Disclaimer: I'm still on the outside looking in.

Hello, all! New story here. Unfortunately, though, this story is not yet complete. When I thought of this last June, I didn't see it as a huge one-shot. It's something about the flow. Anyway, it has parts--ones that will be added as quickly as I can get them out there. I'll be working daily until it's complete. I've set aside time for this, so I promise updates will be quick. It'll make your head spin. I'll post at BWR when the entire thing is finished because I really don't feel like dealing with the tags right now lol.

I'm sure many of you have heard of The Amazing Race. I watched a re-run of an old season a few years back, but that's about it. My idea all those months ago had GG coming together with that reality show. Does the idea sound farfetched? Crazy? Well, it's not too crazy. It's actually a watered down version of the show. No cameras, no TV hosts, no million dollar cash prizes. Just Stars Hollow, a few neighboring towns, some fun and unique contests, bragging rights, a trophy, and some other stuff. And it all starts with Lorelai looking for a partner. Where, oh, where will she turn?!?!

The format will be different. I'm not re-creating Amazing Race here. It's just based off of it. Check the title!

It takes place in AU Season 3. Note the M rating (which is intended for later chapters). Enjoy the read. Btw, I missed you guys!!! :)

The Amazingly Different Race

Lorelai walked through the square at a quickened pace. Since Rory had already left for school, she was headed to Luke's alone. Her body needed coffee bad, but on this day, that need was second in line. She had an objective, and surprisingly, coffee just wasn't it. The tip of her finger was in her mouth, and her poor nail was being mercilessly misshapen by the fronts of her teeth.

"Lorelai, dear?"

Lorelai spun around at the sound of Miss Patty's voice. She lowered her finger from her mouth and smiled as the older lady glided up to her.

"Hey Patty," she greeted. "Shouldn't you be teaching dance class? I'm pretty sure if the teachers start ditching, that'll freeze the appeal."

Patty laid her hand over her chest and laughed heartily. "No, no, dear. Class is in session as we speak." She waved toward the dance studio where tiny ballerinas sat on the floor stretching their little limbs. "We were just starting warm-ups when I saw you walking by. Where are you off to in such a hurry?" she inquired.

Lorelai pointed down the sidewalk. Luke's was within eyeshot. "Do you even have to ask?" she questioned knowingly. Then, her eyes rolled back. "Well, yeah, I guess you do since you did," she said to herself. Patty chuckled, and Lorelai smiled. "I'm headed to Luke's," she answered directly. "Caffeine is calling my name."

A mischievous look appeared on Miss Patty's face. "Well, personally, if I were going to see a man like Luke, the last thing I'd be focused on is caffeine screaming my name."

Lorelai shook her head and smiled at the woman's impish remark, none of which surprised her anymore. "Calling, Patty. Calling, not screaming. It takes away the dirty."

She shrugged. "Calling, screaming…as long as it's my name coming from a gorgeous man's lips, you can consider me a happy lady."

Lorelai gasped as if shock was really what she felt. "Not on the sidewalk, Patty!" she admonished.

Patty chortled. "Sorry." She fanned herself. "Sometimes I just can't help myself. You mention a man like Luke, and--"

"You get all hot and bothered, huh?" Lorelai offered.

"Whew." Patty continued to fan. "Damn this libido of mine." She took another breath and continued on. "Anyway, honey, I ran out here to ask you about the contest."

Even the simple mention of the town's newest and greatest event brought a massive smile to Lorelai's face. Her brows raised like Miss Patty had uttered the key word to her attention.

"What about it?" she asked with intrigue.

Patty's hands went to her full hips. "Have you found a partner yet?"

Lorelai's eyes went wide. "Uh…no." She smiled, not entirely hiding her sudden unease.

Patty saw through her immediately. She laughed, showing that she wasn't the least bit put off. "Not to worry, honey, I'm not asking for me. My youth and I parted ways long ago, and I'd just slow you down. I'm definitely sitting this one out."

Lorelai's eyes fell. She felt silly and a little insensitive for her previous thought. Though she loved Patty dearly, when it came to contests, she was cut-throat. She needed and accepted no less than the best of the best.

She made an effort to sweep away nonexistent tension. "Well…uh, I hear what you're saying there. My youth tries to sneak away from me daily. You just have to learn the art of the tackle."

