A/N: This fic is 100% dedicated to Olivia Jane on her day of birth. It started with the idea of building a reference to "Squid" into the GG universe and evolved into this mini-novel of angsty-goodness. Enjoy my dear it's all for you. Happy Birthday!
I must mention a few people who helped me sort out a few issues as I frantically tried to finish this never ending story last night – Mags, Robinpoppins, and Filo, your tips and suggestions were a huge help! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Also, an extra huge thank you to Filo for your tips on content and for the comments that made me giggle.
Special thanks to Jewels12 for all the wonderful betaing you do for me – even on days when you have to get up at 4 am! "Have I told you lately that I love you?" 'cause it's so true… Like a toonie floozie.
When Life Hands You Squid…
Lorelai bounced into the crowded diner and plopped directly onto the only free stool at the counter. She frowned when Luke didn't immediately appear with a cup of coffee, so she looked around the diner, trying to locate him.
The diner was packed, mostly with the usual suspects. Patty and Babette were gossiping furiously, their heads bowed low as they whispered and giggled about the latest happenings. Gypsy was glaring at Kirk who kept peppering her with inane questions about engine oil. Andrew and the re-enactors were at the far table plotting some new way to torture Luke. Everywhere she looked she saw people, but none of them were Luke.
She frowned again, puzzled by his lack of presence and started to should loudly, "Burger boy?" When Luke failed to magically appear she tried again, this time pounding the counter for added emphasis. "Burger Boy! Need coffee stat!"
There was still no sign of Luke, and Lorelai was beginning to be on the receiving end of too many strange looks, so she slumped in her seat and banged her head on the counter softly. God, I need coffee, she thought as she stopped banging and just rested her forehead on the cool surface of the countertop. Where's my coffee dealer when I need him. I love my Dad, but honestly, I can't believe he'd never been to an office supply store before. And has even he been in an office before, because seriously? How much did Margie do for him? As Lorelai continued her internal rant about her day at the office with Richard, she gradually became aware of a voice shouting loudly in the distance.
"What do you mean you can't take it back?" Lorelai raised her head, and gazed at Luke adoringly. She had never been so happy to see someone in her life. Her lifeline to the coffee was back. And he's RANTING! she thought happily as her face broke into a smile. She LOVED ranting Luke.
Luke had emerged from the kitchen, the diner phone pressed to his ear. To Lorelai, he looked like a knight in shining flannel as he barked into the phone. "What the hell am I supposed to do with 60 pounds of squid? This is a diner for crying out loud, not 'Al's serve anything but Chinese.'" Every head in the diner turned toward him as they watched the show in amusement. Luke glared murderously as he listened to the person on the other end of the phone.
"But I DIDN'T order it. It just showed up. The idiotic new delivery boy just dumped it at the back door and left. I am not paying for something I didn't ask for and I'm not having it stay here stinking up my diner."
Lorelai clapped her hands softly and bounced giddily, her mood brightening exponentially as she watched Luke in fascination. There was something about Luke in rant mode that was alarmingly sexy to her. She couldn't pinpoint what it was exactly, but it was something almost primal, animalistic. She studied him for a moment, trying to figure it out. She observed him carefully; her gaze flowing from his finely sculpted shoulders, which were raised almost to his ears; to his tight jaw, which was brushed with sexy light stubble; to his kissable lips, which were pursed… Lorelai shook her head, trying to clear the addled thoughts in her mind, Sexy? Kissable? Where the hell is that coming from? This is Luke for crying out loud.
Her movements had caught Luke's eye and he looked toward her, nodding in greeting as he continued to listen to the imbecile on the other end of the line. As their eyes met, Lorelai gasped, her heart pounding and plummeting to her stomach as she took stock of the fire there. It's his eyes, she thought furiously, they're so intense when he's ranting, filled with heat, almost like someone in the throes of pass… Lorelai shook her head again, refusing to allow her brain to finish the sentence. What is wrong with me today?
She was brought crashing back to reality as Luke shouted, "Fine, thanks for nothing!" and slammed down the phone.
He glared wishing he could cause the person on the other end physical pain, before turning away and stalking over to Lorelai at the counter.
