A year’s worth of heartache, anger, resentment, soul searching, self-discovery, bittersweet reunion, and awkward reconciliation went into that kiss. When they finally came up for air, the emotion dam burst.
Luke hugged her head to his shoulder, one hand buried in her hair, and kissed the top of her head. “I was so stupid,” he said. “So stupid.”
“I missed you so much,” she replied, hugging him fiercely.
She meant it. Of course she meant it. Luke had come a long way in the past year, but his tendency to doubt her feelings for him was a personality feature that just refused to change. Until he saw her lean in to kiss him, he had himself almost convinced that she hadn’t really serenaded him that night, that it really didn’t mean anything. He was overjoyed to be wrong and he finally, finally, had the nerve to take a chance and jump. It was then that he had dropped the bag of charcoal briquettes he was carrying and met her lips halfway, wrapping his arms around her and giving in to the strong desire he’d been fighting for weeks.
“I’m so sorry,” he continued.
“ I’m sorry,” she argued.
Luke took a step back, saying, “Oh, um…” He reached into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out a rectangular pink box. “I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to give you this.” She took the box from him and opened it to find a beautiful necklace with tiny ice blue beads and a single teardrop. She gasped.
“Luke, when did you-”
“When I got Rory’s graduation present. I thought it looked like you.”
“It’s beautiful.” She held it to her chest and smiled. Then she noticed a note in the box. She took it out and unfolded it.
“Oh, you don’t have to read that now--” But she was already tipping it toward the streetlight to read it. So he just waited, shifting uncomfortably.
I know I'm not great about expressing feelings, but I'm working on it, I’m really trying. I thought writing might be easier, so here goes. I want to tell you a little of what I’ve learned in the last year.
I’ve learned that I can live without you. I don’t want to, but I can. I’ve learned that I have friends and family; that I’m not alone, even without you. And in the last couple of months I've learned that I can be just your friend if I have to… If that's all I am to you. I would rather have your friendship than a life without you, so if that is all you can offer me, I will take it.
But I can't for the life of me figure out how to stop loving you, to stop being in love with you, to stop wanting to be with you. I don't know if I ever will and I don’t even know if I want to. You’re it for me, Lorelai. I don’t want to wait another 8 years, with us dancing around each other. So I’m asking you now to give me another chance. Please give us another chance.
This was not normal. Luke didn’t bare his soul like this, even in writing, and he was never this sappy. When, on occasion, he let his feelings be known, it was usually in the middle of a rant. Luke was more of a gesture kind of guy. But here he was, telling her in words, lots of words, that he still loved her. Lorelai remembered the impulsive-yet-not-regretted boat purchase and wondered what else this new and improved version of Luke had in store for her.
“You’ve been planning to give me this for days?” Luke nodded.
She stood silently for a moment, studying his face, seeing only sincerity and vulnerability. She felt tears forming and managed to fight them back, replacing them with a small smile and a soft laugh instead. She nodded and said, “So, um, we seem to be stuck with each other. I guess Sookie and Patty were right.”
“I can live with that.”
“Yeah…” she nodded, “Yeah, me, too.” Then smiled again, this time a lot bigger.
She looked down at the necklace in her hand, then back up into his eyes. “You really do like to see me happy.” Luke nodded, putting a hand tentatively on her hip. She stepped close to him again and said in a low voice, “Hey, wanna see me really, really happy?” He smiled. “Take me upstairs.”
“Upst-…?” His smile turned to a look of puzzlement.
“ Take me,” she paused and gestured toward the diner with her head before continuing, “Upstairs.” Just to drive the point home, she leaned in and whispered in his ear, “Take me. Seal the deal.”
Luke’s eyes widened as her meaning became clear. He looked around, getting a handle on where he was and what he had been doing. “But the party… Rory…”
“They can do without us for 15 minutes, Luke.”
