

"Why don't you get back to your date huh?" He tossed things inside the trunk and closed it hard. "Have a great night," he ended in sarcasm. He turned to leave.

Luke's eyes went to the car Lorelai was sitting in. "Chris!" That got his attention. Luke took more steps. He'd kept his cool pretty well until now--not counting the few minutes he'd smashed Chris' face in the car, of course. "Look, I don't give a damn how you feel about me. I really don't. You can get in that car with a half-assed tire job all you want. That's your choice. But Lorelai is in that car. I'm asking you," he said tightly. "man to man, cut the bullshit, are you sure about the job you did?"

Chris stared at him saying nothing for seconds.

Luke actually started to feel like there was some hope. It didn't last long.

"Why don't you let me worry about Lorelai, okay. She's my wife. Mine. Can you comprehend that?" he asked as he cocked his head with arrogance. He started backing to his car. With an eye roll, he turned.

Luke breathed fire through his nose. "Chris!" he yelled again.

This time Chris didn't turn. Instead, his good arm came around fast, and he showed Luke a finger that was a rush-hour favorite. He climbed in his car and shut his door hard, instantly starting the engine.

A light on the inside of the car turned on. A large lump formed in Luke's throat as he looked at Lorelai through the back window. He nearly felt faint, and he wondered if he was being too dramatic. He prayed he was being too dramatic. He continued to stare. Lorelai turned as Chris' brake lights came on. She lifted a hand and waved goodbye. Luke was frozen in place. Still, he managed a wave of his own. Christopher flipped the inside light off just as he released the brake and pulled away.

A pain struck Luke's side. He had such a bad feeling, and he could not shake it.

The car got smaller as it went into the distance. Luke was going to watch until darkness stole that Volvo away.

What he saw next made his eyes turn 3-D. The car wobbled. Went right to left and back again. Then there was a sharp veer, a loud screech that hit his ears and made his heart leap into his throat. A big bang followed this. A crash. And the Volvo had disappeared before it could be taken by darkness.

Luke didn't know that he was moving until the wind started making his eyes water. His fancy shoes slapped pavement.

They were far up the long road. Nearly a mile. Luke sliced through wind to get there.

As a teenager, running was a hobby. He'd had training on how to run. But over the years, he'd fallen far out of practice and out of shape. As he ran up the dark road, his panicked, sloppy breathing evened out. His back straightened. That God-given talent jumpstarted itself out of nowhere. And he took the slight incline like it was a descending staircase.

His arms pumped hard, and he leaned in and seemed to speed up even more as that incline got steeper. He didn't register pain from his joints, protests from his ankles. He ran in those dress shoes like they were the latest pair of Air Jordans.

Luke's eyes stayed ahead, and he focused on how far it was until he reached his destination. When his truck pulled up alongside him, he didn't acknowledge it. Susan leaned outside and yelled for him to get inside. Luke's pace caused her to have to give the old pick-up more gas. She tried again, only to be left with the same result.

Within minutes, she was pulling over to the side of the road where Luke had cut off and flew over a ditch to get to Chris' Volvo. He hit the driver's side hard with his body, his momentum great. But he only bounced off and ran to the other side of the tilted car. It was without one of its tires. Luke crossed in front of the tree that separated one side of the hood from the other side. He tripped over sticks and rocks and fumbled through darkness before he made it to Lorelai's side.

He opened the door carefully and was immediately able to see Christopher shaking while talking to 911 on his cell. He'd been talking for minutes.

"I don't know. S-s-she's breathing, though. She has a pulse. Just hurry! Okay, okay. Okay, okay..."

Luke listened to him say that a hundred times as he remained on the phone. He leaned inside the car, seeing Lorelai's head tossed back, eyes closed. A knot sat on her forehead, and blood oozed slowly from that wound. He swallowed thickly. His hands trembled as he moved hair from her face. His body felt like it wanted to shut down. "God, please," he whispered. He moved his eyes to her chest, and he saw the barest of breaths being taken. He grasped at that hope. He felt that sudden hope, but that feeling was accompanied by such a large amount of internal turmoil, he thought he would pass out.

He pushed himself from the car and went off a bit into the distance, feeling as if he was about to be sick. He leaned over but nothing came. Dropping to his knees, he brought the sides of his fists to the ground, and leaned his forehead down onto them. He choked back tears. His breathing escalated to a point of concern before he lifted his head and brought his fists to the ground over and over. Harder and harder, he did this. Leaves crunched and twigs broke before he was making heavy indentations in the dirt. His hits grew weaker until he finally just stopped and leaned on his hands, his head low. He only allowed himself seconds to submit to this calm. He was stronger than this.

He stood again and walked back to the car. He kneeled by Lorelai and took her warm hand. "It's gonna be okay," he whispered as he rubbed the back of her hand with his thumb. He was scared to touch her, scared he'd mess something up, but he held her hand tight.

Feeling someone touch his shoulder, he turned and saw Susan. "The ambulance is coming down the road now," she said kindly.

Luke nodded. He'd heard the ambulance. But he nodded and thanked her. He looked over at Chris and finally thought to see what kind of pain he was in. He didn't seem capable of moving his arm. Luke figured the crash just finished what he had started. Other than that, he appeared to be fine. Luke ignored the look of contempt that came from Christopher as he remained on the phone with the dispatcher. He only returned focus to Lorelai and clutched her hand more firmly.

-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-

By the time the ambulance made it to the hospital, Lorelai had regained consciousness.

She woke up, and Christopher was next to her.

Only family could ride.

Luke drove his pick-up behind them. The rest of his night was set. He spoke to Susan as they drove along, apologized to her for possibly the worst date in history. She brushed it off like it was nothing. They didn't need words to determine that this would be the last time they ever went out. Luke knew this before he'd spotted Lorelai on the side of the road. Susan reached the conclusion not too long after.

Luke offered to pay for a cab. She refused. He even offered to let her take his truck, telling her he'd just pick it up later. Of course she refused that. In the end, he put her in a cab and slipped the driver more than enough to get her home. She settled into the backseat, oblivious to this.

With a backwards step, Luke watched the cab pull away from the hospital's curb.

He wasted no time turning to go inside.

The well-lit lobby was abuzz with activity. Luke went to the desk, asking the location of Ms. Gilmore. He was asked his association, and he paused, searched his brain for an accurate term, but before he could come back with an answer, it was made clear how info was going out to family members only.

He clenched his jaw, nodded in respect, and turned to wait with the strangers in the room.

His thoughts went to Rory, and he reached in his jacket for his cell phone. He dialed digits faster than his brain could think. It was picked up in the middle of the second ring.

"Luke?"

He nodded, sat up. "Yeah, Rory, it's me."

Her voice, her tone was urgent, shaky. "Listen, I'm on my way to the hospital. Mom was...um...in an accident. Don't worry, though," she added quickly. "She's o--"

"Wait, somebody called you already?"

"Yeah. My dad called not too long ago." Her brows furrowed. "So, you know? You've heard?" she asked confused.

He looked around at all the people whizzing by. "Yeah, I'm here already."

"How'd you get there so fast?"

Luke sighed. "It's a long story," he answered. "So your dad called. That's great."

"Yeah, they were heading into the ER when I was on the phone with him, so I'm thinking it's not too bad, ya know. He said Mom wasn't conscious, but she woke up right as they pulled into the parking lot, so right now I'm--"

"Wait, she's awake?" he asked, eyes bugging from his head. "She's okay?"

She was speaking fast, her nervous voice breaking in and out. "I don't know, but I think so. Dad sounded weird on the phone. He only has a broken wrist, that's what he said, and he was able to talk to me, so I'm guessing he can't be too bad off. As soon as I'm able to talk to my Mom, I'm going to feel a lot better." BEEP, BEEP! "Get out of the way, lady!" She hit the wheel, the noise coming through to Luke. "Jeez! Ever notice how when you're in a hurry people want to break the World's Slowest Driver record?" she complained.

Luke rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Rory, don't speed. Last thing I need is for you to be in here too."

"I'm going crazy here, Luke. My mom is in the hospital after getting into an accident. An accident! And I'm here and she's there, and she's unconscious--well, she was unconscious, and--and what if she has brain damage?!"

Luke lowered his head to his chest, spoke calmly into his phone. "She's won't."

"You don't know that, Luke. What if she does? And what if she, what if she--God, I'm freaking out."

"Don't freak out. Don't speed. Everything's okay right now. Just get here safely."

Rory stared straight ahead. Held the phone with one hand and crossed the other one over her middle. "I'm at a red light now. I'm at a red light while my mom is in the hospital. This is really not the time for red lights, Luke."

He nodded, his eyes closed. "I know it isn't, Rory." He brought his hand to his hair and tugged lightly. "Are you almost here?" he asked.

Rory felt a little calmer, a little more able to think for the first time since getting the call from Chris. She nodded at Luke's question. "A few blocks away. I'll be there in a little bit. When I get the green light. Literally."

Luke smiled into the phone. "So that's where that saying comes from," he said quietly.

Rory managed a smile. She watched the light turn to green, and she pressed the gas. She became conscious of her speed. "Luke?"

"Yeah," he answered in a soft tone.

"You're at the hospital?" she asked. He answered. She nodded her head, spoke with gentle curiosity. "If you're at the hospital, how come I know more than you do?"

He shrugged a shoulder. His smile stayed in place, and he hoped it would keep his tone light. He was just relaying information. "Because I'm not family."

There was silence that followed, then a sigh that sounded agitated. "That's bull."

"What?"

Rory spoke slow. "For the record...that's bull."

Luke's smile grew as he thoughtfully played with the knee of his pants. "Where are you parking?"

"Westside. Lots of parking spaces over here. So, I don't even have to pull out my mail ordered Handicap sticker."

"That's a good thing. I gave all my cash to a taxicab driver. May need to hit an ATM if you need bail, and I hate those two dollar fees."

"Such a rip-off."

"Tell me about it."

"Luke?"

"Yeah Rory?"

"My mom is going to be happy that you're here. Even if she doesn't acknowledge it, she's going to be so happy that you came."

He smiled and ran his hand through his hair. "You think so, huh?"

"I'm a reliable source. I know so." She paused. "So, what do you say we go see her?"

Luke's brow furrowed as his head stayed low. "What?"

The line went dead in his ear, and he pulled it away to verify that Rory had really hung up on him.

"I said get off your butt, and let's go see my mom."

Luke looked up and saw Rory coming through the entrance. She smiled a little and waved him up. She walked briskly to the desk, Luke now close behind.

-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-

Brain damage was the worst case scenario that Rory had placed up.

That was a possibility that rose from panic.

The reality of Lorelai's condition was better. But far from pleasing.

She was diagnosed with post-traumatic amnesia. Amnesia. That one word caused fear in those present, but they soon learned that it wasn't nearly as bad as it sounded. She knew everyone. She recognized everyone, and she maintained knowledge of how to tie her shoes. Her wits were hers. She was very much still Lorelai.

That dispelled initial concern. But deeper ones came to surface.

When Lorelai came to, she was asked questions. She was disoriented and asked questions of her own through these barrage of queries. Paramedics got her calm. She saw Chris sitting next to her in the ambulance, his wrist being looked at as he held her hand with his. The hand that he held had been motionless. She brought life to it when she pulled it from his palm. She asked more questions, and she had even more thrown at her.

She lifted her head and looked around. Her brain sorted through the mess of thoughts and the most extreme headache she'd ever experienced. It pushed through it all.

Her mouth was dry. Felt like cotton had gotten inside and acted as a sponge. She sat up more and was directed back down.

"May," she said hoarsely.

The questions stopped as the two paramedics realized she had reached out and grabbed one of the earlier questions and had supplied an answer.

"What, Ms. Gilmore?"

"Lorelai, Gage." She cleared her throat. "Lorelai."

The paramedic glanced at Christopher. "Gage? You think your name is Gage?" he asked cautiously.

Lorelai chuckled a bit. "No, Hon. That's you. Johnny Gage, Emergency! Cute as hell, by the way," she said lightly, still looking around in thought.

The paramedic blushed. "Thanks," he said trying to appear indifferent as he wrapped something around her arm.

"You're welcome, Johnny."

"You said May."

"Yeah," Lorelai answered, lifting her arm so he could now unfasten the Velcro. "And you asked me what month it was," she finished casually.

The three men in the truck exchanged looks.

Lorelai sighed, looking back into the kind face of the young paramedic. "Okay, I answered one of yours, now can you answer one of mine?" He nodded. Again, Lorelai looked around. "What the heck am I doing in an ambulance?" She smiled nervously. "Just two minutes ago, I was in the back of a therapist's car."

--

Lorelai looked from face to face.

