A/N: At long last, here it is. The auction fic for Mags. It's based on a quote by George Bernard Shaw… what a wise man, no? The quote was, "There are two tragedies in life. One is not to get your heart's desire. The other is to get it." It had to be angsty. I hope I did it justice. I sat on this one, for forever… and here it is. Thanks to Mags for her patience, guidance, and input… and thanks to Filo for the brainstorming, the careful analysis of every word I wrote, and the deep discussions about Luke's thoughts. I couldn't have done it without you.
Luke grumbled as he adjusted the trays of coffee in his arms. The snow was still falling. Great. He hated snow. It was always a pain in the ass to shovel and to walk through. It made everything icy and slippery and if he didn't put just the right amount of salt down on the walkways in front of the diner, he could get sued if Kirk fell and broke something.
And then there was Taylor. Taylor was a maniac about the snow. Luke hated hearing Taylor's pleas for festive decorations in the diner around the winter holidays. After all these years, Luke thought Taylor would have realized he wasn't going to decorate. And yet Luke still had to fight Taylor every year on his reasons for not decorating.
The only thing that made the winter weather slightly bearable was Lorelai's reaction to it. Every time it snowed, her smile was just a little bit bigger than usual. When it snowed, there was always a spot at the table by the window for her to sit and look out the window of the diner. She often showed up to watch it fall after being out in it for awhile. The diner was usually closed, but the door was always unlocked. Sometimes he would pull up a chair beside her and listen to her ramble about the magic of snow, and what it smelled like and tasted like. He would drink his tea as she babbled on and on, watching as the clumpy white snowflakes melted into her hair. There was never really a discussion of the routine, it just somehow fell into place that way.
And Luke couldn't really object. She was Lorelai, after all. She could somehow see through all the crappy things that came along with it and enjoy the snow. If she was happy, so was he.
Usually. Sort of. Sometimes. Most of the time? Depended on what she was happy about.
As he shut the door to the diner, he made sure that the cup of coffee he had set aside for Lorelai was still sitting in the tray. The diner door was unlocked so she could go in and sit if she wanted to, and Luke knew he wouldn't be long. But Luke knew that if she saw him giving coffee to the re-enactors, Lorelai would wonder where her cup was.
After passing out a few of the cups to the re-enactors and listening to their requests for other beverages, he caught a glimpse of Lorelai walking across the street. His hand instinctively reached for her cup of coffee, until he saw that she was with someone else. Luke felt his shoulders tense up and he noticed a dull pain between his eyes starting to get sharper. He exhaled slowly, trying to calm himself down. Who was this guy? What did he think gave him the right to walk in the snow with Lorelai?
His reaction was awfully territorial for someone who still hadn't told Lorelai how he felt. But he couldn't help it. This random person who Lorelai hadn't even mentioned before was the guy Luke so desperately wanted to be.
Luke thought back for a moment. Had she mentioned this guy before?
He handed another cup over as he mulled over the recent conversations he had with her. Luke stopped mid thought and focused on serving the re-enactors. If Luke couldn't remember whether or not there was a guy, then he didn't have to worry about it. She usually made it perfectly clear when there were guys. Luke decided that he was perfectly happy being left in the dark about this nameless, random man. If he was nameless, he wasn't important.
He watched as she leaned in and kissed the nameless guy. If he wasn't important, why was Lorelai kissing him?
Luke felt a knot forming in his stomach as he stared at her, laughing and smiling as she walked hand in hand with the guy. Lorelai was having fun. She had the snow. She had this… person to enjoy it with. He could tell that Lorelai was… happy.
So why couldn't Luke be happy for her?
The whole thing was simple. Luke was the guy with the coffee. He was the guy who served her food, supplied her the caffeine she needed to survive, and repeated the process all over again when the next meal came around.
Maybe it was more complicated than he had originally thought. Luke knew that he was also a friend to Lorelai. He was the person who she ran things by when she needed a second opinion, the guy who was always there to listen. Sometimes, he would catch himself flirting with her, and wanting to take things to another level. He had spent many hours debating whether he should feel guilty for it, too. Every touch, every smile, every beat of silence when their eyes locked, always left him feeling torn about the entire situation. But he always came to the same conclusion.
