Virtual Gilmore Girls

Episode 8.04 "Toothpaste and Townies and Twinkies, Oh My!"
by Once Upon A Whim


Author's Note:
It's a miracle that this thing finally made it to this point, and it's mostly due to the huge amount of help I've had from so many people along the way. I really need to thank adina and wounded for wonderful collaboration, sosmitten for being a great beta in the final frenzy of finishing, and also avery and jenepel. And it goes without saying that they all deserve a major thank you for putting up with the last-minute madness of this episode.



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Lorelai frowned, and rang the doorbell to her parents' house a second time. When, after another moment or two, the door had yet to be opened by Emily, Richard, or the maid, she finally gave up. With a sigh, Lorelai gingerly tried the doorknob and, realizing the door was unlocked, let herself in.


Not a split second later, her hand flew to her chest as she found herself nearly getting bowled over by a small stampede of auburn-haired children. But Lorelai didn't even get to process the absurdity of such a sight in the Gilmore house, for just a step or two behind the horde of kids was a frantic Sookie, toting yet another toddler and an infant as she yelled at the older children, "Hey... Hey! Come back here!"


Flabbergasted to find Sookie and what amounted to an entire playgroup at her parents' house, of all places, Lorelai scampered after her friend for a few steps, spluttering aloud, "Sookie, what the... What the hell is going on?"


"I know, I know," Sookie cried as she came to a halt and turned to face Lorelai guiltily. "I wasn't supposed to work today," she explained hurriedly, "but Manny called about a cucumber crisis, and Jackson's off with his brother, and I had to bring the kids here, but don't worry, we won't be long. Here," she declared, shoving the two children from her arms at Lorelai, "if you take Crest and Rembrandt, I can get Martha, Davey, Colgate, Aim, Listerine... "


Sookie continued rattling off a list of names, but Lorelai couldn't even begin to focus on the fact that all the children appeared so be Sookie's children. Her mind was still stuck on something else Sookie had mentioned.


"Work?" Lorelai's nose wrinkled in confusion. "What are you...?" She trailed off in futility; Sookie had already taken off running again, leaving Lorelai to glance down at the babies in her arms in bewilderment.




"Mom!" Lorelai gasped, whirling around at the sudden sound of her mother's voice.


Impeccably clad as always, Emily pursed her lips disapprovingly, admonishing, "You'll never establish yourself as a successful business if you constantly ignore your guests."


More confused than ever, Lorelai glanced around helplessly. "Huh?" She followed Emily's gaze over towards the stairs, only to find, in place of the staircase, the front desk of the Dragonfly, complete with a married couple wielding large suitcases and impatient frowns. Lorelai's mouth fell open incredulously. "Wha?"


"Well, don't just stand there," Emily commanded bitingly.


"But I..." Lorelai stammered, shifting Rembrandt and Crest awkwardly in her arms. Still not understanding at all what was going on, her confusion grew further when, out of nowhere, Michel appeared, offering her mother a cup of tea.


"Oh, why thank you, Michel." Emily smiled pleasantly as she accepted the drink. "Mmm, perfect, if I do say so myself."


Michel smiled graciously in return. "It is my pleasure, Mrs. Gilmore."


Just as quickly as her mother's genial demeanor towards Michel had appeared, it was gone the moment Lorelai felt Emily's gaze upon her once more. "Lorelai, your guests!" snapped Emily. "Really! My word," she exclaimed in exasperation. "Michel, can you imagine the state of things if she hadn't asked me to help manage this expansion?"


"Oh my, yes," Michel agreed readily. "Quelle horreur."


Emily nodded and took another sip of tea. "Quelle horreur, indeed."


Emily began chuckling, with Michel joining in soon after. Before long, their cackling had become howls of laughter, all at Lorelai's expense.


And all Lorelai could do was stand there helplessly, with Sookie and her brood running laps around the Gilmore house.


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Lorelai awoke with a start, and pulled herself immediately to a sitting position. Her heart pounding and her breathing heavy, she glanced around nervously. She flailed her arms about until she was able to verify that yes, she was in her own house, in her own bed, with Luke beside her, and that it had only been a dream.