Patty touched a hand to Lorelai's arm. "I actually have an idea of someone you can partner up with."

"Oh, yeah?" Lorelai asked with interest. "Who might that be?"

She removed her hand and took a deep breath. "Now, I want you to hear me out."

"Oh god."

"What?"

"Come on, Patty, nothing good ever starts with 'I want you to hear me out'."

Patty reeled in laughter. "Some things do, dear." She raised a brow at Lorelai's obvious show of doubt. She went on, speaking quickly. "Just maybe not in this case. It's Kirk," she ended.

There was a pause. "Kirk who? Because you can't possibly mean the one that still needs someone to cut up his dinner meat."

She smiled. "I know what you're thinking."

Lorelai sighed heavily and folded her arms. "Kirk, Patty?" she asked exhaustedly. "Kirk?!"

Patty relaxed and acceded to both the tone and the look that Lorelai was giving her. "Okay, that's a no. It's okay. But I tried. Just remember, if he asks you, don't forget to tell him I tried!" she said with rising desperation.

Lorelai chuckled. "You sound a little crazed there," she mentioned.

Patty rolled her eyes. "He's been driving me crazy. He wanted to ask you himself, but he figured you'd turn him down. Every since Taylor announced this insane contest a few days ago, he's been hounding me to talk to you. For some reason, he thought he'd have a better shot by going through me."

Lorelai shook her head. "Well, while Kirk is quite the competitor, I don't think he has what it takes to be on Team Lorelai. Only two teams from each town will make the cut, and even if Kirk was able to get us through, it wouldn't look good if halfway through the race, I wanted to injure my own partner." Her lip went out sadly. "Tell him I'm sorry though, okay?"

Patty nodded. "No harm. At least I tried. Besides, he'll bounce back. He said that if you said no, he'd make you regret it for the rest of your life. Or at least the next few weeks."

Lorelai frowned. "He said what?"

"Oh, yeah," Patty continued, "he said he'd find another partner—one better than you—make the cut, then beat you so badly that you'd be begging for his forgiveness in the end."

She scoffed. "Well, obviously Kirk has been sniffing his mother's make-up powder again." She jabbed her finger at Patty like she was Kirk. "He's the one that's going to get beat. Him and every other person that has the guts to go up against me. They'll all feel my wrath!"

Patty only laughed, underestimating Lorelai's competitive nature. "Do you have a partner in mind?" she asked.

Lorelai glanced over at the diner then back at Patty. "Sure do!" she answered with a bright smile.

"Really? Who is it?"

"I have to get him to agree first. And he will agree," she added in confidence.

Patty smiled. "Luke, huh?" she determined.

"No," she said unconvincingly.

Patty guffawed. "Oh, honey, please. The way you were butchering your nails just a minute ago—you're going to attempt to do the impossible. Everyone in town would love to have the former track champion on their team. Even Kirk. He asked him himself during the actual announcement of this race."

Lorelai gasped. "I thought you said I was his first choice! You mean I was second fiddle?"

Patty stuttered. "Uh u-well…Luke turned him down fast, and you've been first on the list since then."

"Ugh, Kirk is so going down."

Patty looked past Lorelai to the diner. "You know, if anyone has a chance of getting Mr. Antisocial to participate in this whole thing, it would definitely be you."

Lorelai smiled. She needed that reassurance because Luke was far from easy.

"You really think so?" she asked graciously.

Patty nodded with resolution. "Of course I do, Sweetheart." She looked at her warmly for a moment before speaking. "You do have a back-up plan, don't you?"

Lorelai chuckled and shook her head. She narrowed her eyes playfully. "Bye, Patty. I'll see you later."

"Okay, dear. Good luck."

"Thanks."

They both turned and walked away. Lorelai's nail went back inside of her mouth.

-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-

"Luuuuuke!"

"Lorelai, you're giving me a headache."

Lorelai grasped Luke's bicep with both hands and turned him. "Stop and talk to me," she said at the same time.

They met eyes, and Lorelai saw nothing but pure irritation. "What do you want?"

"I want you to consider what I'm saying," she answered. She came to stand in his face. "I asked you yesterday in the diner, and you said no. I ask you again today, and you still say no. You keep saying no, and I want to respect that. I really, really do!"