She wasn't avoiding it. If anything, she was reciprocating.
But despite Lorelai's reciprocations, he didn't make a move.
He stood by as she got involved in all sorts of different relationships. It was inevitable. There were times he felt the need to tell her how he felt, and there were others where he wanted to ignore his feelings and pretend that they did not exist.
Luke was always there for damage control when it was all said and done, warming up to the idea of something more each time. He was always there when things went sour, waiting to help her pick up the pieces and go through another rotten relationship until she could no longer hide it with self assurance and a smile. After every hug, every good talk, and every time she left the diner with a smile on her face, he was no longer able to avoid the idea of saying something.
Max knew nothing about Luke other than the fact that he served Lorelai coffee. How could someone be so offended by the presence of someone they barely knew? He could ask himself the same question, but that thought quickly vanished as he brought himself back to reality.
Luke knew the powers that coffee had over Lorelai, but somehow he knew they wouldn't translate to Max. So what was his problem, anyway?
Luke knew that Lorelai was involved with Max; he wouldn't try to interfere with that. But somehow Max saw what Lorelai couldn't. Every glance Max and Lorelai shared, every smile, and every word reminded Luke of what he didn't have.
Luke inhaled sharply, gripping the handle on his toolbox until his knuckles turned white. "And she needs the coffee." He turned to Lorelai. "So I'll see you tomorrow."
"Tomorrow," Lorelai echoed.
Luke nodded. "Same time as always," he replied, trying to let Max know that Lorelai wasn't going to avoid Luke's just because she was seeing Max. There were times when he would have wondered if she was going to show up the next morning. But somehow, this time, he knew she would.
"I'd count on a little later," Max insisted. The tone of Max's voice did not sit well with Luke. It was almost like Max was trying to claim Lorelai, and Luke wasn't going to let him get away with it. Luke's frustrations grew stronger as he processed the situation. Sure, he could put down the tool box and just deck Max. He would walk out feeling completely satisfied. But Max simply wasn't worth the energy or the potential jail time.
Luke's response took no second thought. "Doesn't matter what time it is. I'll always be around." He was startled by his own response for a moment. As he walked out the door, he loosened his grip on the toolbox, satisfied that he got the last word. He made his way to his truck parked in the driveway, taking a deep breath to calm himself down.
He had missed his chance. Sure, he would always be around, but for what? This brought him out of his calm state and back to reality. He had the last word, but he wasn't the one standing in the foyer with her. Backing out of Lorelai's driveway, he couldn't help but wonder what things would be like if he was the one standing in the foyer with her. He gripped the steering wheel in a similar manner to the toolbox, trying not to let the idea that he lost his chance sink in.
She could walk around the room and count each flower. But she didn't need to. Lorelai had no doubts that there would be exactly one thousand yellow daisies within the confines of the inn's lobby. The sea of yellow overwhelmed her at first. She wasn't sure what to think. What she should be thinking was quite obvious; what she was thinking, however, wasn't.
There were exactly one thousand yellow daisies. They were for her. He had proposed.
That should have made her feel happy. It should have made her feel overwhelmed with excitement. She should have felt like it was right, like it was real, like it was perfect. But as she looked out into the sea of yellow flowers surrounding her, she felt more alone than she had ever felt in her entire life.
Everything she'd ever wanted was right in front of her. A good guy, the perfect proposal, all of it, was there for her to take if she wanted it. But there was still something missing. The same thing that she had been missing with Max all along. But she shrugged it off. It was probably just because the idea of getting married that was making her nervous. It was a big step.
This was probably one of the nicest things that anyone had done for her. So what if she had to guide him along a little bit? She cringed. Maybe guide was an understatement. She told him exactly what to do. Max proposed with a thousand yellow daisies. Just like she asked. And Lorelai was going to say yes, despite her inhibitions. After all, this was what she wanted. She was being far too critical of her situation. She was always far too critical of everything that happened to her since Rory was born.
After all, that was her main focus and her main priority. It was the reason she had put up so many boundaries in her romantic life and her personal life. She would eventually find that one guy who was able to find a way to fit in her life with Rory as well as her romantic life. She was aware that it would take a very special guy to deal with her and care for Rory more than he cared for himself.
