Author: Connecticut Junkie ()

Title: The Substitute

Summary: Stars Hollow gets a new resident, one who's perfect for Luke. Lorelai's not jealous. Really. Not even a teeny, tiny bit. No siree, Bob. [Luke/Other, Luke/Lorelai].

A/N: Come on, I'm a die hard Java Junkie. The Other, she's just a Machiavellian tool. It's almost silly.

Rating: PG-13

*                                  *                                              *

Chapter 1: Nice Running In to You

Lorelai was shopping at Doose's. Of course, that wasn't why Luke kept looking at the window. He wasn't waiting for her to come out. He had better things to do. Things like taking out the trash, he realized, coincidentally when she was leaving the market. And the reason he wasn't taking the trash out the back way, like he normally did, was because he needed the exercise that carrying it all the way around the building to the dumpster in the back alley would give him.

He wasn't doing all those things because he was still nursing his grudge. He wasn't about to crumble like some weakling; he had principles. He wasn't one of those forgive and forget kind of guys.

He also wasn't looking where he was going. Something hard slammed into him when he stepped onto the sidewalk, knocking the trash bag to the ground, knocking him to the ground, and knocking whatever the something was to the ground as well.

Maybe it was a car, he thought as he looked up at the sky. One of the clouds looked like a cell phone. He grimaced at it. But cars didn't drive on the sidewalk, he reasoned. Unless of course, the driver was drunk. Or old. Maybe it was Mrs. Lanahan.

He heard a moan. It wasn't him, because it was decidedly female. It could be Mrs. Lanahan. Great, he was an abuser of the elderly. He held his breath, waiting for instant karma to bite him on the ass.

"Ow." There it was again. He tried to lift his head, and saw garbage spattered about, like a mockery of a bloodied crime scene. Then he saw her.

She was sitting up, picking lettuce out of her blonde ponytail. Oh god. He knocked some poor woman to the ground. All because of his Lorelai tunnel vision. He got up, holding out a hand to help her do the same.

"I'm sorry," he tried to say as sincerely as possible. It might have been a little more effective if his hand didn't have some sort of milkshake remnant smeared on it.

The woman looked up at him, and he realized that he had no idea who she was. Sure, he didn't know everyone in Stars Hollow, he wasn't the kind of guy who went around openly talking to every person he met, but with his business he tended to see a lot of faces. He'd never seen hers.

"It's okay. I think we were both at fault. Let's not report it to the insurance companies." She looked at his milkshake covered hand. He quickly wiped it on his jeans, then held it out again; this time, she took it. He helped her up, noticing her walkman lying on the ground, looking undamaged. He picked it up, wiped the coffee grounds off, and handed it to her. She was wearing a lycra tank top and bicycle shorts. Nice rack, he noted, because he was a guy, and no matter how many times they denied it, they always looked.

A jogger, he brilliantly deduced from her clothing and running shoes, and not one of Patty's troop. She took the Walkman from him with a small smile, inspecting it before strapping it back onto her arm. Luke noticed Lorelai was still across the street, avidly browsing an issue of Field and Stream at Bootsy's stand.

"Ex or potential girlfriend?"

Luke had totally forgotten about the jogging lady. "What?" he said before his mind actually processed her question. He didn't blush, but he came pretty damn close. "Neither," he answered, too gruffly to be completely believable. She nodded, and twiddled the dial on her walkman. "So, uh, listening to anything good?" he asked, because he felt horrible about knocking her down and getting garbage in her hair, but behind the guilt he was still bad at talking to strangers.

"The ball game," she tossed off.

His eyebrows raised a little. "Braves vs. Mets?"

"Hell yeah."

He told himself to ignore the little tingle.

She found the station she was looking for. "Good. They're still ahead."

"Who?" he asked, since he was working and couldn't catch the game.

She smirked at him. "You got garbage all over me. I'm not telling you." With that, she resumed her jogging. Luke just watched her go, still a little stunned by the whole encounter. When she reached the intersection, she turned, jogging backwards. "Maybe I'll run into you again!" she called, before facing forward and turning the corner, disappearing from view.

Luke shook his head. A piece of tomato fell off his hat and landed on the sidewalk with a wet splat.

*                                              *                                                          *

Lorelai had seen the whole encounter. So had Patty, who'd been watching Lorelai peering at them while pretending to read Field and Stream. If it had been a cartoon, Patty would have been rubbing her hands together and snickering. Instead, she went back to her studio, thinking the next town meeting might be more entertaining than usual.

*                                                          *                                              *

-end ch. 1-