He sighed. "Then, why won't you?"

"Because I need you!" she whined.

Luke turned with an eye roll and continued down the aisle at Doose's market. He reached for various items and placed them in his basket one by one. Lorelai followed behind him with nothing in her own hand. "You don't need me," he replied calmly without turning. He continued on to the next aisle and kept moving. "This thing is five days away. You have plenty of time to find somebody else," he rationalized.

"No, actually I don't because--"

"Besides," he interrupted, "You know I don't participate in this kinda stuff. I never have, and I'm not about to start now."

Lorelai hurried to his front. Her hand went out in front of her as a stop sign. He stopped walking. She dropped both hands onto her hips. "Fine," she said casually.

"Fine what?"

"Fine if you don't want to be my partner. It's your prerogative, and I guess I'll have to deal with that." Luke's eyes scanned hers. He waited on her to continue because he knew for a fact there was more. "So what if I don't find a partner? It's only my happiness on the line here. I mean, we're only talking about a few weeks of depression. Tops. I'll possibly be okay by Easter. This competition means the world to me, but who gives a crap about my feelings, right Luke?" she ended pointedly.

"Are you kidding me with this?" he asked.

"No."

"Yes, you are. You've got to be kidding. It's only a stupid competition! You can't brow-beat me into doing this with you!" he exclaimed in defense. "We're friends, and you know I care about your feelings. I'm not going to get suckered into running a race I do not want to run to prove that!"

She rolled her eyes. "You're overreacting," she mentioned casually.

"What if I asked you to enter some kind of a fishing contest? Would you do that out of friendship?" he asked mockingly. As he finished the question, he saw the answer blinding him, completely obliterating his point. Lorelai answered his question honestly.

"Well, I wouldn't want to. I'd even have questions as to why you'd think it'd benefit you to have me on your team. That'd be a really bad decision on your part. I'd bitch and moan and complain until the sun went down, but ultimately, if it meant something to you, I'd be there. I'd show how much you meant to me by participating in the disgusting thing." Luke rolled his eyes and scowled at the canned goods. He wished she was lying, but he knew she was telling the God-honest truth. She'd definitely show up for him. "Especially," she added, "if the prize was a trophy as big as the one they're going to have for this!"

He shook his head. "Okay, that was a stupid example. I…" His voice faded.

Lorelai leaned in. "How was that a stupid example? Do you not believe me?"

His eyes rolled over to meet hers. "I believe you," he submitted quietly.

Her eyes were wide. "Okay, good. So, where does that leave us?"

He opened and closed his mouth, getting more aggravated. "Lorelai, why are you hounding me about this?" he finally asked. "There are more people in this town. People who actually have plans to participate in this whole thing. Pick one of them!"

Nobody else could ever get Luke to this place. Usually a simple 'no' and 'go to hell' were all they'd get from him. No apologies, no regrets. No matter how much they begged, they got none of that. When he had turned Kirk down, that was a prime example. But Lorelai got the whole show. Time after time, he'd go back and forth with her--trying to get her to understand and giving her way more time and energy than he usually gave to anyone.

Her voice was quiet and she pouted. "Luke."

"Oh jeez." He turned attention away from the look.

"Why are you so dead-set against doing this?" she wanted to know.

"Because Taylor's in on it," he answered resolutely. "That's reason enough for me."

"Forget Taylor," she said moving in closer and locking her eyes on his. "Do this for me. Please, Luke. You're who I want."

"Why? Why me?"

"Because." She felt his questions were leading to breaks in his resistance. "Number one, I can take being around you for long periods of time. I don't mind it at all," she said with a shrug of her shoulders. "And number two…" She gestured at him. "Have you looked in a mirror lately?" Red came across his face. "You're in great shape," she continued. She clasped her hands together and looked up at him pleadingly. "I need you on Team Lorelai, Luke. We—you and me together—can make the cut. Please, please do this for me!"

"Team Lorelai?" he questioned.

She nodded. "Yeah, catchy huh?"

He rolled his eyes. "I'm not joining a Team Lorelai."

She smiled. "Well, if it bothers you, we can change it. But you'd have to be on the team first to have a say-so in the name," she wheedled.