"Sorry about that." He set a mug on the counter, filled it to the top, and placed it in front of her.
She smiled at him gratefully and dived toward the steaming cup of mood enhancing bliss. She took a deep, satisfied sniff, before picking it up and taking a gigantic sip. She sighed, the stress of her day melting away. She looked up at Luke with a glint in her eye as she teased, "Squid, huh?"
Luke's eyes darkened again and Lorelai's heart leapt suddenly in her chest. "Shhhh," she told it, failing to realise she'd spoken aloud. Luke narrowed his eyes in confusion. "Sorry, don't mind me… coffee hasn't kicked in yet." Lorelai took another sip in an effort to hide the blush that was surely creeping up her cheeks.
Luke shot her a look that clearly said she was a psycho, before he launched into a rant, "The idiots at one of the supply companies I deal with screwed up and they sent me a gigantic box of squid instead of the hamburger I ordered. I don't know what to do with it. They won't take it back, I can't keep it here, and it's stinking up the place, not to mention it's in a huge box… I can't even lift it."
Lorelai raised her eyebrows. "Really? I thought you were Super Luke and could lift heavy objects faster than a speeding bullet!"
"Drink your coffee." He reached for the pot and refilled her cup and moved to top up his other customers. He was just filling the mug of the person next to her when the bell above the door jingled and Taylor stepped in. "Oh jeez." Luke muttered as Taylor marched toward counter with that 'I've got something to say that's going to drive you nuts' look about him. "The day from hell just keeps on rolling."
"Lucas," Taylor began, startling Lorelai as he came up behind her.
Luke contemplated pretending to ignore him and hiding out in the kitchen, but then he remembered the giant box of squid that was sitting in there and opted instead to try and get rid of him as fast as possible. He sighed, "What can I do for you Taylor?"
"I have it on good authority that you have an unauthorized box of seafood in the kitchen of your diner. As you are aware, you are not zoned for fresh seafood under town ordinance codes, section 6, subsection 87. You are breaking the law, Lucas and I expect you to tell me what you intend to do about it." Taylor crossed his arms and stood up straight trying to make him self look more official and less like the annoying busybody he actually was.
Lorelai watched the exchange in fascination. The fire was back in Luke's eyes as he clenched his jaw. Butterflies leapt in her abdomen when he growled low in his throat, obviously trying to restrain himself from throttling Taylor.
"Well?" Taylor spat when Luke failed to respond.
Something in Luke seemed to snap and the tension filling his body exploded in a stream of expletives and ranting. "I didn't order the damn seafood, Taylor. It just showed up. The company won't take it back. Instead, it's blocking my freaking stove, and now you come in spouting ordinances and town codes." Taylor took a step backward at the sudden tirade and began to look very uncomfortable.
Once he was a safe distance away from Luke, Taylor said, "Oh. Well, I suggest you find a solution before someone slaps you with a fine."
"Someone? Don't you mean you, Taylor? I bet you've just been waiting for this. Stalking me and waiting to pounce the minute you think I've screwed up. Well it isn't going to work Taylor. Now get out of my diner. And get a hobby."
Taylor spun around and stormed out of the diner muttering something about fines and the mayor.
As Luke glared after him, Lorelai giggled, noticing the veins in his neck popping out.
Her laugh broke Luke's trance and he turned his glare to her. "What's so funny?"
The veins in his neck popped again and she snorted. "Your … neck … veins …pop … out … when … you're … angry…." she managed to gasp out between giggles. She clutched her stomach and tried to calm down, but was hit with another bout of hysteria when it happened again.
"You're insane." The anger and frustration of his morning flooded away as he watched her try to control her laughing fit. God she's beautiful, he thought, as he took advantage of her momentary distraction to gaze at her unnoticed for a moment. He loved the way her lips curved upwards as she laughed, and the crinkles around her nose were surprisingly attractive. His gaze paused at her eyes, which sparkled with unshed tears of mirth that made them bluer than he'd ever seen them before.
Luke breathed in sharply, unconscious of the fact that he was moving toward her as he fixated on those eyes as though they were a beacon lit just for him. When Lorelai felt his breath, warm against her cheek, she abruptly stopped laughing, and the butterflies returned to their rapid dance.