He smiled, then was suddenly flustered. “Uh… okay… uh… meet me up there in 2 minutes. Doors are unlocked.” With that he kissed her quickly, bent to grab the dropped bag of charcoal, and started toward the party tent at a brisk pace.
Lorelai giggled to herself as she ran to the diner and flew up the stairs to Luke’s apartment.
She put off thinking. There was so much to think about. The anticipation of maybe, just maybe, she’ll be able to move forward for the first time since she opened the Dragonfly--no more tentative holds on her love life, dancing around it, always worried about screwing things up. This time really move forward. Maybe, just maybe, she’ll be able to start that post-Rory-rearing life that saw so many false starts. Maybe, just maybe, it will stick this time. But she put off thinking about it. Again. Because she just wanted to be happy for 15 minutes. She just wanted to be with Luke. To be with Luke.
“Please be there Please be there Please be there,” she chanted to herself as she rushed through the door of the apartment and went straight for the closet, shedding her top as she went. She rifled through, past the dress shirts, the Hawaiian shirt she’d teased him about so many years ago, into the cotton plaids. Finally she found the section of plaid flannel shirts that had been put in the back for the summer. Any of them would do in a pinch, of course, and she had almost decided to just grab one when she spotted the familiar blue plaid she was looking for. Her shirt. He’d kept her shirt -- the one she had claimed for herself on their first real date almost three years ago.
They’d had a wonderful dinner at Sniffy’s Tavern, starting with Luke sharing intimate details of his life, describing the day they met, and laying all of his cards on the table, declaring that he was “all in” regarding the change in their relationship. He had been afraid that such a move would make her nervous and want to bolt, but it didn’t. Quite the opposite, in fact. They chatted easily about anything and everything, touching knees and hands on occasion, smiling and laughing. It was them , with all of the warmth and comfort they usually felt around each other, but kind of an enhanced them , with an added bit of electricity.
After dessert they had headed to Luke’s truck. It was a warm summer night and late enough that the parking lot was nearly empty. When he leaned in to open the door for her, Lorelai stepped close, stopping him, and said, “Hey.”
“Listen.” She tilted her head as if listening to the wind.
“What do you hear?”
“Well, I don’t hear Kirk screaming.” She nudged even closer and practically whispering. “I don’t hear a marching band. I don’t hear wait staff ready to plunk down dinner in front of us.”
“Mmmm. Imagine that,” he replied, then his lips found hers and he immediately deepened the kiss, wrapping an arm around her and pressing her into the door of the truck. A second kiss followed, then it was hard to say when one kiss ended and the next began. The spell was finally broken when they heard a group of patrons exit the restaurant, arguing over the ball game which had just ended.
So Luke and Lorelai had returned to Stars Hollow, ending their date at the diner because, hello, coffee! He led her into the apartment, then headed downstairs to get her a cup of her favorite beverage and himself some tea. But Lorelai had other plans. After setting the champagne bottle down on the coffee table, she walked over to his closet, stealing an idea from her favorite Michael Douglas movie. She found her favorite of Luke’s shirts, a blue plaid flannel, and headed to the bathroom.
When Luke returned Lorelai was still in the bathroom, but she now had the door open. He heard her say, “I hope you won’t be upset if I don’t drink that. I think I’m nervous enough as it is.” She walked out of the bathroom. “Maybe I should stick with champagne.”
Luke was setting the mugs down on the coffee table. Nervous enough? Suddenly his heart was racing. “Uh…” He looked up to find her standing in the middle of the room wearing nothing but a smile and his blue plaid shirt. “Wow,” he managed, stunned. His eyes traveled the length of her before he swallowed, then stammered, “Lorelai… we don’t have to…” She walked toward him. “We can take this slower… you know, wait until…”
“Until we get to know each other?” She lifted one eyebrow.
“Yeah, well, I guess that is kind of…”
“Silly?” She was really close now.
“B-but you said you were nervous.” He offered as she put her arms around his neck. He responded by putting his arms around her waist and pulling her closer.
