Knight in Shining Hair Gel – The Extra Bits!
Standard disclaimer applies
A/N – not sure if this really even counts as an epilogue or just as a very late night when I should have been trying to sleep Either way, I really hope people enjoy this and thank you for your lovely reviews (esp thanks to Nancy for your kind review for Chapter 5 – I'm sorry I couldn't reply to you).
By the way, there is something in this chapter that specifically relates to the Fire and Ice-verse and even a bit of Watchers so I'm sorry if it causes confusion for those who haven't read them.
Luke smiled in relief as he finally pulled his truck up outside his diner. The airport hadn't been too bad but the traffic coming home had been a nightmare. There was very little more frustrating than a two-mile tail-back from construction work only to have no-one working at the site! The day was warm and sunny but not oppressively so and Luke was very glad to be back in Connecticut weather. He really didn't do muggy and Orlando, even in April, had just about finished him off.
Leaning over to the passenger seat, Luke picked up his bag and gratefully climbed out onto the sidewalk. His diner stood before him in the same state he'd left it in – at least, as far as the eye could see. Luke popped in to say hello to Caesar in the kitchen before heading upstairs to see Jess and unpack. Through-out his time sorting out Uncle Louie's affairs, Luke had been half-expecting a call from Lorelai to say that she had buried the boy under the patio or sold him to a caravan of slave-traders. Though God knows, Jess would make a terrible slave.
Hopefully no news was good news. It would certainly be nice if Jess gained another ally in Stars Hollow though Luke already knew his friend had a soft-spot for the young trouble-maker.
Luke carefully made his way up the stairs to his apartment, legs still stiff from the flight and the drive. As he fumbled with his key in the lock, he tried to anticipate the bombshell of the apartment after a teenager had been loose in it for four days. Lorelai was under no obligation to make the boy pick up after himself and, left unsupervised, it may take a small hazmat team to rectify the damage Jess had done!
He was most surprised then to open the door to reveal a near spotless apartment. Cautiously, as though trouble was hiding in the closet waiting to spring out at him, Luke set his bag down by the door. "Hello?" he called out, shutting the door. "Jess?" The bathroom door was open, the room on the other side empty and, unless Jess was crouching down behind the kitchen counter (which would have been difficult in his condition) then the place was definitely unoccupied.
Curious now, Luke inspected Jess' bed and drawers. The bed was made and some of his clothes were gone. A moment of panic gripped him until logic took over. If Jess had taken off, for whatever reason, Lorelai would have called him. Unless Lorelai was in on it? No, he stopped himself. He was being ridiculous!
Walking purposefully to the house-phone, Luke dialled Lorelai's number and waited for his best friend to pick up. As he waited, an envelope on the door mat that he had previously walked right over, suddenly caught his eye. The envelope was hand-written, the script familiar and instantly Luke's pulse began to quicken in anticipation.
A clatter sounded from upstairs, shortly followed by a light thud.
"Jess? You okay?"
Lorelai strained to listen, wondering if she should check it out personally.
"Yeah! came the irritated answer. "Fine."
She smiled, hoping whatever fell and crashed was a hideously ugly ex-Christmas present, scattered around the house in strategic places. "Well get a move on," she called. "Luke just rang and I'm dropping you back at your place. Five minutes – get your butt moving."
After an appropriate amount of grumbling, Jess finally emerged on the stairs. "You realise," he grumbled as he descended the stairs, "that it would be a lot easier to move around here if your house wasn't so full of crap."
Lorelai gasped. "But the crap is what gives the crap-shack its name! This is practically a listed building, my friend." Jess rolled his eyes. "Now tell me," she said as she slung his bag over her shoulder, "was it the pottery blue pig?" Jess shook his head and carried on walking past her. "With the umbrella? C'mon Jess – try to remember, the blue pig?"
"You're insane," Jess muttered, already out of the front door and heading towards the car.
Lorelai threw her hands up in the air. "Ah, come on, Mariano! We talked about this." She locked up the front door and followed him to the car. "Aim for the pig. I clearly told you: aim for the pig."
"Nothing is broken!" Jess snapped. "Will you please just open the doors so I can escape the Twilight Zone with just a modicum of sanity still intact?"
Lorelai grinned, unlocked the car and they both climbed in. "No-one escapes the Twilight Zone, Jess. That's the point of it. And as you so spectacularly failed to follow your very simple orders and kill the blue pig, you may well be coming back to complete your mission when I see fit to summon you."
