Authors Note: A special thank you to my amazing beta, Jewels12, for all her encouragement, editing assistance and feedback on my first ever attempt at Fan Fiction. Thanks also to sosmitten23 for help fixing my foolish quotation errors, I think I've finally got it!
Stolen Hearts was supposed to be a simple one off; a short story detailing Luke and Lorelai's first meeting (as referred to in "Written in the Stars") but my brain had other ideas and as you can see, it's evolved into much more. I hope you enjoy this first instalment!
Lorelai sat on the bed and looked around the room solemnly. She smiled sadly as she took it all in: the peeling, yet cheerful flowered wallpaper; the twin beds; the curtain she'd erected between the beds and the bathroom so they'd have privacy. It wasn't extravagant or fancy, but it had been their home for the past 10 years and a part of her ached at the thought of leaving. There were so many great memories that had been created here with her daughter and the crazy, irrational, insecure part of her worried that those happy memories would disappear once the garden shed of the Independence Inn was no longer their home.
She spotted something underneath the bedside table and pulled out a small, child-sized sock that had probably been there for years. Lorelai smiled, recognizing the blue and green polka-dotted design on the sock. This was the one Rory had insisted on wearing to her first day of Kindergarten 7 years earlier.
Rory woke her mother up at six am, hopping up and down on the bed, urging her out of bed.
"Mommy, I have school today! School, where there's lots of books!" Lorelai groaned and buried her head under her pillow. "Mommy, did you hear me? You have to wake up so I can go to my first day of school. I wanna see all the books!"
Lorelai reluctantly rolled out of bed and stumbled to the bathroom, muttering about coffee and the crack of dawn. 20 minutes later, after a shower, and copious amounts of caffeine, Lorelai re-entered the shed and watched as Rory carefully repacked the yellow backpack she had so diligently organized the night before so that she could fit the snack that had been made for her by her Aunt Sookie from the inn.
When she was finished, she burst into tears. Alarmed, Lorelai rushed over to her and cradled her in her arms. "Rory, sweetheart, what's wrong?"
"I can't find my special socks," she sobbed. "The ones with the blue spots for you and the green spots for me. I need those socks."
"We'll find them, kid. Let's look together." Lorelai wiped the tears off her daughter's cheeks and gently took her hand, guiding her around the room as they looked for the special socks. They finally found them underneath the tub.
With the crisis averted, and the polka-dotted socks firmly in place, they gathered their things and left the shed hand in hand, only to arrive an hour early for Rory's first day of Kindergarten.
Suddenly, the door to the shed swung open and Lorelai jumped as Rory burst through the door excitedly chattering a mile a minute.
"Okay, Mom, everything is in the Jeep! Michel complained about his back every time he lifted a box. You'd think we were asking him to lift bricks! Oh! And you should have seen it! Kirk came by and tried to help but he dropped a box of books and Michel started yelling at him in French. Kirk tried to yell back, but he apparently learned French at the 'Insane School of Gibberish' 'cause it made no sense. Finally Sookie came and shooed Kirk away with a loaf of bread. It was hilarious!" Rory giggled before continuing, "Anyway, all our stuff is in there. I can't believe we're going to have our own house, with a bathroom that has a door, and my own bedroom - with all those bookshelves. My books can't wait to live on those bookshelves. And - " she stopped babbling, suddenly noticing her mothers' sombre expression. "Mom, are you okay?"
Lorelai smiled as she looked up at her beautiful, vibrant, 12 year old miracle. "I'm fine, hun, just a little sad." She paused. "I'm gonna miss this place."
Rory sat down beside her mom and gave her a hug. "I know," she whispered, "I'm excited about the new house, but this is the only home I've ever known." She looked up at her mom, her eyes filling with tears. "I miss it already."
Lorelai held her daughter close, her own tears landing quietly in Rory's brown hair. They sat there, embracing each other for several minutes as they silently said their good-byes to the only real home either of them had ever known.
When they were both ready, they stood up, gathered the last of their belongings and left the shed hand in hand.
Luke slammed the plate of pancakes down on the table, failing to notice when the top one flew off and landed in his customer's lap. He marched over to the table by the door and roughly grabbed a plate of waffles that was still half full.
"Hey, I'm not done!" the customer complained.
As Luke stormed his way behind the counter and dumped the plate in a bin, he noticed his customers staring at him.
"What?" he barked.
The patrons in the diner all quickly looked away, no-one daring to answer him. Luke sighed, asked Caesar to watch the diner for a few minutes, and slipped upstairs. He knew he shouldn't be taking his frustration on his customers, but he was just so angry. 'How could she do it? How could she just leave like that, with no warning.' Luke slammed his fist into the wall and thought back to the evening before.
He'd finished up in the diner around 8 and headed upstairs looking forward to a cold beer and some quality time with Rachel before bed. When he opened the door, she was sitting at the kitchen table waiting for him.
He knew right away that something wasn't right. She was wearing her jacket for one thing, and when he saw the suitcase at her feet, his heart sank and he thought, 'not again.'
"Rachel -" Luke began.
Rachel cut him off, "Luke, please hear me out. I've just been offered an amazing opportunity to photograph a rare species of ape in the Congo for a major science publication. They need me there, like, yesterday, so I have to fly out tonight. I know this is sudden and I know that we've been doing great lately. Part of me really wants to stay here with you, but I have to do this Luke, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity. It's what I've been waiting for." Rachel paused and picked up her bag. "I love you Luke," she whispered. She walked toward him and kissed him lightly on the cheek before heading over to the apartment door.
"I'm still not enough for you am I?" Luke asked, dejected. All he heard in response was the clicking of the door as it shut behind her and the soft thudding of her footsteps as they faded down the stairs.
Luke cursed and winced, his fist throbbing from its deliberate run in with the wall. As he headed over to the sink to run it under cold water, he berated himself for his stupidity. He was a fool to have thought that Rachel would actually stay this time. It's not like they hadn't been through this before, but he'd convinced himself that this time it was different, that this time he could let himself believe that they actually had a shot.
"Damn it, Rachel! Why did I let you do this to me again?" Luke shouted to the empty room.
He shut off the water and as he dried his hand he saw something shiny poking out from under the bed. He walked over and picked it up, a new surge of anger coursing through his veins when he realized it was Rachel's jean jacket. He walked to the garbage can and balled up the jacket, but just as he was about to toss it, he abruptly changed his mind, grabbed an empty box from the closet and dropped it inside.
Luke swept through the apartment adding other items to the box before shoving it onto the top shelf behind his camping gear. He slammed the closet door shut with a resounding bang, knocking a light green baseball cap onto the floor in the process. Feeling oddly calm and satisfied, Luke scooped up the cap, placed it backwards on his head, and headed back downstairs to the diner.