“I am nervous.” She said, “but I’m also excited.” Then, as she lightly kissed him, “Aren’t you excited?”
“Dear God, yes.”
They didn’t rush. With the ‘decision’ out of the way, there was no pressure, no need to ‘test the waters’. They had all night. They sat on the couch, necking and talking, then necking some more. She did end up drinking some of the coffee and more of the champagne. There were touches and laughs and heated moments. There were some brief moments of awkwardness, too, as any first time will have, such as the necessary discussion about recent sexual partners and the diaphragm she had taken care of while changing into his shirt. But they laughed or kissed away the discomfort. Eventually they moved to the bed and the long night of foreplay ripened into slow, attentive love-making. It wasn’t perfect. They were still learning each other’s bodies, but the intense emotion more than made up for the minor fumbling. In the end, they each secretly thought it was the best sex they’d ever experienced, although neither admitted so out loud. Afterward they lay lightly caressing each other and talking softly, feeling closer than ever, safe, and content, before falling asleep in each other’s arms. Not a fairy tale, but romantic nonetheless.
Now nearly three years later, she wasn’t out to recapture that moment. She just wanted him. Badly. Wearing his (her) shirt was just a cute way of showing him how much and maybe making it a little more fun. After an incredibly painful year of being apart, the more icebreakers she employed, the better.
When Luke came bursting through the door of the apartment he found her standing near the kitchen table wearing only that shirt and the necklace he’d just given her, looking very much like she did that first night. “Wow.” He said as he stopped in his tracks. But he only paused a moment, then said, “I guess I don’t need to ask you if you’re sure about this,” as he closed the distance between them in three big strides.
They both went from hardly breathing to breathing hard in a matter of a few seconds. Their kisses were passionate, tongues twirling, and their hands were everywhere. Luke attacked her neck, kissing and scraping his teeth while he grabbed one of her legs behind the knee and pulled it up to his hip. He he urged her to hop up onto the table. She unbuckled his belt and continued the business of freeing him from his jeans as he cleared the table with one sweep of his arm so she could lie back. Between desperate breaths and kisses, Lorelai repeated variations of “I want you”, like “I want you so much” and “I want to feel you inside me”. For once, Luke didn’t want her to shut up and he didn’t pause to ponder the situation. He dove in and she pushed back, matching him stroke for stroke. It was over quickly, but not without a seriously intense climax for each that left them both struggling for air.
The ice was definitely broken.
Then she started to cry.
And Luke panicked.
“Lorelai?” He stood up, bringing her to a sitting position and pulling the shirt down to cover her. “Oh my god, what did I do? You said this would make you happy.” He pulled his boxers and jeans up.
“I am happy, Luke,” she murmured, trying to catch her breath and get her emotions under control. “I am. Really, really happy… I really wanted this. I’m just…” She took a deep breath. “Rory… and my parents… and you and… It’s been a bit of a roller coaster these last few days and it’s not over yet. I’m just a mess. But, God, Luke. I’m a happy mess. Really.”
Relieved, he sighed and helped her down from the table. They embraced for a few minutes before either spoke again. “So… what now? Where do we go from here?” Luke asked.
“Well, now you get some sleep and I go back down to the party. And we will deal with tomorrow when it comes.”
“But… Lorelai…” he struggled to say what was on his mind as she nudged him to sit on the bed. There was no question that they both wanted to try again, but it was clear to him that they couldn’t just pick up where they left off. They had a lot of work to do and he didn’t know where to start. “I’m afraid of making the same mistakes again.”
“I know,” she answered, looking down. “Me, too.” She started to put her clothes back on. “We obviously need to talk. A lot. Like, seriously talk. About everything. I know it’s not your favorite thing to do.”
“You might be surprised,” he said with a small smile. “I’m pretty highly motivated right now.”
“Well, we don’t need to talk tonight. Tonight you need to get some sleep. When was the last time you slept?”