She pulled the car out of the drive. "Just break it yourself," Jess sighed.
But Lorelai shook her head in disapproval. "Jess. You have a lot to learn about unwanted Christmas gifts: some day you will understand what I'm trying to teach you." She watched with a grin as Jess rolled his eyes once more and stared out of his window for the rest of the ride to Luke's.
The diner wasn't too busy, which was a little surprising for a Saturday, but it gave Luke the chance to meet with Lorelai and Jess in the apartment without feeling guilty about leaving his staff in the lurch downstairs.
When Jess had let himself in, Luke had been there to greet them both as they came through. He had quickly taken Jess' bag from Lorelai and then enveloped the young woman into a strong hug. Mildly surprised at his initiation of physical contact, Lorelai had nonetheless smiled and returned the gesture, holding Luke closely.
If she sensed something more to it then she didn't say. His face next to her ear, Luke mumbled: "Are you okay?" She frowned, puzzled.
"I'm fine," she assured him. Then gave him one final squeeze. "I'm fine," she repeated, softly. And Luke nodded and then released her, his eyes holding hers gently for just a moment longer. She smiled up at him: a bright, fresh visage.
As this was going on, Jess had taken up his bag and moved off to his bed, unpacking by emptying it over the mattress. Luke now walked up to him while Lorelai set about making some coffee and sat down on the bed beside him. Jess gave him a suspicious sideways look. If you wanted to sit down next to him you did it with a damned good reason.
Luke spoke very quietly. He didn't look over at Jess, which the boy found odd. "I saw Sookie downstairs before you guys arrived," he said. Warily, Jess nodded. His uncle still stared down at his knees, weighing up his words. "She told me about some…stuff, while I was away." Jess immediately tensed but again, he just nodded. Luke took a deep breath. "Where is he now?"
Luke nodded once. "Is it dealt with?"
He didn't look over at Jess, but he felt his nephew nod, silently. Then Luke stood up and clapped him once on the shoulder. "Good to have you home, Jess," he announced loudly. "I'm glad to see the two of you haven't hatched any plots to overthrow the town while I've been away or anything."
Lorelai laughed from the kitchen as the water finished boiling. "We wouldn't do anything without you, Luke."
"And I'm so very touched. Really."
"Aww," Lorelai cooed at him. "My little minion." Luke rolled his eyes and sighed in exasperation as he went to join her in the kitchen.
"Huh!" she gasped on seeing his reaction. "You're just like Jess!"
"Stop that," Luke sighed.
"It's so sweet!"
Now Jess growled at her from his bed. "Could you not?"
Lorelai laughed. "Are you having a coffee, Jess?" Luke glanced at her in mild surprise. That was about to be his question to the kid. Maybe Jess and Lorelai got along better than he thought.
"No thanks," Jess replied. "I'm reading my book and pretending none of this is happening."
"Okay then," she smiled. "Luke? You still take sugar?"
"I've never taken sugar."
"Alrighty!" she beamed, holding out a cup to him as he moved around the counter to stand next to her. "Coffee is served."
"Thanks," Luke told her, quietly, taking the mug with both hands. "I really appreciate you taking him. He was really okay?"
She nodded, sipping her own drink. "He was fine, Luke. Let's just say we understand each other." They both watched as Jess suddenly pushed himself up from the bed and slid the paperback into his back pocket.
"I'm going to the bridge," he announced, grabbing his crutches.
Luke raised an eyebrow. "Like that?"
Jess flipped him a look as he passed by. "I'd normally change in to my costume but it's at the cleaners." His uncle sighed but didn't have the energy to argue. Instead, he just waved him on.
"Don't fall in," he admonished. "Or annoy anyone."
Jess just shook his head as he left the two adults alone though before the door closed, they could just make out his muttered, sarcastic: "Well, gee – now that you've taken the fun out of it…"
Luke took a deep breath and smiled, weakly. "If he's not back in an hour, I'll check in with Taylor. I think the man has him under permanent surveillance." Lorelai smiled but she could sense there was something else distracting her friend.
"You okay?" she asked, leaning against the counter. Luke looked surprised for a fraction of a second before he remembered that this was Lorelai and he should know by now, not to be surprised with anything pertaining to her. Wordlessly, he pulled out the envelope from his pocket and handed it to her.