Beside the bed, Paul Anka lifted his head and looked on curiously before curling back up.


"Ugh," Lorelai moaned, flopping dramatically back down to her pillow.


Luke, apparently also having been woken up by Lorelai's thrashing about, rolled over. Peering at her through squinted eyes in the dim light, he inquired hoarsely, "You okay?"


"Emily," Lorelai replied with a shudder.


"Hmmm?" Luke murmured questioningly.


"Emily," Lorelai repeated ominously. "The Dragonfly was my parents' house and Sookie had a million kids and Michel and my mother were in charge, and they were just standing there laughing at me." She shuddered again, pulling a pillow over her face and letting out a muffled "Ugh."


"Uh huh," Luke said cagily, causing Lorelai to emerge from beneath the pillow.


"Well, apparently the tea was good too, but..." Lorelai shivered once more, unable to get the sound of Emily's evil laughs out of her head. "Ugh, my mother in charge," she repeated, snuggling closer to Luke and resting her head on his shoulder.


Luke pressed a kiss to her temple, but still managed to sound moderately confrontational when he reminded Lorelai, "Yet you're still willing to go into business with her."


Lorelai scoffed, "I'm hardly willing."


"But you're still thinking about it," Luke countered.


"I'm humoring her," Lorelai corrected emphatically, "by letting her have one Friday dinner at the inn. She had to promise no measuring tapes this time."


Unconvinced, Luke lifted an eyebrow as he looked over at Lorelai. "And after all these months of bringing it up, you think she'll let it drop just like that?" he questioned.


Lorelai punched Luke weakly in the arm, scowling in his direction. "You're not helping." He wasn't, but Lorelai also knew he wasn't wrong about the issue not going away. "Maybe it would work," she reasoned. "We did business-y stuff together when I taught her Quicken. Look," she rationalized, to Luke and to herself, "what does my mother do? She goes to the club, does all the spa stuff, and orders people around. Who better if we do end up doing going through with this Dragonfly spa?"


All she got was a skeptical shrug from Luke as he rolled over and readjusted his pillow. "If you say so," he grumbled. "Can I go back to sleep please?"


On a roll, Lorelai ignored him. "And she can even help with kitchen things when Sookie has the baby," she added. "Emily Gilmore," she pointed out knowingly, "if nothing else, knows how to run a kitchen staff."


"I thought she made them run away," Luke snorted over his shoulder. "What's the longest anyone has worked for your parents? I thought you wanted to keep your employees."


Lorelai rolled her eyes and slapped Luke on the back. "Still not helping," she pouted.


"Still not sleeping," Luke groused right back.


"Oh fine," Lorelai sighed. "Sleep. Leave me to be tormented by my mother all night," she wailed melodramatically. "As if I don't get enough of it during my waking hours."


Already half asleep again, Luke mumbled a nondescript "Mmm hm."


A wan smile crossed Lorelai's face in the moonlight as she looked down at Luke and resituated herself. But even as she closed her eyes to try to go back to sleep, Emily's tinny laugh rang in her ears.


She shuddered.


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Rory entered the hotel's conference room armed with her laptop bag, which contained everything she'd need — hopefully — for the morning briefing.  She made her way over to the refreshments, counting on whatever was there to make up for the fact that she hadn't left herself enough time to make coffee in her room that morning.  By the time she'd finished typing up her notes the previous night, she'd left herself with approximately four hours of sleep.  "No such luck," she muttered to herself as the coffee dispenser gurgled out its last few drips into her cup. She quickly gulped down the pitifully small cup of coffee, and, staring longingly into the Styrofoam, realized she was going to need more than that to get her through the day. 'When in doubt, eat' was one of Lorelai Gilmore's mottos, so she helped herself to two muffins from the spread next to the coffee.   "Less sleep, more muffin, right?" she said under her breath and then giggled slightly, making a mental note to tell her mother later.