Richard, Emily, Rory, Christopher. Luke.

She stared at him for a long moment. Then, she shut her eyes tight. "Okay, let me get this straight--"

Emily sighed with exhaustion. "Lorelai, we've been over this five times already. It's November. November! Not May. Christopher is your husband, Luke is not! Something we are all very grateful for!"

"Emily," Richard said deeply. "Show a little compassion."

"Compassion? Richard, she keeps repeating it over and over. She sounds like a parrot, for God's sake!"

"Mom!" Lorelai exclaimed in frustration.

Rory turned to her slightly. "Grandma, what do you say we go and find some coffee?"

"I'm not thirsty," she declared.

Rory turned and smiled at Lorelai before she was placing her hands on her grandmother's shoulders and turning her. "But I am, and I like to be watched as I drink my coffee. You will do me this honor, won't you?"

"Rory, you're pushing me!"

"Aaaand you're pushing Mom, which is why we're headed off on this exciting coffee adventure," she replied. Emily sighed and went willingly.

"Richard, Luke, you come too. I think Lorelai needs some time alone with her husband," Emily called over her shoulder. "They can't talk with you two standing in the way."

They had moved Lorelai into a room of her own. She was going to be observed overnight then released the following morning. At Emily's words, Lorelai turned wide eyes to Luke. He lifted his brows and gave her a reassuring smile before he stepped away. He followed Richard out and closed the door behind him.

Chris sighed deeply, his brow frozen in concern. Lorelai's eyes moved to him. He stood several feet from where she sat on the bed.

"Lor, this is all my fault," he said pathetically as he closed the distance more.

"What is?"

He gestured around the room and then toward her gauze-covered head which was wrapped tight like a fruit roll-up. "This. The fact that you're in here. I'm such an idiot!" he scolded. He walked over and placed a hand over her shoulder. She stiffened. He sat on the bed next to her and massaged her shoulder with his hand. "What's wrong?" he asked softly.

"Chris," She leaned away from him before deciding to just stand. "Don't do that, okay?" She backed away.

He stood up too. "Do what?"

She closed her eyes as she held the back of her gown together. "How did we end up married, Chris?" Her voice cracked as she asked this simple question. It showed how much of her emotions were being held back.

He held his hands out. "What?" he barely asked. "What do you mean? We love each other."

Lorelai's hand went to her swollen forehead. "Oh, my god," she mumbled distractedly. She held the gown tight with one hand now. And she paced as she thought. "Okay, okay, okay, okay," she whispered to herself. "Today is May the ninth," she said louder, still to herself.

"No, Lor, it's Novemb--"

"In my head, Chris!" she yelled. He nodded fast in apology. She pointed to her bandaged head and started moving again. She spoke with more calm. "In here. In here, it's May the ninth." She stopped and grasped her head. "Okay. Think, think. Okay, I'm at my parent's house. And you're there too. You and a blind date," she said nodding as all details came to her. "You left early. When I left, I went outside and talked to your date because she's a therapist." She closed her eyes tight as she went through the checklist. "I told her about Luke and me. I told her everything." She opened her eyes. "And I left, knowing that I had some things to discuss with him. I get in my car going to talk to him, and that's--uh that's..." Her eyes scanned the floor. "...that's all I can remember," she said realizing she had no memories beyond that.

She looked at Chris wide-eyed. "And that's the feeling I have now. Like I'm actually going to talk to him."

Chris was quiet as he listened. Lorelai's eyes popped out at that silence. "Start filling in some of those blanks, Christopher!"

He shrugged helplessly. "I don't know what happened between you and him, Lorelai. All I know is that when you showed up at my house you--"

"I went to your house?"

"Yeah."

"That night?"

Pause. "Yeah."

She moved forward, looking like a deranged mental patient with the gauze taped around her head. "Why? Why the hell did I go to your house?" she asked loudly. The inside of her head was filled with confusion. There were so many unanswered questions, and it hurt her deeply to be standing in the aftermath of something she couldn't understand.

Chris looked dejected. Judging by her reaction now, he already knew where this was about to lead. And her reaction was not about to be one that he wanted to be around for. His wrist was in a cast. Aching. He ran his hand over that cast nervously before he answered her question. "I don't know, Lor. You seemed upset."

"About?"

He closed his eyes, shrugged. "You and Luke. Something happened, I guess."

Her eyes darted around the room as she tried hard to remember all of this. "Well, what was I upset about?"

"I told you I-I don't know," he said pitifully. "You guys were over or something. I don't know what happened exactly."

She finally settled her eyes on him, and her face wrinkled considerably as she worked to unscramble the puzzle. Just like that, she dropped the look. Raised her eyes to the ceiling and braced herself for something she already knew the answer to. She lowered her head and took great interest in several things in the room before she was able to bring her gaze back to Chris. "Did we have sex?" she asked evenly.

Christopher stared sadly at the back wall, past Lorelai's head. His heart beat loudly inside of his chest, and he could think of not one way to get her past this anger which he could see about to blow up in his face. They were married. She had said yes when he asked her to marry him. Presently, he had trouble believing that, so he replayed France in his head. This was May 9th Lorelai, the same one who he'd been intimate with. The only thing that separated the woman that stood before him from the one that showed up at his door was one conversation with Luke. The one he looked at now made him feel worthless. There was not one part of this woman that wanted to be with him. This woman did not want a forever. She didn't even want a now.

"I asked you a question, Christopher."

He started nodding. "Yeah, Lor. We had sex."

She gave him a look like he was the filth left behind by slugs. "And even to this day--six months later with me as your wife," she said like the word hurt her throat, "you don't know what happened on that night? The night I left my fiancé and came to you 'upset'," she said using air quotes. "You still don't know what led to that? Did you care? Do you care?"

"You know I care."

"Obviously I don't know that." She laughed through her frustration. "You know, Chris, I don't understand you. Everything you do, I always try to make sense of it. I justify..." She balled her fists and spoke through her teeth. "...every goddamn you do. But for you to come in and mess this up, it's unforgivable. It's unforgivable, Christopher!"

"Mess what up?" he asked, depleted.

"My life!" she screeched. "My future with Luke!"

He dropped his head. She couldn't have hurt him worse if she'd put a bullet between his eyes. "Lorelai, you came to me that night. I did not go to you. I did not look to mess up your future. You came to me," he reiterated, his voice wavering. "You cannot put this on me. This is not my fault," he ended, a tear sliding from his eye. He let it roll. He was forever the victim.

Lorelai was undeterred. "This is your fault, Chris. You knew I was engaged. You knew this!" she said, tears coming to her own eyes. "You and I went a year without talking because of the crap you pulled at my parents' vow renewal. With that, you knew how much Luke meant to me. But the night we break up, you and I sleep together?! Does that sound right to you?"

"This isn't fair."

"Who initiated it?"

"What?"

"Who initiated the damn sex, Chris?"

"It doesn't matter."

"It matters. It matters a lot. Now was it you or was it me?"

He stared at her for long seconds. He felt attacked. "I didn't force you to do anything, Lor. In fact, once we started, you seemed to really--"

"Stop," she interrupted with a head shake. "Just stop." She looked at him with so much disappointment. "I can't believe you would go there."

He looked down briefly. "We're married, Lorelai. That ring that you have on..." He pointed at her finger, "I gave you that. I admit, the way this started wasn't pretty. It wasn't a fairytale. But we're here now," he said gesturing toward his wedding band. "There's a reason we got married, Lor. We're in love, and that's not a mistake."

"I have a hard time believing that," she replied without apology. She took her rings off and tossed them to the bed. "Believe it or not Chris, I've always had very legitimate reasons for not marrying you. And the fact that you've always been immature and selfish were secondary. Somehow I doubt that that primary reason changed in the course of six months and became the reason we got married."

Her eyes went to his face. It surprised her at how little sympathy she felt toward him. She wondered what could have happened to make her believe that Christopher was the best thing for her. They had been friends since childhood, and she cared for him. She really did. But marriage? The image, that reality made her angry. That anger was blinding, and she could only see every negative trait that Christopher had ever possessed. He was manipulative. And she knew for a fact that that had played a big part in their union.

"Christopher, can you honestly tell me that you thought sex is what I needed from you?" She looked at him sadly. "I'm sure I played my part too. I know I'm not clear of blame, but I can only go off of how I feel right now. And right now, I feel like you took advantage of a situation, and the only person's interest you had in mind was your own."

Chris' head remained low. "It wasn't like that."

Lorelai nodded. "Of course it wasn't. It wasn't like that, and it wasn't your fault. Nothing is ever Chris' fault."

Chris' face contorted in both anger and hurt. He kept his eyes low as he moved toward the door. "I'm going to go, Lor. I'll talk to you later."

"We're not finished talking."

He swallowed, unable to meet her eyes. "Yeah, but you're upset, and I can't talk to you when--"

"Is this what our marriage is like, Chris? You running out every time the pressure gets to be a little too much?" She wiped tears from her face and gestured roughly toward him. "Come on. Defend yourself. Tell me in detail what happened that night to make this whole thing okay. Tell me how happy I was when I showed up to your door, tell me how relieved I was to finally be free from Luke so you and I could have our shot. Tell me we toasted, tell me we laughed. Reverse this image I have in my head, Christopher! Tell me I didn't cry, tell me I didn't shake or flinch when you put your hands on me that first time. Tell me I didn't roll away and face the wall right after. Give me something to work with because I'm trying my hardest not to hate you right now!"

Chris' body drooped. He couldn't deal with this. "I don't know what you want me to say."

"You can't even defend yourself against this?!" she asked in near hysterics. "Come on, speak up! How long did it take you to convince me that that night was so magical and wonderful, huh? Did you hunt me down, call every chance you got? How long did you have to work to get me to put on this mask that I now wear in this marriage? Because rest assured, Sweetheart, it is most certainly a mask that you wake up to everyday." She paused, just looking at him. Waiting for him to say anything that would make her feel foolish for believing all of this. She chuckled dryly as he failed to deny any of the things she said. And all she was doing was reaching.

Chris lowered his head further as if he was trying to crawl inside himself. He looked around, his eyes finally landing on the door as he kept only the top of his head visible to Lorelai.

She pointed. "If you want to leave, just leave," she said plainly.

He finally looked at her, shame sprinkled inside of the tears that threatened to fall from his eyes. "We'll talk later at home, Lor. I just need some time."

"Well, I don't. I don't have anything else I wanna say--at least not anything you want to hear," she added. She folded her arms, forgetting about the slit in her gown. "And speaking of home, where do we live? Tell me we moved to your apartment or we bought a house or we moved to South Dakota."

He looked at her without blinking. He hated her in that moment. She killed him a thousand times with every word she spoke, and she didn't seem to care one tiny bit. He answered her question without needing to open his mouth.

Lorelai rolled her eyes upward. "Great. Luke and I have been renovating for months. And you're the one I let move into that space. You know, I hope I don't regain my memory. I hope I stay right here because November Lorelai is not someone who I want to meet," she said, now feeling disgust for someone other than Christopher.

His feeble-sounding voice was heard as he grasped the doorknob. "Okay, I guess I'm gone."

"You have no idea," she mumbled. She pointed a finger toward the bed and spoke louder. "Don't forget your rings."

Chris turned and looked. "You keep them. I told you we'd talk later, Lorelai. When things cool down, we'll talk."

Their eyes met, and tears filled Lorelai's eyes. "I don't need the rings, Chris," she said firmly. "Now, please take them with you."

He couldn't not try again. "Lor--"

"Take them with you or some nurse is going to get one hell of a tip when she brings me my jello."

He turned, walked back, and took the rings from the bed. Taking angry steps back to the exit, he opened the door and shut it hard behind himself. Lorelai watched him leave. She went over to her bed and climbed under the stiff sheets before burying her head in the pillow.

Her thoughts were with Luke. If she went to Chris' house that night, then she wondered why Luke had turned down her marriage proposal. Currently, she wanted to marry him, and she was more than ready to elope. She even felt the anxiety of asking him. The only thing that could send her into that deep of a downward spiral was if Luke had shut her down cold. Still, she couldn't see going to Chris and ending up in his bed. That thought made her nauseous, and it sent another wave of anger his way.

She was glad he was gone.

-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-

Rory peeked her head inside the door. All she saw was a lump underneath hospital sheets. She came inside.

"Mom?" she called tentatively.

"Rory, is that you?" came Lorelai's muffled voice.

Rory smiled and closed the door back. "Unless you have another child that I don't know about, then I'd have to go with 'yeah'."

"Who knows? Making and having a baby in six months wouldn't be the craziest thing I've heard today."

Rory approached the bed and sat below Lorelai's curled up body. "So," she began with caution. "Talk with Dad didn't go so well, huh?" she asked.