Is he going to kiss me? Lorelai thought to herself, her pulse quickening. Her eyes widened slightly as she realized how much she wanted to taste his lips. She moaned softly at the thought as she leaned forward.
Luke froze when he noticed the change in Lorelai's eyes. He suddenly comprehended what he was doing and jerked back in surprise. He grabbed the cloth that was lying beside her elbow and frantically began to wipe at the counter, willing the flush rising in his cheeks to go away. As he wiped at invisible coffee stains, he snuck a glance at Lorelai out of the corner of his eye. Her face had fallen, her eyes had lost their sparkle and her lips were no longer curved in an elegant smile. For a second, it flashed through his mind that perhaps she was disappointed; maybe she had wanted to kiss him. Then he noticed her empty coffee mug, and figured that was more likely the source of the change. He sighed and grabbed the coffee.
Lorelai barely noticed that Luke was refilling her mug. Instead she was reliving the previous moment in her mind. She'd felt certain that he was going to kiss her, and she had to admit, she was disappointed that he hadn't.
But it's Luke, her brain screamed at her. How could you kiss Luke? What would it mean? Why did he want to kiss me? He's my friend, what if we had kissed and it ruined everything? What if it didn't? Lorelai clung to her last thought, the words ringing out repeatedly inside her head.
She blinked, and noticed the fresh cup of coffee steaming in front of her. She took a sip, letting the warm liquid flow down her throat and clear her obviously addled brain. Luke had left the counter to tend to his other customers and Lorelai quickly spotted him, ensconced in deep discussion with Babette and Miss Patty. Luke seemed to be humouring them as he listened to Babette prattle on about something. Miss Patty was trying to find her way around Luke to pinch his tushie but Luke was onto her and kept inching away every time she tried to make a move. Lorelai watched the intricate dance as she continued to sip her coffee.
A moment later, Luke made his escape. Seeing the look of amusement on Lorelai's face he scowled and said, "Not a word!"
Lorelai said nothing. She downed the rest of her coffee instead. When she was done she set the mug down and looked over to Luke. "I should go, I told Sookie I'd stop by the inn on my way home from Hartford today."
Luke nodded. "You want a dough--"
"Oh my god! Sookie!" Lorelai's shout caught the attention of all the patrons in the diner.
Luke blinked in surprise. "Huh?"
"Sookie," she exclaimed again. "She could fix your shrimp problem."
"You mean my squid problem?" Luke asked, sceptical.
"Yeah, that. She's the queen of cooking. She'll know what to do with it." Lorelai was practically bouncing off the stool in excitement.
Luke sighed in relief. "Really? You'd do that for me?"
"Sure. Sookie likes a challenge. Give me an hour and I'll have it out of here."
"You are a goddess," Luke breathed gratefully.
Lorelai laughed, the brightness returning to her eyes. "I don't know if I'd go that far, Burger Boy."
Luke shook his head adamantly. "Seriously. If I have to deal with Taylor again today, someone's head is going to explode."
Lorelai laughed again, slipping off the stool and swinging her purse up onto her shoulder. "I'll take care of it."
With that, she waltzed out of the diner and climbed into the jeep. Luke watched her drive away, then turned and headed into the kitchen to check on Caesar and the blasted squid.
The attempted kiss in the diner continued to weigh heavily on Lorelai's mind as she drove to the inn. Her brain had begun to twist reality, as it so often did, and she was now picturing about a dozen different ways it could have gone instead.
She parked outside the inn and rubbed her eyes, trying to clear the most recent scenario from her brain. Like all the others, this one had started out with Luke kissing her across the counter in the diner. It was a heated kiss, filled with the fire she'd seen in his eyes, only now instead of anger, it was passion that drove him. The counter between them had disappeared and Luke pressed her body against his, his desire for her evident as he deepened the kiss and entered her mouth with his tongue. But this last time, Lorelai's fantasy had escalated beyond the kissing to flying clothing in Luke's apartment, naked bodies and --
A sudden rap on the window of the jeep had Lorelai nearly jumping out of her skin. She shrieked as she turned to face the intruder. Her shriek quickly devolved to a groan when she saw Michel's face pressed against the plastic. He was muttering something but she couldn't make it out.