His jaw clenched as he looked down to the floor. Lorelai smiled wider and dipped down to catch his eyes. She knew he was about cave. Or she hoped so with all of her heart. "Luke?"

He met her eyes.

She looked at him with so much hope. "Are you in?" she asked shyly.

Before he could answer, his attention was going to Kirk who had come up beside them with a rude and smug, "Well, well, well. If it isn't Lorelai Gilmore."

Lorelai took a deep breath and smiled in courtesy. "Hey Kirk. How are you today?"

"I'm fine. I'm more than fine actually. I'm fantastic. And do you know why, Lorelai Gilmore?"

"Why is that, Kirk?" she asked, her smile growing tighter.

"The reason I am fantastic, Lorelai Gilmore, is because since you turned me down cold—both of you, in fact," he corrected as he pointed between Luke and Lorelai, "I have gotten Marla Faulkenberry as my partner."

Luke and Lorelai exchanged a bored look.

"Do you know who Marla Faulkenberry is, Lorelai Gilmore?"

"You don't have to keep calling me by my full name, Kirk. And no, I don't know who that is."

"Arm wrestling champ," he boasted. "Arm wrestler extraordinaire. She beat the three Benson brothers back in '99, combined time: one minute forty-three seconds. Complete shut-out!"

Lorelai nodded, unimpressed. "How old is Marla?"

Kirk hesitated. "Why?"

"Because the oldest of the Benson boys is 19, so four years ago, he was 15. I'm just curious to know the age of the lady who beat three kids in an arm wrestling game."

"That's not important."

"Are you partnering up with a child, Kirk?"

He got defensive. "Of course not." He paused. "In fact, she has a child…who has a child…who's pregnant."

"She's a great-grandmother?!"

"But she still looks great! She's got Tina Turner legs…not that I was looking. Because I wasn't. Somebody else…who saw her legs passed the information along to me, and they told me that she has great looking stems."

"Stems?" Lorelai questioned.

He leaned in. "Can I get away with saying that?" he asked quietly.

"No," Luke chimed in.

Kirk nodded sadly. "Okay."

"So, let me get this straight," Lorelai began, "You're going to partner up with a great-grandmother who brags about beating little children at physical games?"

"Well, when you say it like that, it sounds bad!"

"How else can I say it, Kirk?"

"Listen, I didn't come in here for this," he said with a cracking voice. "I saw you in here, and I just came to say that I'm bringing my A game to that race."

"If you make the cut," she added.

"When I make the cut," he disputed. She didn't say anything additional, so he went on. "You're going down, Lorelai Gilmore!" Lorelai nodded airily. He went on. "That's if you bother to show up at all. The race is five days away, and partner sign-up is due in by five today." He smiled cockily. "I heard you don't even have a partner yet. Bet you wish you wouldn't have turned a certain somebody down, don't you?"

She shrugged lightly.

Kirk leaned in and whispered. "You know, if you want to change your mind, I can just tell Marla that I can't--"

"I'm not changing my mind, Kirk," Lorelai interrupted calmly.

"Good!" he said quickly, regaining his previous volume. "Because I was just testing you! And-and you passed!" He paused and moved his eyes from Luke to Lorelai uneasily. "So, good!" There was an uncomfortable pause that neither Luke nor Lorelai bothered to save him from. They just looked at him like he was the feature show.

He got his cocky attitude back and snickered. "Good luck finding a partner, Lorelai Gilmore. You're going to need it in the--" He looked at his watch, "three hours and eight minutes that you have left." He pointed at Luke. "Be prepared to serve her lots of pity coffee." He laughed his way out of the store.

Lorelai rolled her eyes away from the door. "You know, at this moment, I'd rather have another town's team win than have Kirk win for Stars Hollow. How awful is that?"

Luke sighed. "It's pretty awful," he answered.

She took a breath and smiled at Luke sadly. "Okay, I have to go recruit a suitable partner. I'll see you later, Luke." She turned to leave, suddenly feeling that it was time to stop harassing someone who had no desire to participate and instead, get someone else while she still had time.

"Hey, this is really important to you, isn't it?" Luke called out.

Lorelai stopped and faced him. "What?" she asked in exhaustion. Her mind was somewhere else entirely and she hadn't heard him.

Luke lifted his chin toward the door. "Go sign us up. I'm in."