"Rory!"  Rachael called from across the room, waving.


Rory started to head over to where Rachael was chatting with some of the other young journalists, but stopped when she saw Patrick in the group.  She stood in the middle of the room for a few seconds, trying unsuccessfully to get up the nerve to walk over to them.  She scolded herself for hesitating, knowing it should be easy enough to make small talk, especially when it wasn't even just Patrick there.  Yet, after more deliberation, she headed to a different corner, joining Darshana and a few others. She could practically hear Lorelai's voice in her head nagging her for being a chicken, but it wasn't enough to change her mind. 


"Morning," she greeted as she reached the second group, trying to sound cheerful.  


"Morning," Darshana returned, and the others murmured likewise.   


"I got to talk to my little one before he went to bed last night," one of the men was saying.  "I finally had a few minutes early enough.  I hadn't talked to him in a week.  My wife told me he asks every day when Daddy is getting home."


"How old is he?" a heavyset woman asked.


"He's three and a half," the man answered.  "I hope I can get home for his fourth birthday, but you never know, the way things are... Especially with all the holidays I'm already going to try to get back there for. Not even just Thanksgiving and Christmas, but he really wants me to take him trick or treating too." He shrugged, "I'd like to, you know, but who knows..." 


There was a rumble of agreement from the group.  "It's hard," a man with a receding hairline acknowledged.


"What about you?"  A short woman turned to Rory.  "Do you have any kids?"


"Oh... no..."  Rory said, struggling to hold back the 'I'm only 22!' that threatened.  "My best friend just had twins, though, and they don't know me at all," she tried instead.  It wasn't the same thing, and she knew it.  "And my godson," she added lamely, trying to save face, "I don't see him much either."


The woman smiled in a slightly patronizing manner.  "Missing anyone at home?"


Rory knew at once that 'my mother' wasn't the right answer to that question. 


"No," she responded.  "I'm, uh, not really in a relationship right now."  She shifted uncomfortably, feeling even more out of her element than she was becoming accustomed to. She had no relationship to gush over, no kids to miss, and not even the specter of either on the horizon. For an instant, she regretted losing the possibility of all that with Logan.


By the time Rory had pulled herself out of her thoughts, the conversation had shifted to Darshana's latest visit back to Chicago to see her kids, so Rory was once again left with little to say. She mechanically shoved bits of muffin into her mouth until, finally, the campaign's communication director entered the room and headed to the podium. Rory, relieved, excused herself from the group with a trite "See you later" and found a seat towards the front.


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Late Friday afternoon, Lorelai scanned through her day planner one last time, and, squinting over at the calendar on the kitchen wall, asked Sookie, "So your last day is the Tuesday after next?"


"Wednesday," Sookie corrected as she tossed some pasta into a vat of water. "And then I can finally stop having guests touch my stomach and ask me when I'm due and if it's my first and if we know if it's a girl or a boy," she ranted in a huff, waving a wooden spoon emphatically at Lorelai.


Lorelai lifted her hands in mock surrender to Sookie's spoon assault, "Okay..." After receiving a withering glare from Sookie, she picked up her pen and focused on her planner once more. "So," she announced, "Wednesday — 'Sookie. Baby. Break,'" she said aloud slowly as she scribbled it in her day planner. Manny," Lorelai called over to the stove area, "you're good with that? Picking up the extra hours starting then?"


Apparently busy with something on the stove, Manny replied with a terse, "Yeah."


"Okay, good," Lorelai replied, marking it down in her notes. "And—"


Before she could get the rest of her thought out, Michel strolled into the kitchen and asked primly, "Lorelai, will you be taking any time off in the next few months?"


"I don't know Michel." Lorelai waved him off, distracted. "Hang on a sec. Sook?" she asked, turning back to the task at hand. "You've got all your menus in the one binder, the orders we'll have to make and the suppliers' numbers in another?"


Sookie nodded proudly. "And the recipes in this one," she proclaimed as she waved the so-labeled folder around for show. "Everything exactly how it should be, right up until the day my maternity leave is over."