"How'd you guess?" Lorelai asked blandly.

"I didn't. I heard. Me and everyone within ten blocks of this room heard it."

"Are you serious?"

Rory smiled. "Slight embellishment." She touched her leg. "Are you okay?"

"Is he gone?"

"Dad?"

"Yeah, is he gone?"

"Yeah, he headed straight for the elevator as soon as he came out."

Lorelai shifted. "Then I'm okay," she finally answered.

Rory's eyes rested on where Lorelai's covered head was. "I guess you guys are getting a divorce then."

Lorelai made a sound of disgust before the sheets flew from her face. "I can't believe this. Why should I have a mark on my record because of this? I'm going to be a divorcée, and I don't even remember getting married!"

"A plight you share with half of Vegas' wedded."

Lorelai sat up and looked at Rory in sorrow. "Rory, where were you in all of this? Why didn't you stop me or talk some sense into me? What led to all of this?"

Rory looked back at her. "Right here by your side; can you stop a tornado? And... a lot of pain."

Lorelai continued to stare with no signs of having her curiosity satisfied. "Were you happy about your father and me?"

Rory shrugged. "I wanted to see you happy."

"So, I was happy?"

Rory looked down in thought. "You were placated," she said, looking back at her.

Lorelai didn't say anything for a long while. She just looked on thoughtfully. Of all the things she had done in her life--things she actually remembered--this was by far the worst. How did she ever allow herself to marry someone who had only a place in her heart? Twenty years of turning down Chris' marriage proposals showed how much she knew that wasn't enough. Love--true love--would have a woman wanting to give her heart away. The whole thing. It didn't have her just wanting to move some things around to make room.

How trite it seemed to only have conjured images of a past reality. But this was a past that was better left forgotten.

"I can't believe I screwed my life up so badly." She shook her head. "I know my mother had a field-day with this union. Especially at the wedding."

Rory didn't hesitate shattering that image. She was still quite sour about it anyway. "There was no wedding. You and Dad married in Paris. Nobody knew until you came back home."

Lorelai gasped in complete shock. "Not even you?"

"Not even me."

Her mouth still hung open. "I would never take a step that huge without you at least being in the know. That's the biggest confirmation I can get that I was not myself for all those months." She frowned in disbelief. "Can you imagine?"

Rory's eyes shifted. "Uh, yeah, I can imagine. It was kind of my reality."

Lorelai looked down with a nod. She returned focus to her daughter. "Were you mad?" she asked timidly.

Rory smiled, hiding bigger pain from that. "Pissed," she answered in truth.

Again, Lorelai nodded. "Sounds about right," she said quietly. She pulled the bed sheets between her fingers. "I'm so sorry, Rory."

She waved a hand. "Enh, s'okay. Seeing your mom get married for the first time ever is totally overrated anyway. Of course I don't know this firsthand, but..."

They met eyes and smiled.

"Besides," she continued, "I don't feel like I missed too much." Her voice quieted. "I mean, this whole thing never felt right. You were just way too on-board with something you're never been on-board with before. Almost like you were forcing it. It just felt wrong and awkward."

Lorelai took a breath so deep, her entire torso rose. She pointed to her head. "Yeah, I didn't see it not being that way," she admitted. With a bright smile, she spoke with animation. "Bet Christopher felt content, though!" Her smile fell. It wasn't her intention to say anything negative about Rory's father in front of her. It was something that she had refrained from doing every since Rory was a little girl getting let down repeatedly by him. But back then, Lorelai felt as if the sun shined out of Christopher's ass, so she had little desire to talk down about him anyway. Presently, it was a battle.

Rory did nothing but nod in understanding. During that relationship, her dad had just seemed satisfied to finally have Lorelai. He was an expert at avoiding anything that got in the way of that, including Lorelai's pesky little feelings.

"Mom, do you hate him?"

Lorelai looked away from her kid's blue eyes. "Such a strong word," she replied, her voice trying to stay light.

"But is it an accurate word?" Rory asked with insistence.

Lorelai licked her lips, dropped her gaze. "I just need some time, Rory. I feel a lot of anguish toward him," she said bluntly. "Some of it's fair--stuff he deserves. And some of it's not." She looked at her. "I just need some time."

"But as for you guys' friendship...?"

She nodded non-stop. "It's probably done," Lorelai replied instantly. She allowed that immediate hostility to pass. "But we still have you to share...so that's the relationship I'm going to try my damndest to preserve."

Rory stared into her mom's eyes. Her words were serious. Her eyes were filled with sadness. This sadness had not gone away while she laughed and joked with Christopher, giving off the illusion of happiness for months on end. No, it'd been there. Deep-set and ignored. It was created by Luke. Nourished with the lies she'd created in her marriage. Her spirit was nearly broken. Still, as Lorelai sat in the hospital room on this fabricated May date, she had fight in her. She had hope. And she had love for Luke which she had yet to turn her back on.

"Speaking of hate..."

Rory waited before urging. "Yeah?"

"Um. How does...Luke feel about me? Does he hate me?"

Rory smiled. That was an easy question. "No, he doesn't," she answered.

Lorelai controlled her surprise. "Really?"

"Course not, Mom. He's Luke." She shrugged one shoulder. "He realizes the mistakes he made, so blaming you was just something he never did. He's here for you now. He's in the lobby about to have a break-down because you're even in here."

Lorelai nodded, swallowed lightly. "Do I hate him?"

"You'd like to think you do," Rory replied jokingly. Lorelai still looked at her with an expression that was serious. Rory let the joking fade. "You don't deal with him. Every since that night, you haven't dealt with him. If you had, none of this stuff with Dad would have ever happened," she answered honestly. "But as for hating him, the jury is still out for some people, but me, I know differently. And it's...kind of hard to hate someone when you're still in love with them," she finished quietly.

Lorelai looked weary. Spoke wearily. "God, I'm just completely screwed up, aren't I? Married to one man, in love with another. I don't recognize this person."

"How do you think the rest of us feel? The whole town loves you. Everyone goes along, encouraging your happiness or what appears to be your happiness because we all love you so much. But in all honesty, you have a lot of people scratching their heads, Mom."

"I can imagine so."

Rory reached a hand out and lightly touched her mom's injured head. "Had enough of memory lane yet, Lorelai XY?"

Lorelai smiled. "Guess that show's started."

"Yep. The world is now waiting for season 2."

"The world; really?" Lorelai asked skeptically. Rory shrugged. "But yeah, Hon, I've had enough of HysteriaLane. I could use a pretty big break."

"Commercial?"

"Daughter interlude."

"Ah!"

Lorelai sighed and slid down on the bed. Her eyes settled on Rory. "So, fill me in, babe. What happened after Logan's going away party?"

An instant pout appeared on Rory's lips. It was playful, but it only masked true pain of how that day had felt, watching him leave for London. Lorelai saw right through that pout. She scooted to the edge of the bed and patted the side next to her. Rory's lips curled softly as she looked between the bed and her mom. She turned and lay down, Lorelai's arm falling over her shoulder and going to smooth away hair from her forehead.

"Don't leave anything out," she whispered.

-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-

"Hey."

Lorelai looked over toward the door. Luke had come inside and was holding the doorknob as if he wasn't sure if he could stay.

She was sitting up in the bed, and she moved to sit up more with alert. "Hey," she said back. Her voice was barely above a whisper.

"Rory said that you wanted to see me." Still, he stood by the door as if giving her time to change her mind.

Lorelai nodded, at the same time shaking away vacillation. "Yeah, I did. Come in and close the door." He still looked at her as he stepped to the side and clicked the door shut gently. He looked unsure when it came to the placement of his hands so he settled for the pockets of his dress pants. He walked across the floor. Strolled across the floor, actually, looking around like he was a tourist on foreign streets.

"Nice room you have here," he commented.

Lorelai took him in slowly with her eyes. "Thanks," she said quietly. She pointed a quick finger at him. "You're, uh, dressed."

He nodded. Stopped and stood in front of the wall across from where she sat in her bed. "Yeah."

They held eye contact for a moment. "W-why are you dressed?" she asked with a nervous swallow.

"Had somewhere to be. No big deal."

Again, Lorelai's eyes traveled down his body. She chewed on her bottom lip until, finally, she spoke. "Do I know her?" she asked softly.

Luke's eyes fell. Of course Lorelai would be able to cut through his vagueness. She was so bright it was blinding. In more ways than one. "No," he answered. "Just some lady I met while...doing some stuff," he finished. He looked up at her. "First date. First and last."

She nodded, solemn. "What happened that night, Luke?"

Luke's eyes went wide at the unexpected question. "What?" he barely asked.

"You're standing here telling me that you just went out with another woman. And I can't even begin to explain how much that hurts. And I'm sitting in this bed married to Christopher. I'm supposed to be marrying you. Why are we not married? Tell me what happened that night."

Luke looked into her eyes which were quickly filling with tears. "I messed up." He shrugged with those quiet words.

She stared at him. Wiped her eyes with a hand that trembled like she was standing in below zero weather. She never blinked. "I'm tired, Luke. I'm so tired. All this waiting is driving me crazy because it feels more and more like this isn't going to happen."

Luke grew confused. His brows furrowed so much that Lorelai heard his confusion loud and clear.

"This is how I feel right now," she clarified. "I can't speak in past tense because the reality that's staring you in the face isn't there for me. I know it's November, but I'm not there. I'm not past the pain of this. I'm not over loving you. I can't see myself being over loving you." Luke looked away, unable to take seeing her as hurt as she appeared to be. "So, I'm going to say what I need to say, and I want you to look me in my eyes and say what you said that night. Maybe then I can get some understanding of how I got in this place. I want to know how I ended up in Christopher's bed, Luke, because right now the very thought of being with anyone but you is appalling to me."

Like many other people on the floor, Luke had heard the words that were screamed at Christopher. Those words let him know that when he was with Lorelai, she didn't think that she was missing out on being with Chris. Luke drew comfort from what he had overheard. What that comfort gave way to was guilt. Guilt that was currently driving deeper into his brain like a high-powered drilling gun as Lorelai spoke words to him now. Quieter, less angry words than she had spoken to Christopher.

"I can't do that," he said quietly.

"What can't you do?"

"What you want me to do, Lorelai. What you want me to say. I was stupid, and I told you I messed up. I can't say something that I don't believe anymore," he said, trying to get her to understand.

She stared. She stared like she had not seen him in months. "I love you, Luke. I don't say that nearly as much as I should, but I love you in a way that I've never loved anyone." Luke's breathing seemed to speed up. Lorelai went on, still staring. "That's something I would have said that night. Did I say that?"

He paused. "You did."

"And what did you say in response?"

Another pause. He leaned on the wall. "I told you I loved you too."

"Have we started already?"

"With what?"

"With you relaying stuff you no longer believe."

"Lorelai."

"I've been told I've been with Christopher. The night we had this conversation, I slept with Christopher." Luke looked down at those unappealing memories. "Apparently, I married him and moved him into the crapshack like a heartless bitch."

"Don't say that," he said in offense like someone else had called her the name.

"I need to know if you still love me."

He swallowed. All of those discretions came back to him in one big heap and made his skin hot. "After all of that stuff, you want to know if I still love you?" he asked like the answer should have been obvious. He breathed deep like he was trying to calm himself. Lorelai had not stopped staring. He shrugged. Revealed his truth. "I haven't quite figured out how not to."

Part of her felt relieved. But not a big enough part to stop the questions.

"My main problem is April." Luke looked at her like she'd insulted him. "I don't have a problem with her, but she is the problem in this relationship. And I don't mean her presence. I'm talking about the way you handled that whole thing, the way you continue to handle it."

He shook his head. "I know that I handled it badly, Lorelai."

"No, you know that now, but did you know that then? When I brought it up on that night. Because had to have placed that up for discussion. What did you say when I told you how much I was hurting because of all of that?"

"I can't do this."

"Well, I can't not do it." She wanted answers, needed answers. She had not let Christopher off the hook, and she was not going to let Luke off.

He sighed.

Luke didn't like to think about that night. Not only was that the night Lorelai left him to go have sex with another man, but it was the night that he let her walk away and didn't go after her. He couldn't fathom being mad at her for doing what she did. That's what ate at him most. He was a man with pride. The man in him wanted to hate her for the humiliation, alone. But he simply could not. He knew what took center stage. He had gotten the ball rolling toward that awful end, and what was worse, he actually kept it rolling the entire way through.