She sighed and opened the door. She stepped out and locked the door before turning to address Michel.
"What's with the stalking, Michel? I was about to come in." She started to walk toward the entrance.
Michel scowled and followed her. "Some man called for you. I am apparently your personal answering service so I came to bring you the message. He said it was important."
"A man called? Who?" Lorelai smiled, thinking it might be Luke.
"Do I look like a psychic?" His eyes narrowed as she nodded enthusiastically. "I am not. Anyway, this mysterious man said he needed to know where you put all the pens. He was babbling on about some woman named Margie and how the pens weren't where she would put them."
Lorelai groaned as they entered the inn. "It was my father? This was the important message? Can't he open a drawer and look for them?"
Michel merely shrugged and walked away. Lorelai exhaled loudly before shoving her father's phone call to the back of her brain and slipping into the kitchen to talk to Sookie about Luke and his squid.
"Squid?" Sookie paced through the kitchen randomly stirring things and chopping things as her kitchen staff frantically dove out of her way.
"60 pounds of it," Lorelai confirmed.
Sookie stopped pacing, the ladle in her hand dripping tomato sauce on the floor. One of the kitchen boys removed it from her hand as she began to fan her face. "60 pounds? But who's going to eat it? I only have a few recipes. That's a lot of squid. What else can I do with it? How else can I prepare it? I mean there are only so many ways to make calamari. Could I fry it? Boil it? Poach it? What if people won't eat it and it ruins my reputation?"
Lorelai placed her hand gently on Sookie's shoulder and led her over to a chair. Sookie stuck her head between her knees and tried to calm her breathing.
"Bag," she gasped.
Lorelai ran to the supply cupboard and grabbed a paper bag. Sookie blew into it several times, her head still between her knees.
Suddenly she sat up and flung her hand in the air sending the paper bag soaring. "I'm okay! I'm okay!" she shouted enthusiastically as Lorelai ducked to avoid the bag's flight path. It landed in a large bowl of green jello and began to jiggle back and forth.
Sookie suddenly went on a tear shouting out random ingredients and instructions as her staff bustled around her to comply.
Lorelai shook her head at her zany friend and moved toward the nearest exit. "I'll just, uh, go arrange for the squid to be delivered."
"Yeah, sure, hon," Sookie replied distractedly as she dug around in the fridge.
Lorelai fled from the scene and headed to her office to call Luke.
Back at the diner, Luke watched Lorelai drive away, then turned and headed into the kitchen to prepare the squid for transportation to the inn. He was lost in thought as he entered, thinking about how he'd nearly kissed her. He almost wished he had done it, even if it were only for the sake of finally settling the mystery of what she'd taste like. What was most intriguing to him about the near kiss though, was the disappointment he'd seen in her eyes after he pulled away. He wondered if perhaps she had wanted to kiss him as well. He thought he'd seen her lean in toward him, but that might have been wishful thinking.
He grabbed a few coolers from the shelf as his thoughts drifted to another conversation, another almost kiss that had been playing over and over in his mind for the past year. That night they'd knelt behind the counter together to examine the order his dad had once written on the wall. There'd been a moment then, where Luke had felt them gravitate toward each other. He'd been close enough to breathe in her sweet scent, to hear her erratic breathing. He was certain that they would have kissed, had the townies not interrupted them.
He began to open the giant box of squid as other memories of Lorelai fluttered through his mind. Their frenzied exchange on the day they'd first met. Her brilliant smiles that lit up her eyes and made him feel alive inside in a way he hadn't felt since his mother was alive. Her tears, as she dealt with her father's hospitalization. Every touch, every smile, every conversation they'd ever had came flooding back to him as he thought of her.
He growled softly as his memories shifted to all the moments where he'd thought their time had come and he'd been left disappointed. When Mrs. Kim had interrupted them just as he'd finally worked up the nerve to ask Lorelai out on a date. The night after Rachel left when he'd gone to tell her how he'd felt and Max had shown up.