Lorelai smirked at Sookie's exuberant attempt to atone for the bed rest fiasco when she was pregnant with Martha. "Well look at you go, Superchef," she teased.


"I just felt so bad last time with the bed rest and the duck and the tasting and Luke," Sookie fretted. "I just want everything to go well this time."


"It'll be fi—" Lorelai started to assure her friend.


It was to no avail, however, as Michel, impatiently huffing and tapping his toe, interjected with a whiny "Lorelai..."


Growing rather frustrated, and already on edge waiting for her parents, Lorelai threw up her arms in exasperation. "Michel, I have no idea," she snapped. "I might be here every day. I might not be here every day. I might move into room four so I never have to leave," she taunted, grinning wickedly. "Or," she added, "I might even join the Peace Corps and run off to Zimbabwe. Why?" she asked incredulously.


"I simply would like to know what my status will be when the two of you are absent," Michel replied tersely.


Lorelai rolled her eyes, knowing she should have seen that coming. "You'll be in charge, Michel...." She allowed in response.


Michel eyed her warily. "'In charge' in charge?"


"Fine, yes, whatever," Lorelai conceded with a huff. "Now shoo," she commanded, adding a dismissive wave just to irk him.


Sookie looked on with a gleeful smile as Michel proceeded to stomp away. Turning to Lorelai, she implored, "Please do go on vacation in the next two months. I think you might end up killing him if you don't," she added.


Lorelai chuckled, knowing that Michel's death was a distinct possibility. Playing along, she added jokingly, "Maybe I will."


"You and Luke gonna go away for some..." Sookie trailed off, the facetious intent of Lorelai's previous statement obviously lost on her. She filled in the blank of her own sentence by wiggling her eyebrows suggestively and giving Lorelai a nudge in the ribs.


"Yeah right," Lorelai snorted. "Sook," she lamented, "as much as I'd like to, I can't go anywhere. Not with Emily breathing down my neck about this place," she finished with a frown.


Sookie's face fell. "I still can't believe you're going to let her work here. And without me to referee." She shook her head solemnly.


Lorelai's eyes narrowed briefly in Sookie's direction, less than thrilled to be hearing yet another warning about trying to work with Emily. "Don't worry," she sighed, "you can still get in one last farewell performance, my parents will be here any min—"




Lorelai shivered with unexpected déjà vu as Emily addressed her in a manner altogether too reminiscent of her dream. She recovered quickly, rolling her eyes and muttering under her breath in Sookie's direction, "Speak of the devils..." She quickly plastered on a tight smile and turned to face her parents. "Hi Mom, Dad."


"Hello Lorelai," Emily replied brusquely. "Why, hello Sookie," she gushed, turning away from her daughter. "You're looking quite well." Emily's polite greetings quickly became thinly veiled admonishments as she inquired, "But should you really be working and on your feet this late in your pregnancy? When are you due?"


"I—" Sookie started to defend herself, to no avail.


Emily ignored Sookie, and focused once again on Lorelai. "Lorelai," she demanded, "why are you still making poor Sookie work in her condition?"


Lorelai took a deep breath and reminded herself that, given she was at the Dragonfly and not her parents' house, she couldn't just up and leave quite as easily as she could have otherwise. Smiling sweetly, she tried to placate Emily as best she could. "She's only here until next week Mom."


"Really, I'm fine Mrs. Gilmore," Sookie interjected assuredly. "In fact," she preened, "I'll be making your dinner tonight; is there anything in particular you wanted?"


Lorelai was surprised to find that Sookie's insistence seemed sufficient in appeasing Emily to the point that Emily began offering recipe suggestions. She was even more surprised when her father, a silent onlooker thus far, tapped her on the shoulder and gestured out towards the hallway.


"Lorelai, may I speak with you for a moment?" Richard asked gravely.


"Sure Dad," Lorelai nodded, following him, though bewildered by his serious tone.