His vision was often blurred but never had he been blind to things. He saw her sadness. Her spirit was changing, and she seemed so distracted all the time. He recognized that. Of course he recognized that. But he had work to do with April. He had things to figure out. So he told himself that if it was too serious, she would tell him straight out that she needed a change. He was not ready to ask. So, he went on with his life, convincing himself that he would soon straighten everything out with her. Like many men--men he saw as being lesser than himself--he never thought she would make the decision to just leave that unhappiness. Love or no love.

He took a deep breath against that hospital wall. Willed himself to look into Lorelai's face as he dug up, unlocked, and revealed the memories of that night. The words were as clear in his mind as they were on that day. He told her how she'd brought up Anna and he had lashed out at her like she was invading his personal life--a life that should have been made available to her long before then. He mentioned over and over how heart broken she was, how fed up she appeared and how he responded to this by telling her to slow down. Her biggest problem, the lead-in to all the madness, was that he had put off the wedding. She wanted to elope. He wanted to think. She wanted to do, do, do. And he gave excuses as to why he couldn't. They'd been engaged a year, and he acted as if marrying her was an idea that came completely out of the blue. She offered him an ultimatum--a take it or leave it ultimatum. And he had opted to leave it. Of course he revealed to Lorelai how this was only shown in his silence. She walked away, and he let her go without a word. She was in so much pain, and he stood frozen on the sidewalk. He told her how he didn't even know that she had not gone home that night. Because he didn't go after her until the following morning.

She had spent the night in another man's bed, had come home, taken a shower, and was leaving for work before he showed up to fix what was so badly broken.

He rubbed a tired hand over his five o'clock shadow. "Like I said, Lorelai, I messed up," he finished.

She cried now. Silent tears made her face glisten as she still stared at him.

For a long time, neither of them spoke.

"Do you regret it?"

He stood up from the wall. Spoke like he was taking jabs at himself. "Of course I regret it," he said. "I regret that night, I regret the six months before that night, and I regret that even after this whole thing ended between us you still couldn't find enough peace to be happy. All of that is my fault."

Silence, again, filled their space.

"I love you, Luke." Just stated as a fact. She was not asking for or showing forgiveness as she spoke. She just said what sat on her mind. After a pause, she went on. "I don't know why I slept with Christopher. I really don't."

"I don't care why," he said with a shake of his head. "I learned a long time ago that actions have consequences."

"It wasn't a consequence." She didn't know this, but at the same time, she knew this.

"It was a reaction to a lot of stupid actions. Again, nothing I blame you for."

She nodded. Shifted her eyes before taking them back to him. "Have you slept with anyone?"

He shook his head. "Doesn't matter."

Her heart skipped several beats. "What does that mean? Is that a 'yes'?"

"No."

She was quick on the draw. "So, it's a 'no'?"

"Didn't say that." He looked at her for a moment, then rolled his eyes in exhaustion as he watched her all but burst out in tears. "But it's a 'no'," he muttered. He hated to reveal what he saw as such a pitiful truth. His ex was married, and he could barely even think of the opposite sex enough to get his needs satisfied.

Lorelai visibly relaxed. She narrowed her tearful eyes to slits. "What was that, like payback?"

He put his hands behind his back and fell lightly against the wall. "No, it was embarrassment," he admitted.

She shrugged, smiled a little in sadness. "I wish I could be embarrassed."

He pointed at her. "You are in your head."

"But not in yours," she answered, taking away his smile. "Perfect world would have both of us embarrassed."

He lifted a shoulder. "Perfect worlds don't exist."

Her brows rose briefly in consideration. "Everyone has their own little versions of perfect. Just slightly imperfect."

"An imperfect perfect?"

Her mind switched to auto-pilot. "That is exactly not what I mean."

Luke frowned. "What?"

"Refrigerated doughnuts keep the gas prices down."

"Huh?"

Lorelai appeared too shy to smile. She took a moment to fight it back. "Don't you miss me and my mind?"

He took a breath and allowed the contortions in his features to fade away. "You have no idea," he admitted, head leaned to the side as he regarded her.

She smiled that time. Allowed it to fade a bit before she responded. "I miss you too, Luke."

"What do you mean?" If her mind was in May, she would have been used to seeing him.

She shrugged. "I miss being with you and being happy. I miss that guy that made me feel so damn happy all the time without doing anything at all. I miss the guy that had me, Lorelai Gilmore, proposing." She looked at him with meaning. "That guy is..." She shook her head, unable to find words that would be good enough, "...who I miss," she ended, bypassing the adjectives and going straight to her point.

Luke felt his heart swell. Lorelai's feelings would never be questioned again by him. He'd been lucky enough to have this beautiful woman in his life. He'd screwed it up, but still, he had had her. Through everything that happened, it made him feel good to know her love had been so sincere.

"That guy is standing right here," he said softly.

She looked him up and down thoughtfully. "Is he?"

He shrugged. "Yeah. I mean, I realize my mistakes. I've paid for all my sins ten times over," he joked. But not even he laughed. "You lose everything...the most important thing, and you don't have any other choice but to look at stuff and analyze until you can't analyze anymore. That's more humbling than anything you can experience," he said in thought. "So...I'm back. Good or bad, this is me you're looking at now."

Luke was unable to read her expression. But it was okay. He expected nothing. He wanted only to clear the air. With any luck, it would at least get her back in the diner. They just looked at one another casually, blinking every so often.

"How's April?" Lorelai asked.

Luke nodded. "She's good. Smarter. More beautiful. She asks about you."

"Really?"

"Yeah. She likes you a lot. Misses you."

She smiled. "There's a lot of missing going on."

"Seems that way."

"What do you say we jumpstart some kind of reunion then?"

"Between you and April? Sure. I'd like that," he said with sincerity.

Lorelai smiled at that. She really did miss his kid right back. "Yeah, I would too..." She pointed at him, "...but I'd like to start with this new/old Luke that I hear is standing right here."

There was a pause as he tried to determine how in the realm of friendship she was trying to stay. Though he tried, he could only see it one way, however, and he spoke of that confusion quietly, in a playful manner. "Guy could take that the wrong way."

"Would the wrong way have me reclaiming my middle?" she asked boldly.

He lowered his eyes and scanned the shiny floor. "You're married," he finally said.

She appeared nauseated. "Don't remind me." Luke watched her. "And I'm not asking you to commit adultery. We'll do things right. Wait for the legal people to sign, stamp, and approve. All I'm doing is letting you know where I stand. If you'll still have me, I'm back in."

He stood up from the wall. "You sure?"

Her eyes went wide. "Do you not want to?"

"I just...what if you wake up tomorrow and remember everything? I don't want to take advantage of this memory loss. It wouldn't be right."

"Luke, that was a memory loss that needed to happen. Hopefully God recognizes that, and He'll just keep that little of package of realities far away from me." She took a breath. "Besides, amnesia isn't that mean-spirited. If my memory comes back, I'll also have memories of this. Believe me, I don't care how screwed up November Lorelai is in the head; this," she said pointing between them, "is going to mean something."

"I hope so."

She smiled. "So, does that mean you're in?"

He released a tired breath and ended up smiling because she was smiling. "I'm always in."

She nodded, watching him. "Did I...mention I was sorry?"

"For what?"

"For hurting you the way I did. I know I hurt you really bad, and I need you to know I'd never do that in malice."

"Yeah," he said softly, "I know you wouldn't."

"I was probably lost...or crazy or just needing to fee--"

"Lorelai, it's okay. Actions, reactions. I get it. More than you know, I get it."

Tension had formed in her body, and it was slowly eased with his forgiveness. "Okay."

"Okay."

She smiled. "I, uh, hope Kirk has upgraded from his permanent fingerprint ink."

Luke smiled suddenly at the memory of his post office visit. "Otherwise...?"

Lorelai shook her head. "Black thumb here I come."

-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-

Sookie came to the hospital the following morning. Her behavior had Lorelai suspicious, then flat out confused. She soon learned why.

Lorelai and Sookie had not been on track for quite some time. Apparently, Sookie had not grin and beared Lorelai's disturbing redirection. She had, instead, acted as a true friend...and had told her the truth. She did not hold back. She told her that she was making a big mistake with Rory's father. She made it clear how she would not pretend to be behind something not even Lorelai was behind. Laying all cards on the table, Sookie explained how she would always be a friend to her, and she made it clear that she was available to talk about anything anytime. Lorelai, however, was warned that she would not always hear words that'd hug her situation. Initially, Sookie felt that Lorelai would understand and appreciate that stand. But that didn't happen at all.

Lorelai needed reassurances everywhere she could get them, and to not have her best friend jumping to be her main fix, it closed her off completely. The whole thing went wrong and brought tension in the workplace. Turned two friends to two acquaintances. Sookie wanted to be there for Lorelai. She wanted to be in her corner always, and she felt horrible about not being able to be. But at the same time, she felt that she would be less than a friend if she told her only what she wanted to hear. Many days had Sookie wanting to renege on her words, but she knew it was too late. She only had to hope that one day Lorelai would realize the love that backed her grand viewpoint.

After Lorelai learned of all that had happened, she and Sookie spent a long time talking. There were tears. Apologies from Lorelai. Sobbing from Sookie. She had so much heartache over the whole situation, and she hated she couldn't talk to her oldest friend about it at all. Sookie talked so fast that she was choking on words. Two months worth of conversation was given an hour long window.

Those two acquaintances turned back to two best friends.

--

Lorelai was released that morning without any change.

Each member of her family listened closely to instructions for her care. They knew, but were still told, that the best way to help her to restore her memories was to continually feed them to her. But Lorelai made it known that she was in no rush to get fed anything other than a burger. Emily scoffed at that. She knew all too well where that would lead her daughter.

"Luke."

He looked down at Lorelai. She rolled alongside him in her standard-issued wheelchair. Her father pushed her. "So, what do you say?" she asked once she had his attention.

"I've already said it. No. The last thing you need is a burger right now."

"So, what's the first thing that I need?" she balked.

Luke shrugged, looking down at the floor as he dawdled beside her slow-moving chair. "Chicken soup or mashed potatoes or applesauce or--"

"Sick people food?!" He smiled. "You're trying to get me to eat sick people food?" she asked indignantly.

"Forget I said anything."

"Ugh. Believe me, it's forgotten."

Emily looked between the two of them with displeasure. Even she had conceded to the fact that Christopher was out of the picture, but that didn't mean she wanted Luke back in it. The back and forth thing they had going now seemed a little too personable for her taste. Something told her that she would soon have no choice but to put up with the diner man again. She didn't prefer to. But her daughter's life was her daughter's life. She had learned the hard way the extent of that truth. She hadn't even bothered asking Luke to leave as she very well could have. He had been happy to assist her and her husband in anything they needed, and he kept his distance if he wasn't needed. She couldn't complain too much. And she realized that having her only child in the hospital took precedence over playing role of Bouncer to her visitors. A quiet sigh escaped her, and she looked ahead of where she walked, her mind suddenly switching to the long list of calls she would have to make to inform friends and family of Lorelai's accident.

"Now, back to my burger. Are you going to bring it by the house or should I lug my injured, broken body to the diner to pick it up?"

He shook his head. "Neither. You're going home, getting in the bed, and you're gonna let Sookie and Rory take care of all your needs as planned."

Sookie was in Stars Hollow, as she had volunteered to be there for when Christopher came to get his things. It was a quarter til ten so if he listened to instruction, he should have been there for fifteen minutes already gathering his shit.

Rory was outside bringing her car around for Lorelai.

"When you say take care of my needs, you are including my burger in that, aren't you?" Lorelai asked, askance.

"There will be no burger. Stop bringing up the burger."

Her dad's deep voice chimed in over her shoulder. "He's right, Lorelai. You were unconscious just late night. The last thing you need to be thinking about is a hamburger."

"Dad, I'm unconscious every night," Lorelai said with a smirk.

He rolled his eyes. "Well, this time it was without choice. And was a lot more serious."

"Boo you," she said to her father. She turned eyes up to Luke. "And boo you, too." A corner of his mouth went up in a half smile. Lorelai went on. "Well, will you at least stop by to check on me?" she asked.

He nodded. "Of course I will."

Emily rolled her eyes, taking their remarks way below the surface. "Jesus, Lorelai, yesterday this time, you were happily married!" She was trying to make a point, but she regretted the adjective she'd used right away. Lorelai didn't allow her time to backpedal.

"Happily? I wouldn't be so loosey goosey with that term if I were you."

"You know what I mean," she insisted.

"And I want you to back off of this," Lorelai continued, her playful mood turning serious. "I mean it, Mom. This whole thing, just back off. That's my first and last time telling you." She knew her mother, and she knew it was best to cover all bases or there would be trouble. Besides, she didn't need reminders about her situation, and she didn't need to be told how to handle it the right way.