She definitely heard that. She walked back over to him cautiously. "Are you serious? You're not joking, are you? Because I'm here to tell you, buddy, that this is not even remotely close to being acceptable humor right now."

He smiled a little. "I wouldn't dare joke about something like this."

Her lips started to spread, and she kept inching toward him vigilantly. "So, you're in this?"

He rolled his eyes at the thought of what he'd agreed to. "I'm in this," he answered.

Her smile went out of control. "I'm coming over there, Luke. When I get over there and give you this hug which is so unbelievably warranted right now, that's going to be our contract. If you back out…" She paused, "…well, I won't be able to do much, but I will be incredibly hurt and…please don't change your mind, okay?"

He watched her approach, and he shook his head amusedly. "I'm a man of my word," he assured.

She reached him in that moment, and she lifted her arms and hugged his neck. He wasn't expecting the strength of the embrace. His eyes widened momentarily in shock before his one free hand secured her waist.

"Thank you so much," she whispered near his ear.

He'd never had her that close before. Electricity coursed the length of his spine. And her slight shudder made it clear that she'd felt it too.

"Uh, yeah, you're welcome," Luke said after he'd cleared his throat.

She pulled away in the next moment, and they offered mild, uncomfortable smiles.

Both of Lorelai's hands went to her heart, and her smile turned easy and anything but mild. "Thank you, Luke," she said again. "This means a lot to me."

He rolled his eyes like he was unaffected. "Yeah, yeah," he dismissed. "Just go sign us up while there's still time."

She backed away with a grin. Luke chuckled when she squealed and ran from the store in excitement.

He finished getting his groceries and went to the checkout counter.

-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-

"Woooow."

"Yeah." Lorelai beamed.

"I can't believe you did it, Mom. You made the cut. And what's more--the most shocking thing to me--is that you actually got Luke to participate in the race. That's still blowing my mind."

Lorelai slid her sock-covered feet along the wooden floor of her home. Her clumsy skating venture ended fast when she stubbed her toe on the edge of the table. She sat down next to Rory and rubbed her injury.

"Yeah, I know," she said, grimacing at the pain. "It wasn't an easy feat, lemme tell ya."

Rory smiled. "I had my doubts, but I'm glad you succeeded in landing Mr. All Star. You can probably even win now."

Lorelai nodded happily. "Yeah, I don't know why it took so long for me to--" She stopped abruptly and looked at Rory. "Wait, wait, what do you mean I can 'probably win now'?"

Rory was snacking on some Mac 'n' cheese. She looked over at Lorelai with wide eyes as she brought the fork from her mouth. "Hm?" she asked innocently.

Lorelai frowned. "You didn't think I had a shot without Luke?"

There was a pause that lasted a little too long for comfort. "No," she finally answered unimpressively. Another lengthy pause followed. "That's not what I'm saying at all, Mom."

Lorelai's eyes rolled back slowly. "Ooohhh man, Rory, you are a horrible liar!" With the pain finally gone from her toe, she crossed her legs. "Which is good," she added, still perturbed. "I want you to be a horrible liar. That'll ensure you won't do it. Your nose is cute just the way it is." She sighed with tingeing irritation and looked over at her daughter. "Now, tell me, honey. Are you calling Mommy incompetent?"

Rory set her bowl down on the coffee table. "Well, not incompetent," she answered quietly. "You're just not physically…able to perform…much."

"So, I'm what's eating Gilbert Grape?"

Rory smiled, and jumped on the opportunity for a compliment. "Now, you're definitely not that bad. You're at least mobile."

Lorelai dropped her head to the back of the couch. "Jeez, Rory."

"What's wrong?"

Lorelai lifted her head and looked at her. "Other than my kid not having faith in me? Nothing at all!"

Rory scooted closer. "I have faith in you, Mom. I always have faith in you. It's just that this competition is going to be really really physical. It's a week-long physical race. They'll run and compete and do a lot of stuff that you never do. Don't get me wrong, you look great. A stranger can look at you and be under the impression that you work out constantly. But I, someone who knows, loves and lives with you, know that the mere thought of physical exertion scares you more than the possibility of turning into Grandma."

"Unh unh, Sweets, just for the record, the Grandma thing is at the top of that list. Nothing will ever be close enough to reach it."