Once they were alone near the stairs, Richard squared his shoulders and spoke in earnest. "Now," he began diplomatically, "I do enjoy being able to see you and your establishment from time to time," he allowed, gesturing around him. "However, I am just not sure I'm fond of these particular circumstances."


Lorelai's brow furrowed skeptically as she glanced around her. "What 'circumstances'?"


"Do you really think it wise for the two of you to start a business endeavor together?" Richard asked.


Lorelai shook her head in disbelief. Crossing her arms in front of her defensively, she maintained shortly, "It'll be fine Dad."


"Lorelai," Richard warned, "you know your mother."


"Unfortunately yes, I do," Lorelai huffed. "Dad, nothing is even definite," she insisted, rolling her eyes. "If — big 'if' there," she stressed, "I do something with this place, I'm sure we'll work it out."


Richard eyed Lorelai skeptically. "If you're sure..."


Unwilling to listen to any more unwarranted words of caution, Lorelai left her father in the hallway and made her way back to the kitchen knowing it was going to be a long dinner if she didn't have a buffer. "Mom," she chirped brightly, smiling guiltily at Sookie. "You know what? You're right," she declared, "Sookie shouldn't be working this much. Manny can make dinner." She turned to Sookie with pleading eyes, "Sook, why don't you have dinner with us?"


Trapped, Sookie's eyes widened as she began to splutter an excuse, "I—"


"That would be delightful," Emily cut in. "I want to hear all about this little one," she added in gossipy tones, once again laying her hand on Sookie's stomach.


"Sure," Sookie muttered in defeat through gritted teeth. "That would be swell, Mrs. Gilmore." As she allowed herself to be ushered from the kitchen by a fawning Emily and an oblivious Richard, who had made his way back in from the foyer, she cast a withering glance over her shoulder at Lorelai.


Lorelai winced, mouthing 'I'm sorry!' as she followed the ad-hoc trio into the dining room.


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The next day, Rory sighed and gathered up her papers and briefcase as quickly as she could. According to the morning briefing, today was going to be more of the same: the Senator spending the entire Saturday meeting with private financial donors and not a whole lot else, which left her with not a whole lot to do besides figure out how to make that whole lot of nothing sound fresh and interesting.


Trudging out of the ballroom door, Rory wondered halfheartedly what there might be to do to kill time in Indianola considering she wasn't going to be doing much in the way of reporting. She was just convincing herself to check out some local bookstores when she caught sight of Patrick and James hovering near the main doors in the lobby.


Without even thinking, Rory dashed quickly in the opposite direction and ducked into the elevator. She felt ridiculous, running from Patrick like that, but she still wasn't up to facing him.


Still feeling silly when she reached her room, Rory was anxious for a little perspective. After dumping her stuff on the bed, she fished around in her briefcase for her cell phone. She figured it might be a little early to call Lorelai, especially on a Saturday, so she scrolled down to Lane's name instead.


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"Zach, can you get that?" Lane shouted over the blaring guitar. "Zach!"


When Zach remained oblivious to both her and the phone, Lane gave a small shriek of frustration. Carefully holding on to Steve in his tub, she reached for the phone with her other hand. "Hello?"


"Lane?" came the voice on the other end of the line. "Hey, it's Rory."


"Rory, hi!" Lane exclaimed, balancing the phone on her shoulder just as Steve howled an exclamation of his own. "How are you?" she asked excitedly.


Rory hesitated a moment before Lane heard her say "I'm... okay." Lane frowned at the lack of sincerity even as Rory continued with a forced "How are you?" And before Lane could even answer, Rory added stiltedly, "Things sound... loud."


Lane nodded in agreement as vehemently as she could without dropping the phone in Steve's bath. "Steve just never likes bathtime," she explained. "Kwan woke up earlier than he was supposed to, so he needs a diaper change. Zach is — oh, laundry!" she announced distractedly as the dryer buzzed from in the bathroom. "Zach is home," she continued as she pulled a slightly sudsy Steve from the tub and headed for the dryer. "He's still in tour mode and seems to think Kwan is ready for a father-son duo. He's trying to teach an infant to play guitar! Which is why," she stressed as she pulled a towel from the dryer for Steve, "they're still rocking in the living room instead of Zach giving Kwan a bath like he was supposed to!" For Rory's sake, the end of her tirade was directed away from the phone and in the direction of the guitar-playing where it was more warranted.


