Title- The Window Scene: Extended Remix
Characters/Pairings- 100% pro-Java
Summary- Luke is suffering from a severe case of low self-esteem. Lorelai, as usual, disagrees. 4.13 Nag Hammadi alternate scene.
A/N- For some reason the window scene in Nag Hammadi is one of my all-time favorite scenes in the whole of GG (seriously, it's right up there with "Will you just stand still?" and Jess putting the kibosh on DAR!Rory), and naturally that means it should be longer. Luke's self-esteem issues make me sad, and I felt an overwhelming need to fix that. No hookup here, unfortunately (primarily because I see fit to leave the infidelity to Ms. Cheaty McSkankwhore and her Sockman), but I like to think that maybe this variation on reality might have lead to a much sooner hookup than in canon, as this is all very soul-bearing and stuff.
The afternoon sun had warmed Stars Hollow somewhat compared to the frigid temperatures of that morning, but no one in their right mind would have said it was warm. As she entered her home, Lorelai was mentally cursing whoever thought it was a good idea to have a February without snow. Her train of thought was interrupted by a muttered curse from the living room.
"Hello? Oh, Luke," she said as she peeked around the corner and spotted Stars Hollow's ubiquitous purveyor of coffee and burgers standing by the window.
"Oh yeah, hey," he replied distractedly.
Lorelai glanced down at the house key she still held in her hand, a reminder that her front door had been locked. "How did you get in here?"
"You left your bedroom window open," he explained.
"My bedroom window is on the second floor. What did you do?"
"Well, I promised to fix your window, so I'm here to fix your window."
There was something in Luke's voice that immediately had her worried. He sounded... off. Well, he'd been off for months now. Luke wasn't always the most friendly guy, but lately he'd been even more prone to fly off the handle for small infractions from the townsfolk that ordinarily would have been ignored. He'd been testy even with her, and Lorelai prided herself on being one of the few people Luke Danes actually seemed to like. She had a pretty good idea what had brought about this change in Luke's demeanor, and it had viciously straight strawberry-blonde hair, OCD tendencies out the ears, and went by the name of Nicole Leahy. Or was it Danes now?
At that thought, Lorelai shuddered. She really, really hoped Nicole hadn't taken Luke's last name. It just seemed so wrong to think of there being a Mrs. Danes out there somewhere, not because the idea of Luke being married was so hard to imagine, but because Nicole seemed to Lorelai to be such an atrocious fit for the job. Luke, in her opinion, deserved better. A voice that sounded annoyingly like Sookie suggested "And who would you call better? Lorelai Gilmore, perhaps?" but she pushed it aside.
As she walked closer to Luke, she consoled herself with the thought that Lawyer-Lady didn't really seem like the type to take her husband's surname.
She suddenly became aware that Luke had wrapped his left hand up in the end of his shirt, and as he moved, she caught a glimpse of the alarming amounts of blood pouring from a deep slice right down the center of his palm. "Oh my God, you cut yourself!" she exclaimed.
"Glass was broken," he said with a shrug.
"Hence the need for fixing," she affirmed. She touched his hand, turning it to get a better look at his injury. As she leaned closer, she caught the unmistakeable smell of alcohol on his breath. "I'm sorry. Are you drunk?" she asked incredulously.
"I am not drunk. I do not get drunk."
"Huh," she said, loading up the syllable with every ounce of doubt she had in her.
Luke smirked and shook his head. "I had some beer. Beers. More than one. A few. And then I came here and I climbed your tree."
"Good thinking," she said sarcastically.
"And then I fell out of your tree."
"Hm, sit down," Lorelai said, guiding him toward the couch.
"I landed flat on my back. I felt like Kirk," Luke continued.
She headed toward the kitchen, intent on retrieving a bandage for his hand. She called out, "Hold your hand up in the air."
Luke continued, without acknowledging her repeated interruptions of his narrative: "And then I climbed back up the tree. This time I made it. I got in. Sorry about the lamp."
Lorelai rolled her eyes. If it was the lamp she thought it was (yet another Emily Gift), Luke's alcohol-induced klutziness was probably a blessing. All gratitude aside, however, she felt herself becoming seriously worried for her friend. This sort of behavior was unusual for him. Drunk, despite his protests, in the middle of the day... it wasn't like Luke at all. She knew him well enough to be able to read him pretty accurately, and it was obvious that something had to have happened to cause this. Something besides the Nicole Issue, anyway.
"You know, Luke, you could have broken your neck," she said.