Romances aside, she could count those people in her life on one hand. And she couldn't help but dwell on the fact that the only male in that group was not Max.
But she hadn't really given him a chance yet. He was asking for that chance, and she wanted to give it to him. It was what she wanted… wasn't it? Then why should she let it go? Why did she have to question every good thing in her life? She deserved it. Lorelai Gilmore deserved to find that one person that she wanted to be with. Apparently, that person was going to be Max.
Was it going to be Max? Why was this so difficult to wrap her mind around? If Max wasn't an immediate thought when she counted on her one hand, did that mean she was settling? Did her confusion over the entire situation mean she was settling? Was it wrong that the first face she thought of was the face of a person totally and completely different from Max?
She shook her head and picked up one of the daisies. Fighting the urge to settle the inner debate with a round of 'he loves me, he loves me not,' she slowly inhaled the scent of the flowers all around her. She exhaled, standing up to go and break up the ongoing argument between Michel and Kirk.
She didn't have to decide right away.
He poured the coffee into the filter as he tried to ignore the fact that she was fidgeting in front of him. Luke tried to remain focused on his task, but somehow she managed to get his attention. She started to babble. This wasn't good. There was obviously something big going on in her life. No matter how small of a deal she would try to make what she was about to tell him, it was going to be a huge deal.
She tried to pass it off as sharing. But if Lorelai was actually attempting to share something with him, there would be no slow and painful buildup. She would say it and move on. But she blabbed on and on before she dropped the bomb on him.
It wasn't unexpected. The moment when she handed him that daisy just seemed life changing. He took a deep breath to calm down and try to process the situation. She was talking, but he wasn't really listening. His mind was elsewhere, wondering if she had even processed the situation. There were so many things that she had to figure out… had she thought about any of them? For example, where were they going to live?
Luke was stunned when he heard her answer his question. Had he really said it out loud? Her answer was almost automatic; apparently they were going to live in Stars Hollow. She quickly followed it up with the amendment that she and Max hadn't talked about it.
He wondered how her twisted logic led her to such a definitive answer if they hadn't talked about it. Or if she hadn't even accepted yet. Luke noticed her eyes darting all across the room as she spoke. She was getting anxious, and he was becoming more uncomfortable himself. But he pressed on, asking her about her job, whether she wanted more kids, and about her finances. It was slightly aggravating that she was taking such a big decision so lightly.
For whatever reason, the fact that he was unsure gave him a weird sense of satisfaction. He felt a little guilty for feeling better about her hesitations. But he had a right to be angry and if he had to admit it, a little jealous. She was going to say yes and he knew that. But he also knew that it wasn't what she wanted. Lorelai was going to accept a proposal and commit to starting a life with someone that would end up being a life she didn't want.
She was about to accept a proposal that was clearly going to commit her to a life of misery. Luke was right there in front of her. What the hell did he have to do to get her to notice him? He was the one that could give her what she wanted.
As he forced another obligatory "congratulations" and handed Lorelai her muffins, he picked apart her answers in his head. He grabbed a towel and began to wipe down the counter, trying to avoid thinking about the fact that she was so hesitant.
Luke dropped the towel and made his way upstairs to his apartment. He knew he wouldn't be getting much done that day. His mind would be too busy replaying every single opportunity he had to tell Lorelai how he felt about her. Opening the door to the apartment and letting it slam shut, he started to pace back and forth. How could she not pick the guy who would actually make her happy?
Part of him knew that if she reallythought about it, she wouldn't be with Max. But it wasn't like she would come running to him, ready for a relationship, after she got things straightened out. They would be back at square one. He sat on the couch, turned on the television, and tried not to do any thinking.
He never expected his feelings to manifest themselves like that.
Luke felt a little guilty for expressing himself the way he did. All of his anger seemed to be building, and he couldn't seem to keep them in check. How could she continue to lie to herself like that? How could she continue to pretend to be happy, when he could tell just by looking into her eyes that she wasn't?
He was entirely sick of the talk about the wedding. She hadn't brought it up much, but each time she did, it seemed to make him more frustrated. It had caused him to say a lot of things that he didn't mean.
But on second thought, the rant wasn't totally far fetched. It was an exaggerated version of his thoughts on marriage, but a version nonetheless. The Junie and Momo bit may have been unnecessary, and the chicken kiev portion could probably have been left out with the same overall effect, but he got his point across.