Emily appeared slighted. Insulted. She'd already made up her mind to stay back. Her comment had been about timing, not about opposition to whatever they had decided about their relationship. She was going to keep that to herself. She brushed off the attack and made the choice not to take it any further.

"Whatever you say," she said haughtily. She was used to the antagonistic role. She'd play it now too, even though she didn't deserve to.

Lorelai sighed, calmed. Her and Luke's eyes met when she looked up at him. Luke gave her a kind smile that she appreciated. One that she needed.

She turned attention to the hospital doors which still seemed a mile away. She was not handicapped, and she wanted to be out of the wheelchair.

"Doesn't this thing have a motor on it?" she complained. "I feel like I'm rolling the green mile here."

Richard and Emily exchanged a look. Then, Emily and Luke did. All eyes went to Lorelai before each of them shook their heads away.

-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-

Lorelai sat with Rory often over the following weeks to just talk.

She wanted to know very little else of her life spent in darkness, but she continued to ask and continued to listen. She didn't want there to be question marks and holes in her own life story.

Though Lorelai's entire marriage infuriated her to no end, she did not once think to disrespect its sanctity. It should not have happened, but it was still a marriage--one that had taken place before God and a preacher. No family or friends, but still, God and a preacher. She did not plan to deface that. She would cut ties with Christopher completely, then proceed with her life. It was the right thing to do, and despite Emily's shortcomings, she had instilled morals into Lorelai that were admirable.

True to her word, Lorelai had the divorce papers drawn up the very next day. She knew it would take time, so she was not shocked to hear about the three month grace period before a court date could even be considered. They called it a 'cooling off period'. Regulation. She figured the state of Connecticut could take that regulation and shove it up the crack of its ass because it was not needed at all. But she had little say over it. She took care of her end without batting an eyelash. Her piggy bank was raided as she placed extra stamps on the envelope to get it to its destination without any delay. She put it in the care of the USPS and wiped her hands free of that mess of a marriage.

Months had gone by since Lorelai had been in the diner. But Lorelai's accident cut it down to only a week for her. Her and Luke were normal. More like friends, but normal. They had not discussed anything in detail, but until Lorelai's divorce became finalized, they would only recognize friendship. Everything else would have to be put on hold. There were so many grey areas, but to cut down on what was acceptable for whatever reason, Lorelai and Luke made the choice to wait until the final nail was driven in the coffin to pursue intimacy. That would be easier for everybody.

So far, weeks had gone into the friendship, and it was fantastic. Each of them had missed the closeness. Luke had been without it for months because they were broken up. And Lorelai had been without it for months because of Luke's neglect. Either way, when Lorelai came into the diner that first time, she unknowingly had the town once again jumping on her and Luke's bandwagon.

She'd entered the diner two days after leaving the hospital. Pranced through the door with her cell phone to her ear, laughing as she checked faces around her. Concerned and happy townies waved and inspected her bruised head from afar. One big Johnson and Johnson adhesive bandage was what covered her wound. Lorelai ended her conversation with Sookie and sat on her usual stool. She tapped her nail on the counter until she saw Luke come from the storage room. That's when a smile broke out.

"Hey there, Cool Hand! Think I can get coffee and a doughnut?"

Luke's eyes narrowed as he continued to walk over. "What exactly are you doing here? Why aren't you at home resting?" This was the first time seeing her in that seat in months, and still, her presence didn't jar him one bit.

"Well, Luke, you can't rest when you have a business to run. It's 'go time' all the time. You know that," she replied with a slight frown. "You have this place."

He took out a towel and dropped it on the counter, then ignored it as he spoke to her. "Yeah, but what I don't have is a recent concussion. Now, go home," he leaned in and said.

She smiled. "Sorry, babe, can't do that." She got her purse and stood. "But if you give me coffee, I can promise you I'll leave the inn by 3. Best I can give you," she ended as she leaned her hands on the counter's edge.

He rolled his eyes and turned to get a to-go cup. "Gambling with your health," he mumbled as he poured. "Very smart."

She took the cup from him. "Doughnut will bring it down to 2:30. Going once..."

His eyes went to the doughnut case. "What will 2 doughnuts do?"

She grinned. "Make you my new best friend."

"I don't need any best friends. I need you back in the bed by 1. Work with me."

She looked up in consideration, then she regarded him. "First of all, dirty," she said with a brief look of flirtation. She sobered. "And second of all, you've got a deal. Make sure you get that one right there with all the sprinkles, though." She placed her index finger on the glass so he could see which one she meant.

Luke swatted her hand away and gathered her calorie feast in a diner bag. She reached for it, and he pulled it away. "Remember, we have a deal." She nodded, smiled. Took the bag when it was extended back out.

"So, if I'm home by 1, that means that you'll be by about 1:30, 2 o'clock, right?"

Luke smirked and finally moved the stationary rag over the countertop. "Didn't say that."

She leaned in. "No, no, no, Diner Man. If I have to be home, then dammit, I'm not sitting there alone. You get Caesar or Lane or somebody to run this place, and you come over and keep me company or else, I'm staying at work. I'll stay there until the crickets start to sing. Do you think I won't do it?"

"I'm sure you will," he said dismissively.

She leaned away a bit and calmed herself. "Okay. So, what time will you be there?" she asked again.

This time Luke chuckled. "Get help, Lorelai."

She took a moment to enjoy the smile that now lighted his face. "What time, Luke?" she asked, pretending to be annoyed.

He sighed. "12:45. I don't trust you to hold up your part."

"Whatever. Your insults mean nothing. I not only got you to come, but you'll be there before me! Can you say victory?" she asked pointing to herself. "Can you say defeat?" she asked pointing to him. "Can you say onomatopoeia?"

He frowned at that last one. "What?"

She stopped boasting and got serious. "No, really, it's a pretty hard word to say. That was a real question."

He picked up his rag and waved her away. "See you at 1, Crazy."

Lorelai moved away from the counter and took in all the eyes glancing between her and Luke. She shook her head and tossed her hands up. "Dorothy's back in Kansas, people. Get used to it," she announced.

Soft laughter followed her out of the diner.

Luke didn't even attempt to figure out what the hell she was talking about. He waved a quick hand to her and went back to work.

Yep, the town was all over that bandwagon. They knew exactly what was going on at 1, and they were behind it one hundred percent. Patty knew of it, Babette knew of it, and even Eastside Tilly had been able to get the scoop, but it didn't become salacious gossip. It was just one huge collective sigh of relief.

That afternoon, Luke came by with burgers, fries, and a salad for himself. Lorelai took the couch. Luke took the floor. And they talked, ate, and watched TV.

-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-

Initially, for Lorelai, there was a small amount of gratitude toward the waiting period for her and Luke...toward the grace period required after her and Christopher. Though she still remembered nothing, and had stopped thinking that her memory would return, she needed time to get over having been married. At six weeks in, she started to feel the true need to really be with Luke. Not just as a buddy.

That need had been there since the day he came to check on her after she'd gotten out of the hospital. But given the circumstances, it wasn't embraced. Even as he sat in her bedroom, Sookie and Rory downstairs, Lorelai put up her wall of wills and moved past her desires.

But at the six week mark, she was climbing the walls. Without so much as a kiss between them, she was scaling them like Spiderman.

She and Luke saw one another constantly. They went to the movies together, met up at Black, White, and Read, hung out at the diner, and even went walking during hours taken for lunch. Anytime they didn't feel like being out, they'd hang out at Lorelai's place. Lorelai had been back upstairs to Luke's apartment, but they never spent time there. She'd stand at the door as she waited for him to grab something, or she'd come up to get him when he wasn't in the diner when she arrived. But they never remained there for too long. His place was just way too small and set up like a studio apartment.

You could see the bed as soon as you came in. You had nowhere to go to avoid it. They never spent time at Luke's apartment.

Their lack of intimacy wasn't talked about. They just spent time together and quietly waited for that ticking clock to reach its final hour.

Lorelai entered the diner with her laptop stuffed under her arm. It was week nine. Looking around, she saw one customer. Luke was the only one working. She let out a groan as soon as she spotted him, and she trudged over to the counter to begin complaining about her day.

"You will not believe what happened at work today."

He lifted the coffee pot in the air. "Coffee?"

She set her stuff down and motioned for him to sit the pot down in front of her. "Just leave the whole thing."

He shook his head and got her a mug and filled it. "Okay, talk."

Lorelai got comfortable, took a deep breath, and began. "Michel got into an argument with one of the guests. I know what you're thinking. What's new, right?" Luke nodded. "I mean, the guy was being a complete jerk, but he was still a guest, so by the time I got there, I tried calming Michel down. But it was too late because the guy had made a snotty remark about Michel's suit, and he was madder than I have ever seen him. Not even funny mad. It was WWE Smackdown in there. You know how much pride he takes in his appearance."

Luke nodded, and Lorelai paused to take a drink of coffee. Then, she was off again.

"Well, finally, with Sookie's help, I got Michel to back off of the guy. Smoke was coming out of his ears and everything. He went into the back to de-steam, and I started apologizing like crazy to the poor man, who by this time, looked like a scared little rabbit in a corner or something. It took everything I had not to laugh because like I said, the guy was being impossible which is the reason all that stuff happened in the first place. But I apologized and kissed his ass like a good businesswoman. Now, ask me how much good it did," she dared. "Go ahead, ask!"

Luke smirked. "How much good did it do?" he asked on cue.

"None at all," she answered with wild gestures. "He snapped out of his little rabbit-like stupor like that," she replied with a finger snap. "And he started going off on me! Can you believe that? I mean, I couldn't get a word in edgewise with the guy." Luke's amusement faded. Lorelai went on, all hyped up. "Now, I've dealt with my share of angry customers before, and working with Michel over the past decade has given me access to a few other people's share too. But this man was awful! He bad-mouthed the whole inn industry, Stars Hollow, the state of Connecticut, and I think he even said something about the ozone layer. I'm telling you, Luke, this man took ranting and complaining to heights even you haven't seen."

Luke paid her no attention, still hung up on images of a man yelling and screaming at her. It made him want to hunt down a stranger. Lorelai still went on without pause.

"Now, I already knew he was going to pack his sedity suitcases up and hit the road. That was a no-brainer because he wasn't willing to listen to anything I had to say. He didn't want the situation smoothed over. He was just happy being mad. I could have offered him a comped bill and he wouldn't have cared. It was what he said next that knocked my feet from under me. He told me not only was he going to stay away forever, but he was going to tell all of his friends to do the same." Lorelai finished and waited, expecting Luke to join her in shock.

He didn't.

He just looked at her plainly. "So, what's the problem?" he finally asked.

She started to show offense, but then stopped. "Oh, I forgot to tell you that he lives in New York. New York!"

Luke still asked the same question with his expression.

Lorelai nearly fell off her stool, she was so appalled. "Luke, if New York hates you, everybody hates you! I can't have that man bad-mouthing my business all over New York City!"

Luke rolled his eyes. "Lorelai, from what you've told me, the man is a jerk. Which means his friends are probably jerks. And what are the chances you want people just like him to visit your inn?" He moved over to his cash register, his face showing lingering upset from what he'd heard about the yelling. "You have a great reputation that I'm sure has gotten around to the great and powerful NYC already," he mocked. "One's man opinion can't undo that. You can't please everybody. I'm sure you've learned that by now."

She shrugged a considerate shoulder as she lifted her mug to her lips. She'd calmed down. Luke went on, taking out receipts from under the till.

"And you actually try. So, hats off to you because you know I don't give a damn how pleased my customers are half the time. My job is to serve. I serve, they eat, then they get the hell out. You can't even touch half the things I've said to customers." He paused, thinking of some of his prouder moments. "New York must be pretty impressed with it because I'm still thriving." He looked disinterested in his own very sincere words as he shuffled through slips. "You have a looooong way to go before you catch up to the master. When you get up to my level of customer service, then you can start worrying."

He looked up from what he was doing to find Lorelai staring at him. A shy smile crept across her lips, and she was soon grinning like crazy.

"What?" Luke asked.

She shook her head. "Do you have any idea how nuts I've been all day thinking about that? I've talked to Sookie and everything. Then, I come in here, you open your mouth for two seconds, and suddenly, I feel silly for even stressing over it."

He lifted his brows. "Well, that's what I do. I strive to make you feel silly." He shrugged with nonchalance.

Lorelai continued to smile, continued to look into his face even after he'd lowered his eyes back to his work.

"This should cover the coffee." Lorelai looked to her left. The only customer in there held his hand over a bill that'd been placed on the counter. "You have a good night, Luke," he said. He nodded courteously to Lorelai before he turned and left.

Lorelai looked at the money and lifted her brows, along with her coffee mug. "Wow, twenty bucks for coffee," she stated casually. "Have I found my match?"