"Okay, fair enough. But you have to get where I'm coming from."

She sighed. "I possibly get where you're coming from."

"Possibly?" Rory asked knowingly.

"That's all you're gonna get!" Lorelai said loudly, unwilling to make herself look any worse.

Rory laughed and laid her head on her mom's arm. "It's okay, though Mom. You have Luke now. Everything will be fine."

Lorelai shook her head. "All this time, I was trying not to pick anyone who I felt may be a weak link, and it was me. I was the weak link! This is so disheartening."

"It's not too bad."

"In all fairness though, this isn't the big leagues we're playing in here. We're not going to be racing across countries on scooters. It's Stars Hollow, Woodbridge, Litchfield, and Woodsbury doing sack potato races in cornfields."

"You don't know that. You don't know what's involved. Taylor was very adamant about keeping a tight lid on contest details. For all you know, they could begin the race, and three hours later, you could be somewhere in Chicago."

"Ooh, yum. I hear their pizza rules!" Lorelai exclaimed, causing Rory to chuckle. Lorelai kissed her temple and ran a hand through her hair. "Well, one thing I do know is there will be no Chicago or any other great pizza cities. It's gonna be local. Nothing extravagant. That's gotta be in my favor a little bit, don't you think?"

"Yeah, I suppose so. You may have a chance," she added playfully.

Lorelai shook her head, looking ahead to the TV. She sighed. "I guess I better do a push-up or two, huh?"

She felt Rory's head nod. "…or three or four or five or--"

"Hey!" Lorelai started tickling her, and Rory laughed giddily.

"—or ten or twenty…"

"Ten or twenty this!" she said tickling her even harder. Rory turned deep red as she continued to laugh. They rolled to the floor.

-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-

Lorelai came to a stop outside of Luke's diner.

She wore an old pair of blue jeans, some Nikes, and a hoodie. Her hair was down, and a coffee thermos was in her hand.

She'd gone out and purchased a large backpack for her clothes and other supplies. It was in the backseat, pushed to one side so there would be room for Luke's backpack as well.

Before she could get out of the jeep, she saw Luke emerge from the diner. Caesar was behind him. His lips were moving, so she assumed he was giving his second-hand man last minute instructions on running the diner in his absence. Luke stopped when he made it outside. He turned toward Caesar who stood in the doorway nodding dutifully to whatever he was being told.

Lorelai sipped from her thermos as she took in Luke's attire. He wore silver running pants with an all white Nike shirt. A simple jacket was over that. He had on his blue cap and sneakers, also Nikes. She couldn't ever remember seeing him in anything other than his flannel and on rare occasions, his dressier bank ensemble.

But now, he looked extremely casual. He looked really really…not bad. Very sporty. He was turned to the side with his backpack under his arm instead of on his back. She was very aware of where her eyes were. She had often joked with him about his spectacular backside, but the man really did have an ass of champions.

A car horn beeped, and Lorelai's eyes were still glued to Luke's show-stopping rear. The horn beeped again, and she looked out of her window, only to see Mrs. Gleason's car passing by. Kirk was on his way to the starting point in his mother's car. She still couldn't believe that he had managed to make the cut. Him and his 60-year old partner. Lorelai mumbled under her breath her displeasure at having Kirk beat her to Hartford Park, which is where the event was to jump off. She didn't want him to arrive anywhere before her. Not even the starting point. She hoped there was traffic on the freeway. That'd give her some time back.

She turned back toward the diner only to see Luke heading over to the jeep. She smiled at him through the windshield, and to her delight, he gave her a tiny smile in return.

He opened the door.

"Hey!" Lorelai greeted cheerfully. "How are you on this early, early, Monday morning?"

He pulled up the seat and placed his backpack next to Lorelai's. "It's almost lunchtime," he pointed out.

"Not when you go to bed at four in the morning, it's not."

"Why'd you go to sleep so late?" He pushed the seat back and adjusted it.

"I had to pack," she explained. "This is probably the first time in my life that I was this limited on the amount of things I could bring. Bringing a crapload of stuff would have only hurt me since I have to carry it around everywhere."

"Exactly. I'm glad you realized that," Luke added. He climbed inside and started adjusting his seat some more. "So, Rory's going to pick up the jeep when she gets out of school?" he asked.