He hadn't always thought about it like that. If he was being completely honest with himself, he knew that he wasn't totally against it, either. Luke just happened to know that marriage was going to be one of those things in life that just seemed to work against him in every way possible.
When Lorelai told him she was getting married, and when she told him that things seemed to be going sour in the process, he couldn't help but say 'I told you so' in his own way. Luke went into the kitchen and started to make her order, pondering the institution of marriage and how Lorelai would fit into that institution. Marriage didn't seem right for someone like Lorelai unless it was with a very specific type of person.
At this point, Luke could only hope that Lorelai would allow herself to realize that Max was not that person. He slid her plate in front of her and walked away without a word.
He sighed. The more he thought about it, the more he realized that his bitterness toward marriage came from moments like this.
As Lorelai and Max danced in the town square, Lorelai glanced over at Luke. He was seated on a bench next to a few of Miss Patty's ballet dancers, looking just as uncomfortable as Lorelai felt. She let out a giggle as she watched him, realizing just how awkward the entire situation was once it was all pieced together.
"What's so funny?" Max asked.
She shook her head. "Nothing," she replied, looking over at the bench once again.
Lorelai watched Luke while she danced with Max. She could tell that he wasn't happy. He leaned forward and started to wring his hands, obviously frustrated. Their eyes met and she quickly picked a new spot to focus on as Max pulled her closer. The butterflies in her stomach suddenly turned into knots when she realized she had been staring at Luke that whole time.
She didn't intend to make Luke uncomfortable. Or maybe she did. Lorelai shook her head as her mind wandered. No, she didn't intend to make him uncomfortable, she just asked him to join the party. It was possible that the party would be awkward for him. But she wanted him there. She needed him there. And she really couldn't put her finger on the reason why.
As the song ended and Max led her away from the dance floor, she couldn't help but look Luke's way again. Max grabbed her hand and suddenly it hit her.
Luke came out to the party.
The inner debate about how that made her feel raged on as Max brought her a drink. On one hand, she now had Luke's silent stamp of approval. Well, maybe 'blessing' was a better word. Leaving the diner and showing up to her engagement party was a gesture that could only mean one thing, and whatever it was, it was supposed to be good.
Why wasn't it making her feel good? She glanced over at Max, who flashed her a smile. As Lorelai sipped her drink, she realized that Luke's approval, blessing, whatever it was, made the whole engagement real. It meant it was happening, she was getting married. A little part of her had hoped he would somehow rant to her, telling her everything that was wrong with Max. She could have her epiphany, get out of the engagement while she still had time, and move on with her life. It would be the external validation to support her weird internal questioning.
But he didn't move from the bench.
She crawled under the covers as Max turned out the light, processing the reality that he was sleeping in her bed that night. Lorelai rolled over onto her back and stared at the ceiling, trying to get past the awkwardness of it and get some sleep. Closing her eyes, she turned onto her side, realizing that the other side of the mattress had a dip in it from Max's body weight.
She didn't like the dippy mattress.
Lorelai opened her eyes again and reached for Max's shoulder. Maybe if she had him turn over the mattress would be less dippy. She pulled her arm back as she heard him snore, tucking her arm under her pillow and staring at Max's back.
Suddenly she felt extremely uncomfortable. As Lorelai reached for a pillow on the floor, just barely missing it, she realized that no amount of pillow fluffing, tossing and turning, or cover shedding would make her comfortable.
This wasn't supposed to make her feel uncomfortable. Burying her face into the pillow, she fought back the urge to let out a frustrated groan. All of the big moments in her and Max's engagement were supposed to make her happy, or maybe excited. She got her dream proposal. Her dress was perfect. Max was a great guy, and Rory liked him, too. But something was still missing. Lorelai had failed to accept the fact that something wasn't quite right, but now she couldn't avoid it. Whatever it was that wasn't working seemed to be magnified by his presence in her bed.