Luke peered over his receipts at the money. "He does that sometimes. I'll just put it on his tab," he said. He placed his receipts and the money in the drawer and closed it.

Lorelai licked the taste of coffee from her lips. "You talk a good game, but you don't fool me, Mr. Danes."

"I don't?" He smiled.

"Nope. You say you don't care about your customers, yada, yada, yada, then you get left eighteen dollar tips for a cup of coffee." She watched his smile go wider. "You have to be doing something right."

His face showed mild embarrassment. "Whatever you say." He reached over and placed his hands on her mug. "You finished with this."

She slid off of her stool and pushed herself away from the counter. "I'm never finished with coffee, Luke. I take intermissions, some longer than others. But I'm never finished with it."

Luke leaned up, coffee cup in hand, and his eyes followed her as she walked around to his side. "Well, consider this one of the longer intermissions. You're done for the night."

Her fingers lightly drug along the countertop as she moved. "As you wish," she said looking at him. "I'm wound up enough anyway." She stopped near him and looked around. "Need some help with clean-up?"

Luke scanned the diner as well. "No, I think I'm okay," he said looking back at her. He lifted his hand, and without even looking, he placed it over hers which was resting on the lid to the doughnut case. "Don't even think about it. Hands off."

She smiled, holding his gaze. "You first."

He stifled a small laugh, and his body showed the delight through movement. Muted during the best part. Lorelai was able to see that which she'd been unable to hear. He swallowed a little, his smile trying to disappear before he lost too many cool points. His hand squeezed hers. Added a shaky form of punctuation to the act and stole additional seconds of skin touching. He started to lift his hand from hers. She stopped that movement when she used her fingers to grasp his.

She played lightly with his fingers, creating sensations. They both looked at one another. Lorelai offered a timid explanation with her eyes. God, she just wanted to be near him. Luke stared, trying not to show how many desires rested behind his focused pupils.

He lifted his other hand to her face and rubbed a gentle thumb over her cheek, the rest of his fingers softly grazing behind her ear. "Okay, if you want a doughnut that bad, then just get one," he said in humor. She smiled but seemed too distracted to show full appreciation.

Lorelai took a step forward. "Luke...can you just...hold me for a second?"

She sounded like she was asking for something forbidden. In a way, she was. A hug from Luke was dangerous territory when her mind, body, and heart wanted so much more.

Luke's eyes softened. He motioned with his head and waved her closer. She walked into his body and wrapped her arms securely around his neck before he could change his mind. He breathed deep and slid his hands around her waist slow, like he was taking time to just remember. He strengthened the embrace and held her as tight as she could stand. She was so close that if there was any change in his pockets, her body would have been able to calculate how much.

"Is this good?" he asked of his hold. He whispered over her shoulder, his eyes closed.

Lorelai's voice shook. "Yeah. Just like that."

He nodded.

Lorelai's breathing became telling. Luke bit his lip as he felt her breaths hit his neck then draw closer. Then, she chuckled a little.

"This seemed like such an innocent idea twenty seconds ago," she half whispered.

"I agree."

She shook her head, her face still buried in his neck. "I think I'm in love with your pheromones, Hon."

He moved his head more into her mass of curls. "Yeah, I'm in love, too."

Lorelai smiled. She fought the urge to put his earlobe between her teeth. "You sweet talker, you."

"God, you smell good," he whispered.

"You're really good at it."

He swallowed. "I may not be able to let you go," he revealed.

"You have no idea. I feel like I could recite poetry right now." He laughed softly over her shoulder, and she shook against him, laughing at her own words. "It's true," she added. "Don't laugh at my emotions."

"You laughed too."

"I'm allowed to laugh at my own lameness."

Luke smiled. His arms moved about her back in soft caress. "So, who's going to be the strong one and step back?"

"I think you may have to take this one." Lorelai's hands started running over his back, then his neck.

"You're not gonna make it easy, are you?"

She smiled. "Sorry, Luke. Can't help it."

"Mmm." Luke felt Lorelai's lips touch his neck. "We…may need some divine intervention."

As if on cue, the diner bell jingled, and the door opened. "Uh, should I come back?"

Luke and Lorelai slowly pulled away from one another. Luke looked over and dismissed the customer with an eye roll before he got the rag and wiped down the counter. Lorelai's glazed eyes went to Kirk. She pulled her shirt back past her belly button and smiled as she lazily made her way back around the counter. "Hey Kirk. How's it hangin'?"

Kirk's eyes went low, and he pulled at the sides of his pants. "Um not sure. Pretty well, I guess. Lulu's made me switch to boxers, so--"

"Oh my god!" Lorelai muttered in horror.

"Ah jeez!" Luke exclaimed at the same time. "Kirk!"

He looked between the both of them with wide eyes. "What? What'd I say?"

-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-

Luke came from the kitchen. Lorelai was stretched on the couch, and he went over to join her. The crapshack was filled with the scent of Italian, and Lorelai had her eyes closed as she sniffed the air. Luke hit her foot with his hand. "Move these things," he ordered playfully.

Lorelai scooted up and took her feet from the area he'd been sitting in. "Finished cooking?" she asked.

"Nope," he replied with a deep exhale as he made himself comfortable.

"How much longer?" she whined.

He picked up the remote and looked at her with nonchalance. "About half an hour. Not long."

"According to who?" she asked distractedly as she looked toward the TV. "Hey, don't change that!" she exclaimed as soon as he flipped the channel. She hit him lightly with a pillow. "I was watching that, you cad."

"Relax, I'm just catching some of the sports highlights while your show's on commercial. You won't miss any of the little fashion show," he chided.

"Project Runway is not a little fashion show, Luke. It's the best reality show on TV. It's all about clothes! Where on earth can you go wrong with that?" She reached for the remote. "And you are not to touch the remote while it's on, commercial or no commercial. You're not new to those rules."

He moved it away, a smirk on his lips as he watched a three-pointer hit nothing but net at the sound of the buzzer. "Did you see that shot?" he asked pointing the remote out to the TV.

"I don't care about a stupid sports shot," she said grabbing at it. He moved it again and watched as she clawed her way after it.

"You look demented," he said, his voice relaxed.

She stopped reaching and looked at him. "Demented?"

He smiled and nodded.

She sat back and crossed her arms. She displayed anger that wasn't real.

"And pretty," Luke added. She looked at him. "Can't forget about that," he said. "You're always gorgeous."

Her lips curled and she allowed his comment to instantly wipe away all negativity. "Really?" she asked. "Even when I wake up?"

Luke shrugged. "Can't really remember what you look like when you wake up."

"It hasn't been that long, Luke. I still remember everything about you and your morning faces."

He nodded. "And I'm flattered. Guess I repressed mine though. I tend to do that with things that chill me to the bone." He shrugged. "Little I can do about it now," he finished just as the edge of Lorelai's pillow hit him in the center of his face.

She hit him hard, and when his head got knocked to the back of the couch, he just let it rest there as he stared at the ceiling. "That did not feel good," he said plainly.

She snatched the remote from his unattended hand. "It wasn't supposed to," she said as the channel got flipped back.

When she turned back, a commercial for pet medication faded out and the show started back. She sighed and settled on the couch, her legs folded beneath her. Only a few seconds passed by before her eyes were going back to Luke. He still hadn't moved--almost like he was still trying to process what had happened.

She still wanted to act perturbed, but his well-being pretty much sat above all. "You okay?" she asked.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Just found a comfortable spot to rest my head," he said a little too casually.

Lorelai chuckled. "You sure you're okay?"

"Lorelai, it was a pillow. Not a sack of rocks." He paused. "Although that softness is kind of negated when it's coming full force toward your face," he mumbled. "But I'm fine."

She tilted her head in sympathy. "Aw, where does it hurt?"

He rolled his eyes. "Jeez."

"You want me to kiss it and make it feel better for you?" she asked, her voice turning less mommy and more sultry babysitter. Luke felt the couch transfer her movement to him when she got on her knees.

He smirked and finally dropped his head to look over at her. "Don't come over here," he said.

"Why not?" she asked, her voice sexy, her movements like an exotic tiger.

His smirk turned to a smile. "Because it's not a good idea. Now, stop." He said this but had his eyes trained on her breasts which were partially exposed now that her top hung.

Lorelai smiled. "Oh yeah, Baby, you want this," she teased.

He licked his lips as she moved on top of his thighs. His chest heaved. "Of course I want that, but I can't get that and really don't want to be presented with that until I can have that."

Lorelai straddled him but she sat all the way near his knees. She relaxed her body, putting an end to the sensual tease as she just looked into his face, smiling ever so slightly. "I miss kissing you."

Luke's eyes went down her body, stopping before he reached her spread legs. That would have been too much. His hands weren't on her. That would have been too much as well. "You do?" he followed.

She nodded like an overexcited kid, and it drew a bigger smile from him. With a light touch, she brought her finger to his bottom lip. "I miss these lips." Luke brought his lips in, catching her finger between them. She smiled as she watched his mouth. He released her index, and she lowered it, moving her eyes back to his.

They stared at each other.

"I miss being inside you," Luke said quietly.

Lorelai smiled then gasped. "I was trying to keep it clean but then here comes Mr. Filthy Mouth over here," she said, pushing his chest.

Luke shook his head, smiling. His skin reddened at her words. "I don't mean I just miss being inside someone." He paused after a soft breath. He looked down. "I miss being connected and feeling connected to you. Can only get that with you," he finished.

When he met her eyes again, she was looking at him like she wanted to strip his clothes off and sex him into oblivion. She swallowed, looked away, and sighed as she grabbed control of herself. Her voice was soft. "You're not alone in that," she admitted.

He seemed to relax. "Really?"

She shook her head, no. "I miss loving you. I do love you, but for a long time I missed loving you." She went on, that intoxicating dreamy look in her eye that Luke always loved. "I miss making love to you, being loved by you, everything."

His happiness was shown in the size of his smile. "That's good to know."

Lorelai moved in and kissed him softly on the nose. She pulled away just a little and whispered, "You're one of a kind, Luke. Can't be duplicated." She kissed him there again then pulled all the way back. Their eyes met and they both smiled, completely captivated. Lorelai leaned in again, and this time, put her lips by his ear. "Gotta tell you something."

Luke shivered and pushed her back. "Can you do it while your butt is planted somewhere other than on my body?"

She chuckled and climbed off of his lap. She didn't go far, though. The spot just off to the side of him was cozied into, and her hand went to his chest. "Ready?"

He breathed deeply and brought his arm over her head and to the back of the sofa. "Ready," he said.

She smiled. "I got a court date." Luke's eyebrows rose.

"Has it been three months already?"

"Run that game on somebody else, Luke. I know you've been counting down the days."

He smiled. "When is the court date?"

"Next week. And it shouldn't be too long after that before it's all over."

Luke nodded in thought. Then, he leaned over and kissed her forehead. "That's good news," he said simply.

She nodded, looking into his eyes which had gone to the TV. "I spoke to Chris the other day," she said. Luke looked at her.

"He called you?"

She shook her head. "I called him."

"Oh." He shrugged, not for one second feeling the uneasiness that used to come at the mention of his name. "How's he doing?" he asked.

She took a breath. "Not too good. He pretty much hates me," she said with soft laughter.

"No, he doesn't."

"Well, he doesn't hate me, but he definitely doesn't want much to do with me."

"Never thought I'd see that day."

"I know. Me either."

Luke's hand came down to her arm and he rubbed it softly. "Why'd you call him?"

She shrugged. "Just got to thinking about all that stuff I said that day in the hospital. It was wrong of me to put all of that on him."

"Isn't that how you felt, though?"

There was a silence. "Yeah. But it was stuff in the back of my mind. Stuff I didn't really have a right to say. Just felt kind of bad about that."

Luke's eyes were on the TV. Lorelai's were on the other side of the room as her head rested on him. He continued to rub her arm. "So, how long have you had your memory back?" he asked casually.

She looked up at him. "It's been a week."

It took a few seconds but he finally looked down and met her eyes. "Why didn't you tell me?"

Her eyes moved over his features, and she smiled softly. "I don't know."

"You don't?"

She lifted her hand to his cheek and tenderly ran over the rough hairs of his face. "I didn't want you to think that something was going to change here."

He shook his head, not affecting her caress. "I wouln't have thought that." He wasn't sure how true those words were as they came from his lips. But he wanted to believe it.

She nodded. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you."

He stared into her face, taking in the Lorelai that was knowledgeable. Aware of everything.

He swallowed. "I love you, Lorelai. I love you so much," he said meaningfully.