“I’m fine. Taylor will blow a gasket if I don’t supervise the cleanup.” He started to get up.
“You let me worry about Taylor,” Lorelai said in her ‘mom’ voice, pushing him back down. “I’ll put Kirk in charge of cleanup. He loves to be in charge.” She went over to his dresser, pulled out a pair of sweats, and tossed them to him. “To bed, Burger Boy!” She hadn’t called him that in years. It made him smile.
He reluctantly started to undress, then suddenly realized something. “Rory! I need to say goodbye to Rory!”
“Tell you what,” she answered, “How about I bring her by the diner for a private goodbye on our way to the airport. Around 6? Just before you open?”
“I have a better idea,” he said. “Come by around 5 and I’ll make you both breakfast.” Luke had sent Rory off with a full stomach to ever first day of school since she was 10. This would be a perfect way to end that tradition.
“Why Luke Danes, you do know the way to our hearts, don’t you?” she said as she kissed him.
“Yep, right through the stomach.”
“Okay, so see you at 5?”
“See you at 5.”
As she closed the door, she reached up to touch the necklace he had been carrying around for almost a week. She grinned and sighed, then headed back down to the party, preparing herself for the gauntlet she expected to run once she reached the tent.
But the tsunami of questions never came. Nobody had noticed Luke and Lorelai kissing in the middle of the street. They were all too busy having a good time and the tent narrowed everyone’s field of vision. Caesar noticed that Luke had disappeared as soon as he dropped off the charcoal, but he was too busy cooking to worry about where he’d gone. And when Lorelai told him that she’d sent Luke to bed, he didn’t think twice. The guy clearly needed it.
Still, Lorelai didn’t escape completely. Sookie had missed her. She was waiting patiently for Lorelai to return, suspecting that she’d gone to talk to Luke. Sookie wanted details and she wouldn’t be disappointed.
“So, where ya been?” Sookie said, bumping Lorelai’s hip with her own.
“Um, well, Sookie…” She couldn’t help the grin. “I’ve been at Luke’s, reenacting your favorite scene from Bull Durham .”
“You threw his clothes out the window?!” Lorelai stared at her, blinking. “Oh… OH!” Sookie finally understood. “REALLY?!” Lorelai nodded, her eyes twinkling. “On the table ?” Another nod. Then Sookie hugged her tightly and squealed. “It’s gonna work this time, I know it is!”
“I think so, Sookie. I really do.”
The party kept going until about midnight. Sookie managed to keep the news to herself until 11:00 when she finally told Jackson. Jackson went straight to Miss Patty, thinking he’d gotten the scoop, But Miss Patty already knew. You see, Liz and TJ left at 10:30, saying they needed to get Doula to bed. Liz started to hug Lorelai goodbye when she suddenly gasped and put her hand over her mouth. “What’s wrong?” Lorelai asked before she realized what Liz was looking at.
Liz said, “Awww! He finally gave it to you! You found a wormhole!” She was nearly crying and hugging Lorelai, who was starting to feel like the town’s favorite teddy bear with all of the hugging going on.
“Um… okay…” Lorelai didn’t understand what she meant by ‘wormhole’, but didn’t really care. She hugged back. Liz went on and on about how happy she was and how she just ‘had a feeling’ about Luke and Lorelai while TJ rolled his eyes.
“I guess I’ll say congratulations, too.” He groaned, giving her a quick hug.
“Um, okay, thanks.”
Then they left, but not before Liz could tell at least three people that it looked like Luke and Lorelai were back together. The rumor mill being what it was in Stars Hollow, pretty much the whole town knew by the time Kirk picked up the bullhorn. Money had even exchanged hands as bets were won and lost.
And so, although she had escaped the inquisition that night, Lorelai knew that the town would be watching them closely. Then again, hadn’t the town been watching them closely for months? Maybe since they broke up? At least since she had started visiting the diner again. If they had all been waiting for the two to get back together, maybe the excitement was over and now they would turn their attention elsewhere.