Things are changing around here, and you're ruining it for yourself. Enjoy it, for God's sake. Lorelai ran her hands through her hair and turned over onto the other side, vowing to give it a try. She rubbed her fuzzy sock covered feet together, trying to lull herself to sleep, but it didn't work. After about an hour, she rolled out of bed and walked downstairs. She unceremoniously plopped herself on Rory's bed, trying to get her attention so she could talk to her. Lorelai tried the casual approach, but a sleepy Rory was less than patient with her. Lorelai sighed.
"I have a boy in my room."
He was about to lose it.
Max finally ordered and Luke's efforts to set aside the pancakes were rewarded with a "love ya." Great. That made it so much easier. Love ya. Luke knew Lorelai and Rory would have gone ballistic had he not set aside the pancakes. He cared enough to know that about her. But instead of acknowledging that, he got a simple, friendly "love ya."
He should have expected it; things like that ended the same way every time. Luke did something nice for Lorelai, she batted her eyelashes and the world stopped for a moment, but everything went back to some sort of normal after that. The time he drove to Woodbridge to jumpstart her car; the time he brought his ladder to help her off of the roof one night she decided to go stargazing and her own fell… each time he went out of his way to make her happy, she had the exact same reaction.
Luke knew Lorelai and Rory well enough to do that for them; yet Max took his sweet time perusing the menu and trying to decide what sounded good for him that morning. Wouldn't he know by now that he was interfering with the Gilmore breakfast routine? He had to have some sort of inkling to the fact that Lorelai and Rory had their own way of doing things, and everyone around them would be better off letting them handle it their way.
Luke knew this better than anyone else. He had dealt with their babbling, listened to the inanimate objects that they insisted he listen to, and gone way above and beyond for them, because he cared.
And there was Max, cluelessly sitting at the table as Lorelai and Rory's pancakes sat on a plate in the kitchen.
She could have figured that he would rant about something. Obviously the follow through on his rant about the stoplight was weak, so he took his ranting elsewhere. Lorelai didn't rule out the possibility of him ranting about her impending marriage, but the words still hit her like a ton of bricks. As Sookie pulled Lorelai by the arm to continue their planning, Lorelai couldn't help but look back at him, trying to read him.
What the hell was that all about?
Luke said what he said in such a… what kind of a tone was it? She could barely interpret it. All she knew was that it wasn't a nice tone. Not nice at all. That much she could figure out. As Sookie rambled, she picked apart Luke's rant. Forget 'if looks could kill', how about words? She'd have been dead three times over at least.
Seriously. What the hell was that all about?
The stoplight debacle may have exacerbated things, but Luke was definitely annoyed by something else. Her mind raced as she attempted to determine why Luke was acting like he was. Maybe it was about the wedding invitation he had sitting in a pile upstairs.
Sitting in a pile? As she replayed the conversation in her mind, her own words made her head hurt more than his did. She started to get a little jittery. Suddenly she was no longer listening to Sookie, but she was replaying conversations she had been having with Luke over the past few weeks. Lorelai didn't say anything rude or uncalled for, but she could see what was happening. The wedding invitation sitting in a pile upstairs wasn't going to disappear, and until it did, neither would the metaphorical elephant.
Lorelai nodded, pretending to be engaged in the extremely one-sided conversation with Sookie. Luke hadn't even given her an answer. Clearly he was avoiding giving her an answer just as she was avoiding asking him for one, but something wasn't right.
Luke's avoidance of the subject of her impending marriage only highlighted her own avoidance of the same topic. This wasn't how things were supposed to be.
"So what do you think?" Sookie asked, playfully punching Lorelai in the arm and interrupting her train of thought. "I see the steam blowing out of your ears, you are deep in thought."
"Uh… I don't know what I think," she answered, all too honestly.
Lorelai sat on her bed, picking at a loose string on her comforter. The events of the past few days ran through her head as she flopped onto her stomach and kicked her feet into the air. She put aside the issue of Cosmo she had been flipping through and watched it hit the floor. She sighed as she pulled the string more and more until it made a bunch in the comforter. Quickly letting go of that string, she chose another nearby and repeated the process.