From the other room, she heard the resignation in his voice. "You know, it would have been all right if I had. I would have fixed it because that's what I do: I fix things. Even when they don't want to be fixed."
Lorelai reentered the room as he finished speaking, taking note of the blankness of his expression as she sat down. "Let me see your hand," she commanded.
"Because it is bleeding and I need to look at it," she said. Luke tipped his hand toward her, and she couldn't help shuddering and looking away. "Ew! Gross!"
"It's fine, leave it," he said.
"I can't leave it, it's cut," she said, dabbing randomly at his skin with the damp washrag she had brought to wipe away the rapidly congealing blood from his skin.
"That's my wrist," he said dryly.
She looked determinedly back at his injury, and found him looking at her intently. "You're very good at this," he said in a strange voice, a pathetic approximation of a smile on his face. It looked more like a grimace.
"I don't like blood okay?"
"So leave it alone," he suggested.
"No, I can't leave it," she said, succeeding in cleaning his palm to her satisfaction. She placed the bandaid- Barbie, the only kind she had left in the house- over the cut, and pressed it against his skin. Mission accomplished, she looked from his hand to his melancholy face, and set out to get to the bottom of whatever had her friend so off-kilter. "Do you want to tell me what happened?"
He brushed her off with a casual "nothing" as he got to his feet, leaving her sitting alone on the couch.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"I'm going to fix the window," he said, as if it were obvious.
"Forget the window," she insisted.
"I can't forget the window," he said determinedly. "I made a promise and I'm the reliable guy who helps everybody out whether they like it or not."
He snorted derisively. "Oh, yeah. Nothing I can do about it, just the way I am. It is my Big Problem. Didn't know it was my big problem until today, but now I know. It is my big problem." He glanced at his palm, then held it out to her. "Got a handful of Barbie," he said aimlessly.
Lorelai found herself growing more alarmed by the second. It was one thing for Luke to have had a weird few months, what with the whole Nicole thing. That was understandable. But this was something else and he was obviously very upset about something. Seeing her friend this distressed made Lorelai's heart hurt.
"Luke, what happened today?" she asked softly.
He rolled his eyes. "Today I found out what a big, dumb, idiot guy I am. Just an imposing, judgmental know-it-all who blows around yelling and complaining and screwing up everybody else's life."
Lorelai's jaw dropped to hear these words from Luke's mouth. "I hardly think you're-"
He interrupted her attempt to reassure him, staring at the far wall and almost speaking more to himself than to her. "I'm dumb. Yeah, not like Jess. Jess is smart. You know, he doesn't care about anybody else's life. He just takes care of himself." This last bit he addressed directly to her, emphasizing each syllable with a jab of his pointed finger.
With his words, Lorelai started to think she might know just exactly where this was coming from. His relationship with his nephew had always been a sensitive point for Luke. He had been abruptly thrust into the role of father figure in Jess's life, and she knew he felt responsible for the young man's crash-and-burn act. Never mind that he was probably the best thing ever to happen to the kid, Luke didn't see it that way. If Jess had said anything to reinforce Luke's perspective on the situation, it wasn't surprising that would throw him off-kilter.
"Did you and Jess have a thing?" she asked knowingly.
Luke nodded. "He informed me that I am nothing but an unwelcome burden to everyone around me," he said, beginning to chuckle bitterly.
"Luke, that's not true," she insisted.
"Yes, it is," he said, still laughing that sad, disturbing laughter.
Lorelai's heart broke for him. "Luke, stop it," she said, realizing she sounded every bit as upset as she felt. She got to her feet, crossed behind the couch to where Luke was resuming his attempts to peel the Saran wrap from the window, and took him firmly by the shoulders. "Come here, sit down." She all but pushed him back to the sofa, where he sank down onto the cushions, obviously too deeply involved with his own worrisome thoughts to try and resist her.
Once he was safely down, Lorelai sat next to him. "Luke, don't say stuff like that about yourself, okay?"
He shrugged. "No point denying what's true."
"Don't you dare start believing anything Jess is trying to pin on you!" Lorelai exclaimed. "He's an unhappy kid, he doesn't mean the things he says."
"Did me a favor," he said quietly, staring at his hands which were twisted up in his lap.
Lorelai felt her eyes fill up with tears at the defeated tone in his voice. For the briefest moment, she was filled with the urge to go find Jess Mariano and pound him into the dirt for how badly he had hurt Luke. The impulse faded quickly, though, replaced by the overwhelming need to take care of her friend. "Luke..." she said softly, embarrassed to hear her voice shake a little.