Lorelai sat up some. "Hey, hey, don't do that. Don't start feeling like you have to prove something to me. I'm where I want to be, end of story, Luke. End of story."

His eyes lowered. He wasn't quite sure where that panic had risen from, but just as quickly as it had come, it was gone. He smiled a bit and pulled her back into position. "I know you are. So am I."

Lorelai settled against him. "Silly man," she muttered and kissed his chest.

He smiled. "So, uh, you and Chris, you guys weren't able to talk?" he asked.

"Oh yeah, we talked. He talked. About how unfair I was to him and how humiliated he was, etcetera to infinity."

"Sounds like a fun conversation."

"It was fruitless. It was just him being bitter and mad, and I get that, but I'm just done. He wanted apologies, and I couldn't give him that. Not entirely. I couldn't even talk to him about where we could go from here. For Rory's sake I wanted to do that." She shrugged. "From now on, we're just two people who share a kid. That's who we are."

"Are you okay with that?"

"I want a friendship with Chris. I do feel bad, and I want to remain friends with him, but he can't give me that without trying to shove something else extra in there. I think it's best we do cut ties because the thought of him lurking in the shadows of my love life is not something I'm willing to tolerate," she said truthfully. "That's all he's ever done, and that's not okay. Especially not now with everything that's happened." She shrugged. "So, even if he gets past his anger, it's best we just stay two people with a common seed."

Luke paused. "So, are you okay with that?" he asked again.

She looked up at him. "I'm okay with it," she said seriously. "I almost feel guilty that I'm as okay with it as I am."

"And this isn't for my benefit?" he asked to be sure.

She smiled a little, relaxed more than a little. "No, it's not. Feels good that I can talk to you about it though."

"Yeah, it does." He paused. "You can talk to me about anything. Even if you don't think I'll want to hear it."

Lorelai's eyes went briefly to her show which not too long ago, she was unwilling to miss. She looked back to Luke. "Well, in that case, I have something I want to say to you."

He tensed but still asked with openness. "What's that?"

"Remember you said that I could say anyth--"

"Yeah, I remember," he interrupted with impatience. "Now, what is it?"

She shook her head. "No, I don't think you meant what you said so I'm--"

"Lorelai," he said deeply. "Spit it out."

She took a deep breath and looked into his eyes. "I would really like it if you took your arm from around me, got up, and went to the kitchen to check on my food." A loud breath of relief came from her just as Luke rolled his eyes. "Oh, man, I didn't think I could say that, but I did. You led me here, Luke. You opened that door, and I'm so glad you did. Thank you so much," she said as if she'd been cleansed with that admission.

Luke stood up, mumbling.

"Thank you, Luke Danes! You are my hero, dude!"

"Woman's gonna drive me to drink," he grumbled as he trudged to the kitchen, Lorelai clapping in the background.

-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-

When the diner's door opened hard, Luke's wide eyes went there fast. His heart nearly pounced out of his chest at that shock.

Lorelai came in and grasped the knob. "Sorry, didn't mean to make that grand an entrance," she apologized with laughter.

"Jeez," Luke muttered, his hand over his chest. "Why are you flying in here like a bat out of hell anyway?"

Lorelai went to the counter and held up a bottle to Luke. He looked at it unimpressed before he took his blank stare to her excited face. She wore a smile that went on for days. "Why are you bringing alcohol in here?" he asked flatly.

She held it up higher. "Champagne, Luke! This is champagne, and it's meant for celebration!"

He looked down as he poured coffee for one of the customers. "Not in my world it's not. That stuff is disgusting."

Lorelai beamed. "Seven thirty-seven!"

Luke glanced at the clock. "It's 7:49," he corrected.

"Seven thirty-seven!" she exclaimed again, her bright blue eyes making her entire face glow. "Seven thirty-seven is the time I walked into my house, opened the mail and saw this!" She waved a sheet. Luke squinted to see it through the movements.

"What is that? Will you keep it sti--"

She started squealing in happiness and dancing in place. "We need glasses. We need flutes!" She dashed behind the counter and shot up the stairs. "Champagne for everybody!" Her voice rang back down into the diner.

Luke looked after her in confusion. When his eyes went to the handful of customers in the diner, they were all looking around at one another in amusement.

He set his coffee pot down and yelled in the back, "Caesar, I'm going upstairs. I won't be long."

"Alright."

Luke took the stairs two at a time and entered his apartment. Lorelai was going from cabinet to cabinet. She looked back as she heard him come in.

"Where are all your champagne glasses?" she asked.

"When have I ever had champagne glasses?" came his dubitable reply.

She closed the last cabinet and waved away the search. After grabbing two regular glasses out of his dishrack, she set them on the table and filled them both below the halfway mark. "Okay, this is just going to have to do," she said brightly. She picked them both up and hurried over to Luke with his glass extended.

He took it, looking into it like it was something off of Fear Factor. "What exactly is all of this?"

She grinned. "Here, ding me," she said as she leaned her glass toward his. He knocked her glass, still in confusion. She raised her glass a little and winked at him. "Here's to my divorce. All signed, stamped, and approved." She brought her glass to her lips, looking at Luke over the rim.

Luke's eyes bugged out, and she laughed, nearly spitting out the tiny bit that sat in her mouth. Swallowing, she hit his arm lightly. "Say something."

His lips moved on command, but he hadn't the slightest clue of where to start. "I-i--it's finished? You're finished?"

She took a relieved breath. "I'm as free as a bird, baby." She held the sheet out to him, finally calm enough to keep it still.

Luke's eyes scanned the paper. And there it was in beautiful, black 10 font-sized ink. The marriage of Christopher L Hayden and Lorelai V Gilmore was dissolved.

Finally.

"Wow."

She took the paper back. "It's a little bit more than 'wow'," she said. "You and I can finally be together." She leaned in and brought her arms over his shoulders, hugging him tightly. Luke wrapped her waist just as tight.

They separated and both leaned down to set their cups on the table. Meeting eyes again, they both smiled.

"How about tomorrow night I take you out? Tonight I have to close, but tomorrow, it'll be all about us. Sound good?" Luke asked, his hands rubbing her arms.

Her smile widened. "Sounds great."

He nodded, so happy. He pulled her in again and hugged her like it would be his last time. "Love you," he said into her hair.

"Love you right back," she whispered.

He smiled, pulled away a little and kissed her cheek. Her hand went to hold the side of his face as if making sure he would not stop there. He followed the kiss quickly with one near her mouth, then on her mouth. Lorelai angled her head and nibbled on his bottom lip, using her tongue to soothe those gentle bites.

Luke parted his lips, and her attention went elsewhere. She accepted his tongue and tasted sweetness when he hadn't even touched his champagne. She was sure her moans would get the attention of the patrons downstairs and have people outdoors stopping in bewilderment as they heard it through the windows and walls. Luke leaned in, walked into her when she took his lip between her teeth again. She bit harder this time, had him moaning and going crazy. She eased up and he went at her like a starving man, kissing her with a tongue that wanted to be felt.

She matched him.

Gone was romance. What replaced it was lust and want and kisses that were about to lead to sex so intense, it would definitely have Lorelai drawing attention.

Her ass hit the kitchen table, and she was lifted onto it. Luke's hand went to her breast, and he went at it with his mouth next. Right over her blouse. Lorelai clutched at the back and sides of his flannel. She just wanted it gone. She needed him naked. With fiercer pulls, she got it to come up, and she yanked it over Luke's head, off of his arms, and off of his body completely. That sent his hat flying from his head too. Luke's lips went back to hers, and she kissed him deep. Slid toward the edge of the table, trying to feel his body. He took hold of her thighs and pulled her into his arousal hard.

She let loose a moan so deep, he was wondering if she'd climaxed.

His fingers hit his belt buckle as he continued kissing her. He pulled the strap out and moved his hand out of the way as Lorelai's replaced it. Apparently, he was moving too slow.

A knock on the door brought them away from this. Their mouths separated and they both looked over at the door, breathing hard trying to keep up with their heartbeats.

"Who is it?" Luke asked, even sounding out of breath.

"It's me, Boss. A bunch of people just came in, and I could use a hand."

Luke looked back at Lorelai as he nodded at Caesar's words. "Okay. Be right down," he yelled.

"Thanks!" Caesar said before his blurry image disappeared from behind of the William's Hardware sign.

Luke's eyes dropped to where Lorelai's legs were wrapped loosely around his waist. He shook his head. "Damn," he whispered.

She pulled him inward using her hands and wrapped her legs tighter. "Let's just be quick, okay?" she said breathily. She pulled his head in and kissed him deeply for a few seconds before pulling away. That passionate kiss placed romance back on the table. Luke moved in and initiated another just like it. She lowered her hand to his manhood and stimulated that hardness with intent.

They broke the kiss, and Lorelai moved her eyes and hands to her blouse. "Help me with this."

He swallowed at the sight. Moving his hand over the both her hers, he stopped her. "Wait, this isn't right."

Her eyes narrowed. Her breathing was still heightened as she asked, "What isn't? This?" she asked pointing from him to herself.

"No, no, no, no, no, no," Luke stressed fast with a shake of his head. "This," he said, gesturing as she had, "is very right. This," he gestured again, "is right like...the price is," he finished lamely. He couldn't fault his brain for shutting down completely with all that was sitting in front of him.

Lorelai and Luke both laughed at his words.

Her laughter sizzled to a smile and she sighed and scooted back on the table. "Guess you mean the time and place, huh?" she asked.

He nodded, his head low. "Exactly."

Lorelai nodded slowly, realizing how right he was. "Okay," she said looking at him with a smile. "I suppose you better go find your flannel which is probably on top of the refrigerator somewhere," she said with a finger motioning behind her. He chuckled. She went on. "Straighten your clothes, put that away," she said pointing low, "and let's wrap this whole thing up and save it for tomorrow," she ended, trying to make it sound as torturous as possible. She succeeded.

He frowned. "Tomorrow's a long time away."

She nodded hugely. "Tomorrow is a long time away."

He looked down at the imprint in his pants. "That's gonna hurt," he said pathetically.

Lorelai pushed him back a little and hopped off the table. "Aw, hon, it's not gonna hurt nearly as much as me telling you that I'm not wearing any underwear right now."

She walked across the room, fixing her clothes and smiling as he grumbled and knocked chairs around.

-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-

The last customer left the diner fifty minutes before Luke closed for the night.

He kept watch over the doors, thinking that Lorelai would show up. But she didn't. She had left shortly after their interrupted passion upstairs, and she told him that she'd see him the next day for their date. Apparently, she was planning to stick to that.

It'd been a looong time since Luke had had release.

Lorelai had been the last one to put out his flame. That flame had been burning since the month of April. For ten months, he'd gone without sex. Even taking into account self-pleasure, it had been ten months for him. Thanks to the abbreviated celebration upstairs, he was now not only missing her like crazy, but he was horny as hell.

At 10:30, he realized she wasn't going to show, so he locked up for the night.

Luke went upstairs, and drank an ice cold beer, trying to think about any and everything other than Lorelai's legs wrapped around his waist. It didn't work. It also didn't help that he'd been smelling her perfume all over his shirt all damn day.

When he finished his beer, he went to his dresser and grabbed a clean pair of boxers and threw them on the bed. He went in the bathroom to shower, brush, and floss for bed. Ten minutes later, he exited, wrapped in a towel that refused to go down in the front.

He slipped on his boxers. He went to the closet and grabbed more clothes and threw them on as well. He slipped some sneakers on his feet and kept momentum up as he grabbed his hat and stuck it on his head. Picking up his jacket, he walked straight to and out of the door.

--

Lorelai was upstairs when she heard a knock.

She came down in a tiny pair of boy shorts and a fitted tank top that stopped just below her navel. "Who is it?" she yelled before she was even down the staircase.

"It's Luke," Luke yelled through the door.

Lorelai stopped on the bottom step and smiled while looking over into the foyer. Her eyes fell to her clothes, and she felt satisfied with her choice of nightwear. She touched her hair, tried to give it body as she slowly started to walk over. "Luke?" she yelled in question. "Who the heck is Luke?"

"Lorelai."

Lorelai grasped the door handle. "Luke Lorelai? I don't know anyone by the name of Luke Lorelai." She pulled the door open. "Is that a maiden name?" she asked, now face to face. Luke's eyes fell immediately to her thighs, her legs. Looking up some, his attention went to her breasts, her bare arms. So much skin. His mouth went dry. Finally, his focus went back to her face and he shifted at her wide grin.

"Let me guess," she began. "You came to borrow some sugar."

He moved forward, losing whatever resolve he had built up on the way over. One arm wrapped around her waist at the very moment that Lorelai hopped, her weight becoming easier to lift. Her legs went around him, and he moved her hair from her face and kissed her. With his free hand, he closed the door then brought it to Lorelai's ass. She held on tight allowing him to spend less effort supporting her and more effort caressing her taut bottom.