Lorelai looked at it, guardedly. "Who's it from?" she asked, hesitantly taking out the letter. The fact that Luke had waited until Jess was out of earshot was making her a little worried.
"Liz," Luke answered, going some way to confirming her suspicions. He watched her guards go up and immediately smiled, shaking his head. "It's not like that," he assured her.
Lorelai raised her eyebrows, frozen in the act of unfolding the letter as she pinned Luke down with a challenging look. "Oh really?" she demanded. "So this isn't yet another impulsive and somewhat reckless decision on her part meant to throw her son's life in to even more turmoil, then?"
Luke's response was both a wince and a smirk. "In a way," he conceded then chuckled to himself like telling a one-sided joke.
His friend batted him in the middle of the chest. "So why on earth are you so happy about it, Luke?"
"Because she's signing sole physical custody over to me."
Lorelai's mouth hung open for a moment before she hastily opened the letter and scanned its contents. Luke watched her eyes roaming the page and held his breath, waiting for her response. Since reading the letter on his arrival, he had barely taken a moment to let the news sink in. But now, sharing it with someone else, it made it seem even more real.
Finally, Lorelai looked up and grinned. She shook her head, still glancing back at the letter every now and then. "I knew you guys were talking about it but I didn't think she'd actually do it." She lightly hugged Luke. "How do you feel?"
He released her and took a step back, running his hands through his hair. "I'm not entirely sure," he admitted. "There's a big part of me that feels I bullied her in to this."
"Do you want to take it back?"
"No." Luke shook his head, emphatically. "This is best for Jess – definitely. We both need that security. Liz is doing the right thing. Even if I am wondering what I'm letting the kid and me in for! But I can't help feeling I'm taking Jess away from her."
Smiling, Lorelai folded up the letter, replaced it in its envelope and handed it back to Luke. "Well I'm happy for you, Luke, regardless. And I know you'll do just great. I'm happy for Jess, too." She leaned up and gave Luke a warm kiss on the cheek. "Does Jess know anything about this?"
Luke shook his head. "I mean I guess we talked about things, you know…theoretically, a while back but he has no idea his mom and I have been talking. Liz can be so erratic about changing her mind – I didn't want to say anything until I was sure. I mean, it's not a done deal yet – I still need to sign papers and everything…" He suddenly stopped, his eyes uncertain.
"Do you think he'll be upset? I'm not going to force him in to anything…"
But Lorelai cut off his rambling, gently. "I think he'll be fine with it, Luke but you're going to have to talk to him. He's lucky to have you." She was rewarded with a bashful smile from her friend.
"I'll work out a way to tell him tonight. Or maybe tomorrow. I'm sure the right time will present itself."
Lorelai nodded and with one last gulp, finished up her coffee. For a moment there was silence between the two old friends as Luke tucked the letter safely away and then seemed to lose himself in his thoughts again. Lorelai pushed off from the counter and wandered over to the window where she stood for a minute, staring out. The townsfolk bustled about in their every day way. Kirk was trying to sell t-shirts of questionable authenticity on the street. Taylor was moving him on. Everything seemed…right with the town. The sun shone brightly and its energy had seemingly infused the whole day.
Lorelai leaned against the glass and smiled. Then she spun round to face Luke. "There's an Alfred Hitchcock double-bill at the theatre tonight!" she suddenly announced. Luke blinked, once, at the abrupt new topic.
"Okaay," he said, slowly.
"So we should go." Clearly, she reasoned, Luke was being rather slow on the uptake.
"I have a diner to run."
"Caesar's doing it. He's fine. He loves it. C'mon! You haven't been back in over four days and when Rory comes back tomorrow I'm going to be knee-deep in mother-daughter bonding time so today is our last day."
Luke opened his mouth, helplessly for a moment. Finally however, his shoulders sagged in defeat. She was like a locomotive, tunnelling through any objections he could make when she got like this. "When does it start?" he sighed.
Lorelai shrugged. "We'll find out when we get there. Come on! Let's go get the kid."
Luke gave her an incredulous look, followed by a slowly spreading grin. "He'll hate that."
Lorelai linked arms with him, grabbed her purse and gave Luke a wink. "I know! Let's make him sit between us." And as Luke locked up the apartment and headed downstairs, he laughed, in spite of himself.
Thanks for reading! I hope you've enjoyed it. I'm desperately trying to think of new ideas but my inspiration has well and truly dried up! If anyone sees my Muse, please send her back to me and tell her all is forgiven?