"Yeah, she's gonna take the bus over to the park."

He nodded. "Good."

Lorelai smiled at him. Her eyes went low as she watched him get situated. She smiled more and looked back into his face. "I like those pants."

He fastened his seatbelt. "But?" he asked leadingly.

She laughed. "I'm serious. I like them. No but. Well, actually, there is a butt, which is kinda why I'm admiring them." She winked at him as his eyes rose to hers. "But that's another story for another time. We'll have to talk about your scrumptious rumptious later," she ended glowingly.

Luke continued to stare at her. "Did you just compliment my ass?" he asked dully.

Lorelai cranked up the jeep. "Twice," she said holding up two fingers.

He nodded and looked out his window. "Thought so."

-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-

"Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to the first annual Competition of the Towns event!"

Almost two hundred people applauded and cheered, creating the sound of a stadium-like roar in the large parking lot.

Taylor was the man behind the microphone, and he waited patiently until every last soul had quieted down before he continued on.

"As I look around this afternoon, I see all of the people who have come out to show support for their respective town!" More cheering followed. "I would like to point out—very proudly, of course--that half of the attendees are Stars Hollow citizens!" he beamed. That brought on even more screaming than when the entire crowd was making noise. The pandemonium died down very slowly, as many people just couldn't let go of the pride-filled boasting. Taylor allowed it for longer than anyone would have imagined.

"What do you say we get this event up off the ground, huh?"

Screams, cheers, and mayhem gave him his answer.

"I'm going to turn the microphone over to Litchfield spokesperson, Mrs. Dana Hopper," he concluded. Courteous applause rang out, along with a small section of people cheering for their town's representative.

Lorelai peeked out of the window of the park's recreation center.

She scoped out the people for about the fifth time in two minutes.

Turning back toward Luke, she began her anxious pace once again. "I feel like a celebrity. Don't you feel like a celebrity, Luke?"

He stood a few feet away from the window, his arms folded casually. "Nope. Not really," he answered flippantly. "I do, however, feel like I'm ready to get out of this stuffy building with all of these nutcases all around me."

Including Luke and Lorelai, there were a total of sixteen competitors crowded into the lobby of the building. There were also about ten or twelve helpers and event volunteers who lingered around the refreshment table.

One pair started sounding off on a motivation cheer. Again. They'd been doing it for the past twenty minutes.

Luke rolled his eyes. "Kill me now," he muttered.

"MO-TI-VA-TION CHECK! AYE AYE! MO-TI-VA-TION CHECK! AYE AYE! WE ARE MOTIVATED; YES WE AAARREE! WE ARE MOTIVATED; BEST BY FAAARRR! MO-TI-VA-TION CHECK! AYE YIIIIIIEEE! MO-TI-VA-TION CHECK!"

And for the past ten minutes, there had been trailing cheers that mocked the original.

"MO-TI-VA-TION CHECK! WE CAN CHANT LOUD JUST LIKE YOUUUU. TELL ME, WHAT EXACTLY DOES THIS PROOOOVE? MO-TI-VA-TION CHECK!"

A few people chuckled.

Lorelai smiled at Luke's irritated expression as the noise finally died down a bit.

"See, it's over," she appeased. "Just a minute or two of insanity, then it's back to the regular hubbub."

He nodded. His expression still showed irritability. He stared at the wall.

"Luke," Lorelai called.

He looked at her. "Yeah?" he answered.

She moved closer to be heard over all of the excited chatter. "You're not…like angry are you?" she asked in nervousness.

He shook his head. "No, why?"

"You're all quiet and thoughtful." Her timidity put a smile on his face. It made her feel instantly better, and she smiled too. "That's not a good sign for guys, you know? I know you're aggravated. I can't have you getting upset too."

He rolled his eyes. "I'm not upset. I'm just thinking."

Her eyes narrowed. "About how much you wish you never met me so you would have never been dragged into this?" she discerned questioningly.

"Close," he answered sarcastically. She smiled. "I was actually thinking about what kind of stuff they'll have us doing." They looked at one another for a moment and Luke could see how much she wanted for him to not dread every moment of the race. Though Luke had fought her tooth and nail about joining the race, he really didn't see it being that bad. Not only did he get to hang with Lorelai for a week, but he got to spend some time away from the diner. It had been a long while since he'd been able to do that.