Luke began to tear savagely at the box, massacring the cardboard as his frustration with their situation exploded inside him. He was tired of the flirting and the teasing and the moments that never went anywhere. He was fed up with Lorelai always pulling away just as things were starting to get interesting. He absently plunged his hands into the squid as he mourned the thousands of tiny missed opportunities between them. We'll be great together, damn it! he thought to himself. Why the hell can't she see that? Why does she keep running away from me just when we're finally growing closer? Why can't I seem to work up the courage to just make a move?
Luke glanced down, slowly becoming aware of himself again. He was up to his elbows in squid and he had no clue what to do with it. He opened one of the coolers and began to fill it. As he reached back into the box to retrieve more, a blotch of red on his left hand caught his eye. Luke frowned and examined it, noticing at least 4 more marks on that hand and a few on his other.
Weird, he thought, as he heard the phone ringing. He quickly got up and walked to the sink to wash his hands. Wonder what that's from, I don't remember burning myself this morning. He quickly dried his hands and went to answer the phone.
After making arrangements with Lorelai to drop the squid off at the inn, Luke finished unloading the seafood into coolers and piled them into the back of his pickup. He noticed a few more red marks, this time on his arms. He was still baffled by what could be causing them. He figured they'd go away if he just left them alone.
After showering and changing, Luke drove to the inn. On the way there his thoughts drifted to Lorelai again. There was something about their exchange this morning that had felt different. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but he thought that perhaps it was time to try asking her out again. He was sick and tired of the ambiguity and he was willing to take the risk.
Luke parked next to her Jeep. He scratched absently at his arm as he retrieved two of the coolers from the back and headed inside to find Lorelai.
Lorelai was having a hard time concentrating on her work. She couldn't seem to make herself stop thinking about Luke. Every time she tried to think of something else, her thoughts would wander right back to him. She was ruminating over their earlier exchange when she saw his truck pull up.
She smiled and bounded to the door, swinging it open just as he approached carrying two coolers. "Where would you like these?"
"In the kitchen." Lorelai walked with him and tried to prepare him for Psycho Sookie.
"She's a little keyed up over this whole squid thing. She freaked out at first. But she's fine now. Are you sure we can't pay you anything?"
Luke shook his head adamantly. "Getting it out of the diner is payment enough. " He smiled at her as they entered the kitchen, and chaos erupted.
Luke heard a squeal and saw a streak of red come soaring toward him as Sookie dove for the coolers. She mumbled a muffled, "Thanks," before rushing the coolers to the counter and firing directions.
Lorelai opened the door and gestured for Luke to follow.
"There're 8 more in the truck." As he reached out to open the main door, Lorelai spotted the marks on his hand
"Luke, what happened?" She took his hand in hers and turned it over to examine the marks more carefully. She frowned. "It looks like hives. Are you allergic to anything?"
"Nothing I'm aware of." Luke shook his head, frowning slightly as he tried to think of something he might be forgetting.
Lorelai still held his hand in hers. She unbuttoned his sleeve and slid it up his arm. "Oh my god. Luke, they're on your arms too. This isn't good. Did you eat something new today? Touch anything?"
Luke shook his head. "Just squid."
They looked at each other, realization dawning. "Luke," Lorelai tightened her grip on his hand as he tried to pull away. "You should really get this checked out. It could be serious."
"It's nothing," Luke snapped, pulling his hand away. He wanted to ask her out on a date, not talk about his stupid welts.
Lorelai tried to snatch his hand back but he was too quick for her this time. He yanked open the door and stormed out. She stood on the stoop and watched, bewildered as Luke brought in the rest of the squid. She didn't understand why he was so upset. His health was at stake. Somehow, she had to make him see that he needed to get this checked out, just in case.
She cornered him on his way out of the kitchen after dropping off the last load. She grabbed his arm and pulled him into her tiny office. After closing the door behind him she leaned against it so he couldn't bolt.
"I didn't mean to upset you, Luke, it's just that seafood allergies can be dangerous." As Luke settled into the chair at her desk, Lorelai noticed some new markings on his neck that hadn't been there before.
"Luke, seriously, it seems to be getting worse. Will you please go see a doctor?" Lorelai looked him in the eye, pleading.