He glanced up at her. Their eyes caught and held as he focused on her as intently as he could in his semi-inebriated state. Lorelai felt that flash of electricity that tended to arc between them when they made eye contact for too long. He raised his uninjured hand, reaching out as if he intended to touch her cheek, but halfway there his hand dropped back to his lap. She was grateful. Her composure was worn thin enough by worry and by how blue his eyes looked. Physical contact right now was probably more than she was prepared to handle while still maintaining this intricate dance they had been involved in for so many years (a dance, she thought, that should have ended the second he said "I do" but which was somehow still continuing even now).
"Luke, please don't listen to what Jess said," Lorelai said, glad that her voice was steady once again despite their continued eye contact. "I hate to see you like this. You are a wonderful man, and you shouldn't let anyone tell you differently."
He snorted, looking away from her. "Doesn't look that way to me. I go around passing judgment on everybody and look where it's gotten me. I've got a nephew who hates me, a sister who only calls when she needs something, and that is it."
As much as it pained her to bring up Lawyer-Lady, Lorelai felt she had to point out that (whatever her opinions on the subject), he did have the woman Luke (inexplicably) loved. "You've got Nicole, though, haven't you?"
It was apparent immediately that this was the wrong thing to say. Luke dropped his head against the back of the couch, losing his baseball cap in the process, and let out another bitter chuckle. "Yeah, right. Nicole. Living proof I don't have any right to be judging anybody," he muttered. "God, if my dad could see the way I've been jerking Nicole around, he'd smack me six ways to next Saturday."
"What are you talking about?"
He smirked, still staring at the ceiling. "You were right the other day, you know," he said. "I haven't really moved into Nicole's place. This whole thing really is as weird as you say. I asked her out on a whim, I married her on a whim, I divorced her- well, I started to- and now I'm dating her because-" He broke off abruptly.
Lorelai knew it wasn't really her place to pry, but she had never been good at curbing her curiosity and she reasoned that it might be good for Luke to get some of this off his chest. "Because what, Luke?"
She didn't really expect him to answer, but the truth serum effects of alcohol were in full effect, making the ordinarily reticent diner man actually give voice to what was going on in his head, and he replied: "Because I'm thirty-eight years old, Lorelai. I'm thirty-eight years old and I live alone in an office above a diner. And you know what? That sucks. I like Nicole. We get along, and I'm comfortable with her. It seemed stupid not to just... go with it, you know? I thought maybe if I just gave it more time I could learn to... love her, or something."
Determinedly ignoring the unexpected swell of relief at the revelation that Luke was not in love with his wife... girlfriend... whatever... Lorelai laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Oh Luke," she said softly.
He turned his head to meet her concerned gaze, a sardonic expression on his face. "Pathetic, right?" he mumbled.
"It's not pathetic," Lorelai said. "Hey, look at me. I'm dating a guy I only agreed to go out with because I knew it would piss off my mother."
"Really?" His expression was an odd mixture of bemusement and annoyance and something else.
"Really. It's not pathetic to not want to be lonely, Luke." He said nothing, and she continued: "And as far as Jess and Liz go, I've got news for you, buddy. You did an amazing thing taking Jess in the way you did. Not many people would have done that, and I'm betting that almost none would have done as good a job with him as you. You did the best you possibly could to help him, and I bet you anything that if he ever grows up and quits being such a little punk, he'll be incredibly grateful to have had you to help him. And as for Liz, she worships you."
"You talked to Liz?" he asked, sounding more than a little freaked out by the prospect.
She nodded. "I met her this morning. She completely looks up to you, Luke. She's thinking about moving back to Stars Hollow so she can be closer to you."
He snorted. "She did not say that."
"She did, and she compared you to a Greek god in the process. And I bet if you looked around, you'd find out she's not the only one who thinks that way. It wouldn't be Stars Hollow without Luke Danes."
Luke gave her a look that said quite clearly that he didn't believe her.
"It's true, Luke. You might not be voted Mr. Personality anytime soon, but Stars Hollow loves you for it. You're probably the only person this town loves as much as they love Rory. And speaking of Rory-" she said, riding right over his snort of disbelief, "-You're a hero to her. You've been like a dad to her, a whole lot more than her father ever was."