"So, you were actually thinking about the race?" she inquired.

"Yep."

"Really?" she asked with surprise in her voice.

"Yeah, really."

She nodded and lowered her eyes. That was definitely good news. She allowed herself to feel that relief before she met his eyes again. "Hey, I know you've probably been a little worried about having me as a partner, but I just wanted you to know that I've been, you know, buffing up over these last few days."

Luke almost laughed. "Buffing up?"

"Yeah. Sit ups, crunches, hula-hooping, Taebo, and a uh push-up…"

He laughed that time. "Push-up? Just one?"

"Yeah, turns out, I suck at them. But I did do one. I murdered that one!" she bragged.

"Good job!"

"I think so," she reveled with a bright smile though she knew how sarcastic the praise was. She raised her arm and made a muscle. "Here, feel my new guns."

Luke's brows raised amusedly. "No thanks. I can see them from here." He couldn't see anything through her clothes.

She grabbed his hand and lifted it to her showcased muscle. He gave in and wrapped his hand around her small arm. He actually did feel a little something. "Ooh, impressive."

"I know, right!" She smiled widely in self-admiration. "Let me feel yours," she said to him.

He shook his head. "I don't think I can compete," he said coolly. Before he finished his sentence, Lorelai was raising his arm herself. He smirked and made a small muscle at her urging.

Lorelai took both hands and felt over the taut area. He was nowhere near full flex, and still, she couldn't tell. When she realized she was admiring a little bit too much, she pushed his arm away. "You're right. You can't even begin to compete with me."

He laughed.

Someone came in and addressed the crowd. When done, everyone began to gather their things to head outside.

Luke picked up Lorelai's bag and handed it to her before reaching down to grab his. He got his straps situated over both shoulders. "Just so you know, I'm not worried," he said. Lorelai looked up at him. "You're gonna do great. Even before I learned about your sad little push-up, I knew you'd give your all."

She chuckled. "Thanks, Luke." She walked near his side and pulled on his sleeve in a way that should have let him know she was about to annoy him. Still, he brought his ear closer. "Mo-ti-va-tion check!" she sang quietly.

He pulled himself free. "Not you too."

Lorelai laughed and moved ahead of Luke as he guided her to a spot in the line. The teams began to pour out of the building, and the crowd's cheering got insane.

Taylor announced each team member, giving their respective town ample time to show their boisterous support.

In the eight teams, there were three sets with only guys, four sets with a guy and a girl, and one pair with only girls.

Lorelai scoped out the competition thoroughly and was less than impressed. The teams were made up of decent competitors, but she remained confident in her and Luke's abilities. Plus they actually got along. One of the guy teams, who she found were brothers, argued non-stop. And the race had not even begun. She figured they'd be the first to go. She wanted to take Kirk and his limber, athletic granny partner down, but they, along with her and Luke, represented Stars Hollow. Until the very end, she'd have to settle for beating him to the pit stops, while still hoping he beat the remaining teams. Because no matter what happened, they had to ensure that Stars Hollow came out on top.

Taylor instructed all of the teams to get ready.

"My heart is pounding," Lorelai said to Luke.

"Well, pray it doesn't stop," he said back.

She hit his arm and he smiled. They were all lined up, shoulder to shoulder. Many of the people had one foot placed in front of the other, ready to take off. Lorelai stared ahead at the 4 waist-high wooden boxes thirty yards away. They were told the first instruction rested inside. There were two clues per box, and she already had her eye trained on the one she was going for. She hoped only one other team went for it because she hated to cause any kind of physical harm so early in the game.

She reached over and blindly patted Luke's arm to get his attention.

"Ready to rock?" she asked him.

"Ready to rock," he assured.

"Ready to roll?"

He rolled his eyes. "Sure."

She tore her eyes from the box and over to him. "Sure?!" she repeated.

"I'm ready, Lorelai."

"Okay. Just gotta make sure."

Taylor had moved from behind the microphone and now held a bullhorn. He started a countdown, and Lorelai leaned forward.

"Five! Four! Three! Two! One! Goooooo!!"

Sixteen people took off across the parking lot.

TBC…

Okay, Readers, more to come soon! Let me know what you think so far.