When he shook his head she let out a frustrated squeal and marched over to him.
"Unbutton your shirt," she demanded.
Luke looked up at her, puzzlement, frustration and amusement all flashing simultaneously across his features. Lorelai reached out to him and began to undo the top button herself.
"Hey!" he growled, the sound low and sexy in his throat.
"Luke, something is not right here," Lorelai spat in exasperation. "I'm just trying to look out for you. Will you please cooperate?"
Luke huffed in defeat, nodding to give her permission to do it. In truth, he was suddenly too tired to argue, and his arms were beginning to throb.
Lorelai unbuttoned his flannel slowly, struggling not to think of her earlier fantasy. She lingered a little too long on each one as she slowly uncovered Luke's chest.
She sucked in a breath as she took in his sculpted muscles and the dark hair that covered his chest. She resisted the urge to trace her hands through the hair and feel the smooth skin beneath. Instead she examined him for welts. There were several scattered across his stomach, and another bunch scattered near his neck.
She met his eyes, concern filling hers as she noticed welts emerging on his cheeks.
"Luke, I know you hate hospitals and doctors, but I'm taking you to the emergency room. This is not good. "
Luke tried again to refuse, but this time the fight had left him, he was suddenly feeling very tired and he wanted nothing more than to sleep. He allowed Lorelai to button him back up. Somewhere in the back of his mind he registered the feel of her touch. He filed it away to ruminate on another day.
Luke's sudden lack of resistance worried Lorelai more than the welts themselves. She quickly helped him up and walked him to her jeep. When she got in, she noticed more new welts that seemed to be appearing on his face and neck. He closed his eyes as she drove, his breaths shallow and wheezy.
Lorelai fought back tears as she pressed her foot to the accelerator and rushed to the hospital. He's going to be okay. He has to be, she thought repeatedly as she drove. Please, be okay, Luke. Please.
Three hours later, Lorelai was pacing outside Luke's hospital room, trying to replay everything in her mind, but it was all a bit of a blur. All she could see clearly was Luke. She'd never been so terrified in her life. The doctors had assured her that he was fine, that the treatments they'd given him would help, but they hadn't let her see him, and until they did, she wouldn't let herself believe that he was really okay.
The doctor came out of Luke's room and Lorelai froze, holding her breath as she awaited the latest news. She needed him to be okay.
"He's fine," the Doctor said. "You can go in now, Mrs. Danes. He's sleeping now, but when he wakes up he'll be as good as new." She tried not to react to the foreign name. She'd almost forgotten that she'd made up a story about being Luke's wife so that they would keep her informed.
"Thank you," Lorelai whispered as she entered the room.
Luke was lying on a gurney hooked up to several machines that monitored his vital signs. He lay very still in the centre of the bed, a soft smile gracing his lips as he slept. He looked so frail and helpless lying in the bed, and as Lorelai approached him she finally let the tears she'd been holding back flow.
She took his hand and held it in hers as she sobbed, her thick tears landing on his blanket. She cried for the worries and pain over the past few hours, for the fear that had gripped her heart since she realized how serious his reaction was. But most of all she wept for the unacknowledged love for Luke that she finally allowed herself to admit was in her heart.
She climbed onto the bed and lay beside him, her arms reaching around him to hold him as she continued to sob. When he woke up she was going to tell him how she felt. How she couldn't live without him. How somewhere along the way, her best friend had become so much more. She wanted to have a relationship with him, and she was shocked to discover that the thought didn't frighten her.
As her tears ebbed, she hugged him tightly, and tenderly kissed his cheek. "I'm sorry Luke, she whispered to the empty room. "I'm sorry it took me so long to realize it, and I'm sorry if I've given you mixed signals, but I think I'm falling in love with you." A single tear rolled down her cheek as she kissed him lightly on the lips then rested her head on his chest and drifted off to sleep holding him in her arms.
The next morning, Luke woke up disoriented. It took him a minute to realize he was in the hospital, and he gazed down in awe to see Lorelai snuggled up against him, her head resting on his chest as she slept peacefully.
He enveloped her in his arms and kissed the top of her head as a single tear slid down his cheek.
"I'm falling in love with you too," he whispered.