That surprised her. Not the thought itself- it was an idea that had crossed her mind plenty of times over the past years, when Luke was there to make Rory birthday cakes or cry at her graduation- but the fact that she had actually said it out loud this time was unexpected. She meant it, though. And it was this, it seemed, that finally got through to him. The corners of his mouth twitched upward in a little smile that actually looked like it had some warmth behind it.
"Yeah, well..." he said, looking both pleased and embarrassed.
Lorelai reached across the space between them and grabbed Luke's hand, Barbie band-aid and all. "And for the record... I think you're pretty terrific, too."
His eyes lit up. "Yeah?"
She smiled at him. "Yeah. You're my best friend, you know?" She sent a silent apology to both Sookie and Rory, because the fact of the matter was that while they were both her best friends, she and Luke had a different sort of relationship. She could confide things in Luke that she never would dream of telling Rory or Sookie.
The look on Luke's face at her declaration was impossible to read. He looked some kind of combination of touched, disappointed, and content. He squeezed her hand and offered her another little smile.
"Thanks, Lorelai," he said softly, with such a look of genuine gratitude and something that looked suspiciously like adoration in his eyes that Lorelai could not be held responsible for her next actions.
She threw her arms around him and hugged him tight, leaning her forehead on his strong shoulder. She felt him go rigid for a moment, before hesitantly putting his arms around her in return. She smiled against the flannel, and wondered why she didn't hug him more often. It was nice to touch him. Even in circumstances like this, being this close to him made her feel safe. Ordinarily she would spend a great deal of energy suppressing that feeling, determinedly Not Thinking about why it was, but right now she just relaxed and let herself enjoy it.
After what was perhaps just a little too long, she pulled herself away from him. And suddenly the moment was awkward.
Luke was looking at her with that look he got sometimes, that look that made her wonder if maybe he... and given the emotional intimacy of their conversation, she felt too exposed to have her usual defenses up against just that possibility. Neither of them knew what to do with the vulnerability he had revealed or the depth of affection she had conferred. Lorelai was all too aware that this was a minefield in the making. She scrambled for a way to diffuse the tension.
"So... I don't want to hear you getting so down on yourself again, you hear me, Mister?" she teased, poking him in the chest.
Her teasing tone did the trick, and after a second's hesitation, he chuckled. "I'll see what I can do," he deadpanned.
Lorelai breathed an interior sigh of relief that they were back on familiar ground. "And whatever you say, you definitely had one more beer than you should have at-" She checked her watch. "-Three in the afternoon."
"Yeah, I guess," he said sheepishly.
"You want to hang out here until it's worn off a little?" she asked.
He shook his head. "Nah, I'll be fine. I'm just a little tipsy."
"I guess if you can successfully climb my tree..." she said with a smirk.
"Just call me Zacchaeus," he shot back.
There was something else she felt compelled to say, but she wasn't sure it was really her place. Lorelai hesitated, then took the plunge. "Luke, I know you probably don't want my opinion on this, but... if you don't love Nicole, it's not fair to her and it's not fair to you to keep trying to force this relationship to work. And that's all I'm going to say about it."
"I know," he said with a sigh. "It just..."
"It sucks to be alone, doesn't it?" she commiserated. "Boy do I ever get that!"
He nodded. Getting to his feet he said, "I should probably get back. I left Caesar in charge and Liz is around so..."
"So God only knows what's happened to the diner in your absence?"
He turned and headed for the door. Halfway there he stopped, turned around, and said shyly, "Lorelai... thanks."
"Don't mention it. That's what friends are for," she said with a wave of her hand. "And I know you probably won't take me up on this but if you ever need to talk- about anything- you know you can always come to me."
"I know," he said.
He took another step toward the door then stopped again. "And Lorelai?"
"You're my best friend, too."
She smiled. "I kind of knew that," she said.
He turned away yet again, and this time he actually made it out the door.
Lorelai had never been quite sure how Luke viewed her. She was his biggest customer, and she knew they were friends, and sometimes she thought maybe the town was right when they would imply that he had deeper feelings for her. But a lot of the time she mostly thought she annoyed him. She had been absolutely truthful when she told him she considered him her best friend, and she'd suspected he felt the same, but it was a different thing entirely to actually hear him say it out loud. She wondered why hearing it from his lips made her feel simultaneously warm and fuzzy and also strangely sad.
For a few minutes she sat there, staring at the closed door, all wrapped up in thoughts of her best friend and how unkind life had been to him lately, how sad it made her to think he would really listen to anything Holden Caulfield Mariano said about him.
Then she stood up, put on her coat, and headed out to kick some leather-jacket-wearing punk butt.