She was in a pensive mood now. Damn Long Island Iced Tea. Her eyebrows furrowed as she internally debated how long a hangover could technically be considered a hangover. Since no one was there to argue, she declared herself still hung over as she pulled at yet another string. She looked up and eyed the closet where her wedding dress was hanging. Lorelai had an impulse to get up and take a look at it, but her body didn't follow through. She didn't want to try on her wedding dress. So what? Didn't mean a thing. Nope. Just meant she didn't want to try it on. No hidden agenda behind that, right? Not… at… all…
Frustrated, she yanked the string until it broke, leaving two frayed strings in one area of the comforter. Fine. She didn't want to try on her wedding dress. She had no desire to even look at it, really. That didn't make her a criminal. What her mother said at the bachelorette party was one person's story. And this type of thing was supposed to be different for everyone, right?
As Lorelai looked around the bedroom, she let out a heavy sigh. She glanced out the window and could see the corner of the chuppah Luke had just dropped off sitting in the side of the yard as the sun began to set. Luke made that for her. For her wedding that she wasn't trying on her dress for. Looking down at the damage she'd caused to the comforter, she pulled her hands away from the strings and cringed. She sat up and leaned against her pillows, pulling her knees to her chest.
She bit her bottom lip. The dress thing all by itself seemed harmless. But when she put it all together after everything that had happened lately she felt a burning sensation in her stomach. Her heart started to race and she couldn't think straight as she let her thoughts pile up. What was she doing to herself? She swung her legs out from underneath her, trying to get off the bed, but stumbling in the process. Suddenly, she found herself on her bedroom floor, rubbing her ankle. As the pain subsided, she started toward the staircase, unsure of where she was running.
Lorelai found herself on the couch, with the telephone in her hand, babbling in a vain attempt to call off the wedding without sounding like the world's biggest idiot. Before long, the realization set in. She had done it. She broke off the engagement, called off the wedding, and broke up with Max. He hung up the telephone, and she pressed the button to end the call.
Before she knew it, she was at Rory's doorway.
The word escaped her lips and there was no turning back.
After about a half an hour of pouting, begging, and some playful blackmailing, Lorelai convinced Luke to bring the chuppah out into the front yard for inspection. She had been mentioning the possibility of bringing it out since they started making the plans for their wedding, but apparently today was the day she wanted him to drag it out for her to look at.
It was in surprisingly good shape for all it had been through. The wood was chipped in some spots, and the weather had obviously had an effect on some of the carvings. But it was still sturdy and still standing.
It was a lot like their relationship. They had been through a lot. Things were a little different than they were before, but he and Lorelai finally ended up where they wanted and deserved to be. Luke crouched down, staring at the bases of the legs. They were still intact. The carvings at the top were seemingly untouched as well, despite all of the snow that had sat there during the winters.
He took a few steps back. There was no time to get philosophical. The chuppah was in good condition, but it would take some work to get it ready for the wedding. He stared at the chuppah for a moment, and then turned to face Lorelai.
"Are you sure you want to use this thing?" he asked, crossing his arms.
She grinned. "Why wouldn't I want to use it?"
"Because of… well, you know."
She giggled, shook her head, and gently put her hand on his knee. "You really don't get it, do you?"
"What's there to get? See, I don't understand why you'd want to use this when I made–"
Lorelai leaned in and kissed him softly, interrupting his thought. When she pulled back, Luke saw the smile on her face grow bigger. "That's exactly why. You made it for me. The rest doesn't matter. Don't over think it."
He sighed, standing up and walking underneath the chuppah. He placed his hands on his hips and looked up at the wooden structure once again. "Can I at least touch it up a little? You know, sand some areas, put some protective finish or something on it?"
Lorelai stood up and walked under the chuppah. She stood next to Luke and took his hand. "So does that mean we can use it?"
"Well obviously, I just said I'd fix it up, didn't I?"
She gasped, ignoring his sarcasm. "Ooh, look! It's Gilbert! Hey, little guy! Luke, it's Gilbert, I believe you saved him from decapitation?" Lorelai dropped Luke's hand and walked around to the side, standing on her tiptoes to get a closer look at the goat.
"I believe we've met," Luke grumbled.
"You want to pet him?"
Luke raised his eyebrow and she moved underneath the chuppah. He smiled as he watched her tilt her head to the side and admire it like she did when he first presented it to her. Luke originally hesitated when she asked him to use it. He made it as a way to release all his feelings for her. But now, all it would take was some sanding and some coating, and that little touch up would turn it into a symbol of their feelings for each other.