Luke's knowledge of the layout of Lorelai's home was helpful. It's the only thing that allowed him to make it to the staircase without breaking a toe.

She stayed in his arms until they hit the bedroom. The lights were out. Lorelai had the covers pulled down, and the TV, which provided the only light, was on but muted. It'd been muted at hearing his knock. The bed was already warm where she'd been laying there waiting to drift off to sleep. Luke laid her there gently. He pulled off his jacket and let it hit the floor as he hovered over her body, planting kisses on her chest. His shirt came over his head, and he kicked off his shoes before he was joining her in the bed. Lorelai wrapped herself around him, then rolled him over, almost turning giddy at the mere thought of having him in this way again.

They kissed one another deeply over and over before Lorelai leaned up and took off her shirt. Luke sat up instantly and went to work on her bare breasts. Her nipples perked up in his mouth, and it made him harder. He continued suckling as Lorelai reached between them and released him from his jogging pants. She ran her hand over the head of his shaft and moaned as his mouth worked its magic.

Luke rolled to the side and deposited her on the bed. His fingers went to the inside of her tight shorts which looked like they belonged to a toddler. He pulled them down her hips. Started salivating when he saw that she had nothing on underneath. He didn't waste any time satisfying his hunger. He tossed the shorts to the floor and placed his mouth instantly around her swollen clit. He sucked and she moaned. He sucked harder, wanting her to come to release and cover his tongue.

There was oral sex. And then there was oral sex with Lorelai.

She had a taste that he'd never thought was possible. She was sweet. Actually sweet. As much as she seemed to enjoy getting oral pleasure, he was positive that he enjoyed giving it to her more. He imagined that the same way he felt about her body juices was the same way she felt about coffee. It was an elixer--one that Luke vowed to never go without again.

He watched her spasm four times with just his mouth. He touched her opening with his finger and slid it in before he extracted. His tongue followed suit. He licked lazily for a moment, just tasting her, getting his fix. Then, he went back to the hill in that valley and sent her hurling toward pleasure once more.

When he surfaced, Lorelai had her mouth open wide and she was breathing deeply as her hands rested over her eyes. Feeling Luke come up, she looked down at him.

"Have I mentioned how much I missed you?" she asked huskily.

He smiled and slid off his pants. "I could do that all day," he commented quietly as he moved over her.

"Come here," she whispered, her lips going to his even before he was in position. She kissed him hungrily, anxious to feel him inside of her. She tasted her own juices on his lips. Around his mouth. There was nothing like kissing him just after. His kisses were already electrifying and to taste her secretions on those lips was just so erotically pleasing.

Luke's hand went down between them to her wetness. His finger rubbed the area that his mouth had praised. She was still so wet. He felt like a junkie, wanting to get right back down there to her sweet stuff.

"Do you know what you do to me?" he whispered to her.

"Can't be half as much as what you do to me," she whispered back.

"Wanna bet?" She smiled, and he filled her. Her smile turned to an 'o' as she took in air. He bit his lip as he watched her through blurry eyes. "Tell me how you want it," he said on a shaky breath. He went deep. She felt him go so deep. He slid in slow and came out slow. "You want it slow?" he whispered as he repeated that. He sped up a bit, making her legs go tighter around his waist. "Or do you want it like this?"

Lorelai shook her head, trying to rid herself of sensations that were setting up camp. Luke was teasing her, trying to drive her crazy. And she hated that it was working.

"H-h-have you...have you even put it in yet?" she asked. Luke paused, dropped his head to her chest as he laughed. She gripped his shoulder, his girth making her unable to laugh like she wanted to. His pause made her more than willing to toss in her gloves. "Don't stop."

Luke started moving again, every bit of his ten months screaming 'Hallelujah'. He placed his lips over hers and kissed her slowly, his tongue following the rhythm of his pelvis.

He sped up after a few minutes. He needed to bring her to release because he was just a little out of practice, and he wasn't sure how long he'd hold out. He paid attention to her body, watched her features, and he knew when she was close. Licking his finger and taking it down south, he stimulated her and sent her zooming over the finish line. He kissed her passionately as he filled her with spurts and spurts of his release. She grasped his back, allowing him to ride out his pleasure to the very end.

He buried his face in the crook of her neck and kissed her skin lazily. Lorelai moved her hand to his hair.

"Somebody's a little backed up," she said jokingly.

"Shut up," he said, his tone dull. He still kissed her.

She pushed at his shoulder. "Roll over, babe."

"Hm?" he answered.

"Roll over," she repeated. He sighed and lifted himself. He took a moment to kiss the smile from her lips before he pulled out of her and moved over. She sat up. "You didn't have to pull out," she said as she moved to his chest. She kissed him there and looked into his face. "You tired?" she asked.

He smirked. "Just by you asking that, I assume that you're not."

She smiled. "Are you, though?" He shook his head, his smile growing. "Good," she said. She took his manhood in her hand. "Because it's been really really long for us. Months before we even broke up, there was so much tension there that it wasn't the same. I miss this. I miss you. I plan to have trouble walking in the morning. How do you feel about that?"

He shook his head. "You're a strange woman."

"With a mouth that's not just good at talking. So, you in or you out?"

"It's been ten months. You tell me."

Her brows lifted as a devilish grin appeared on her face. She lowered her head, and Luke gripped the sheets.

-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-

The next morning, the birds are actually what woke Lorelai. It was nothing like a fairytale, though, as these birds just sounded like ones on steroids. It was anything but melodic. She woke up with groans. If she had a gun and a nice aim, it would have been a sad day for Tweety's relatives.

She rolled over, and her body's soreness sent the night's events tumbling back into her brain. She smiled and rubbed her eyes.

"Luke," she called groggily. "Luke, wake up and listen to the song of the cracked out bir--" She stopped mid-sentence as she finally looked over and saw his side was empty. "Luke," she said again as she sat up and searched the room with half-closed eyes.

Not seeing or hearing anything, she pulled the cover back. "Great. See what happens when you give up the goods. Guy disappears," she said aloud. She placed both feet on the ground and stood. The night before when she'd mentioned being unable to walk, she definitely didn't mean that literally. The pain in her joints let her know that maybe she and Luke had taken it a bit too far. She placed her hand on her lower back and shuffled over to the door.

As soon as it was opened, the smell of breakfast hit her full force. She smiled widely and turned back around. Feeling better that Luke was only downstairs, she decided to shower and apply some Icy Hot before going to join him.

--

"Hey, Lover Man."

Lorelai walked into the kitchen and smacked Luke's rear as he was standing at the stove. He leaned over and met her lips in a quick kiss.

"Hey, how'd you sleep?" he asked.

Lorelai took a piece of bacon from the plate and bit into it. "Great," she answered. "Fantastic sex tends to do that to me," she added casually as she poured herself a cup of coffee.

He smiled and looked back at the eggs that he was scrambling. "Listen, I'm going into work in a little bit, but around noon I'm going to pick up April and take her to the museum. We're grabbing a bite to eat right after that, and I was thinking that since that'll be around your lunch time anyway, maybe you can just come with us."

Lorelai nodded. "I'd like that." She snapped her fingers and pointed at him. "Besides, April owes me five bucks anyway, so I can collect."

Luke looked at her. "What does she owe you money for?"

"She made a bet with me two weeks ago and lost." She scowled evilly. "I take no prisoners. Not even the kids of sexy, boyfriend, diner owners."

He shook his head. "Well, why don't I just give you five bucks now? That's where it's gonna come from anyway."

"Aw, that's sweet. But I'd rather get it from her."

"You know betting's illegal for a 13 year old, right?"

"Don't worry, I won't tell anybody."

"Lorelai."

Lorelai rolled her eyes. "I'm not going to really take her money, Luke. I just have to keep up the pretense." She sipped from her mug and set it down. "She gets all worried and chatty, trying to make deals and find loopholes." She chuckled. "She looks like you when she does this thing with her nose, too. Have I ever told you that?" She looked down, smiling. "So cute. Love that kid."

Luke looked at her for a moment. A smile only grew on his lips. Lorelai looked at him in question, and he figured he'd say something. "Thanks," he said.

Her brow wrinkled. "For what?"

He shrugged. "I dunno. For...loving my kid," he finished quietly. "That means a lot to me."

Lorelai looked down. "You don't have to thank me for loving April, Luke. It's pretty easy to do." She looked at him and shrugged shyly. "Besides, I love you, so...loving your child is part of the package." He reached over and pulled her to him. Her arms went around his waist and he kissed her forehead with affection as he squeezed her. "Thank you too," she said.

"For what?"

"For finally letting me love her. That means the world to me," she said seriously. She stared into his eyes as he took that in. Instead of taking the moment any deeper, he just leaned in and kissed her forehead again. Longer this time. He rubbed her arm and loosened his grip expecting her to step away. She stayed wrapped around him, though. He smirked.

"What's wrong?"

Lorelai never took her eyes away. "Luke...is marriage off the table with us? I just want to know."

His confusion was clear. He wasn't exactly expecting that redirection.

Lorelai unloosened her hold and backed away. "I'm not asking you to marry me. I know we need to rebuild and everything, but I just need to know if all that stuff that happened has turned you off to marrying me."

She expected him to take more time with the question than he actually did.

With genuine bewilderment, he asked, "Why would it?"

"You mean you're not closed off to it?"

"The only reason I would be closed off to it is if I wasn't sure about you or about us." He shook his head. "That's not the case. I'm where I wanna be."

She looked at him in shock. She didn't know what she expected him to say, but she definitely didn't expect to be hearing what she currently was. "Um...I am too. I'm where I want to be, too. Definitely."

He nodded with finality. "Okay, then." He turned back to the stove. "I don't know how much rebuilding you think we need to do," he said with a passive shrug. "But as far as I'm concerned, it's definitely not off the table."

Lorelai turned, hiding the eagerness in her eye.

Inside, Luke was flying. Not many men would get the feeling at hearing about marriage, but Luke was very much the exception. Damn near a year ago to the date, he had questioned a devotion that never deserved to be questioned. And had ended up watching love walk away. Somehow, the stars aligned and gave him a second chance. And in this second chance, not one ounce of his love had waned. If anything, he loved her more. Learning that she still wanted to marry him placed him on cloud 9. He would not allow himself to hesitate no matter how scared he became. There was simply no reason at all to do so when love ran as deep as his did for Lorelai.

Luke and Lorelai ate breakfast together, and afterward, Lorelai grabbed coffee in her thermos, and gave Luke a big kiss goodbye. He'd volunteered to clean-up, and Lorelai didn't think twice about not arguing with him. She just smiled and left for work.

Luke saw her out, then turned to go back in the kitchen. His mind was focused like a marksman. Lorelai had brought up marriage just to see where he stood, and all throughout breakfast, he had it on his mind. He knew he had to make her an honest woman eventually. Walking around calling her his girlfriend at forty years old just wasn't appealing. And by the time the last bite of his breakfast had been eaten, he had decided to ask her. Eventually. Eventually was what passed through his mind as the when. He soon realized how unwelcome those kind of time frames were to him now, so he started to re-evaluate.

As he walked into the kitchen, he tried to determine an appropriate date in the future to ask her to be his wife. His reason for waiting was not coming out of fear. It was due to Lorelai's very recent divorce.

He knocked around dates as he stood at the sink washing dishes. He found himself getting frustrated as he went back and forth. She wasn't heartbroken over the divorce, so there was no reason to wait too long. But asking too soon would have him looking insensitive. His frustration continued to grow.

But even that frustration was welcoming to him. It stemmed from progress. Forward movement. He knew that he wanted Lorelai, and he wasn't ever willing to put it up for scrutiny again. New confusion and doubt rested on his mind. Like whether Lorelai would still be interested in having lobster at the wedding. He rolled his sleeves more and sunk his hands deeper into the dish water, taking his mind deeper into the problem that sat on his plate. He finished cleaning and left for work, still searching for an answer. All day his mind turned like a wheel.

Some would say that he was thinking too hard, questioning details that didn't matter at all. But he'd spent too much time questioning bigger things. Established things. It was time to focus on the details. Ones that would help give the bigger things flight. So, to those people, it could only be said that: it's about damn time.

-The End-

Relief! haha.

One thing I wanted to touch on was Sookie's storyline. It was an idea that I wanted to do something with. I decided to just stick a very abbreviated version in this story since I don't plan to keep giving time to these post S6 plots.

But this one, I'm really quite fond of. Weird since Chris has his conniving ass all up in it. Please let me know what you think of this story. Thanks!