In the background, Rory could just make out Zach's yell of "Lane, it's all good. This is the last song, he just likes the pre-bathtime jamming!"


"Zach, do something!" Lane screeched in Rory's ear. "Mama's going to be here any minute and we can't have only one clean baby!"


Rory could just make out Zach complaining, "I tried babe, but you yelled at me, said I was in the way, and made me wait until you were done with Steve!"


Lane sighed into the phone, directing her conversation back to Rory. "Okay, fine, he tried, but he did get in the way," she explained. "I'm not used to having an extra big person here, and he was messing things up, so I kicked him out, and now he's just making noise."


"Wow," Rory replied. "Sounds... lively."


Rory's dull tone wasn't lost on Lane, even as she juggled Steve while trying to calm Kwan down as well. "Well the campaign must be lively too!" she asserted, trying to brighten the mood. "How are things in West Podunkville, Iowa or wherever you are?"


There was another pause before Rory spoke again. "Um, great," she said, and hesitated before adding, "Look, maybe I should let you go. You're busy."


Lane's face fell. She definitely didn't think Rory sounded right, but Kwan was screeching an ear-piercing accompaniment to Zach's singing as the two of them entered the bathroom. Which, of course, had set Steve off crying as well. "I am busy," she admitted reluctantly. "I'm sorry, maybe you could call tonight?"


"Yeah, maybe," Rory agreed, though Lane was unconvinced that she'd follow through. "Okay," Rory said, "say hi to Zach for me once things are quiet again."


Lane glowered at that last comment and narrowed her eyes in Zach's direction even as she said, "Will do." Trying once more to calm Steve, she added as an afterthought to Rory, "And say hi to Barack for me!"


"Right," Rory replied, sounding rather dejected. "See ya."


"Bye Rory," said Lane, though she wasn't even sure if Rory had stayed on the line long enough to hear it. She allowed herself about ten seconds of worrying about her friend before the racket from Zach's singing and two screaming infants once again became her priority. She quickly finished drying Steve off and set about diapering and dressing him. Glaring over her shoulder to where Zach had Kwan in the tub, she asked less than politely, "Zach, what are you doing?" When he didn't respond, she followed it up with an exasperated "Zach! You know Kwan needs the sensitive skin stuff!"


Zach stopped singing long enough to cast her a chagrined look. "Oh, dude, you're right. Sorry babe." He quickly rinsed off the soap and fumbled with the baby wash bottle, while Kwan continued his squealing.


As he dribbled some of the liquid across Kwan's belly, Zach resumed his song, prompting another exasperated "Zach!" from Lane.


"Hey, Lane, chill, man," argued Zach. "He's got a good rhythm going, don't ruin it. We could totally use it as background on an album."


At that Lane let out a piercing shriek. "That's it!" she cried. "Out!" Though he was still undiapered, she set Steve in his bouncy seat and stomped across the room. Grabbing Kwan from Zach, she pushed her husband in the direction of the door. "Go!"


"Babe," Zach protested, "I'm just trying to help!"


Lane shook her head resolutely, pushing even harder. "You gotta get out, babe," she declared. "Go see if Luke needs help at the diner or something." Even when Zach was completely out the door, he just turned back to her, looking forlorn. Lane just shrieked again, "Go!" and slammed the door in his face.


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That afternoon, Lorelai sat, less than thrilled, in the diner across from Emily and an array of brochures from spas all over Connecticut. Somehow her mother had managed to collect them all in the sixteen or so hours since they'd last seen each other, and now Lorelai was being forced to peruse them, in spite of the fact that, as far as she knew, she had never even agreed to actually go ahead with any changes to the Dragonfly in the first place. She'd already been trying to convince Emily that they'd be getting way ahead of themselves were they to start planning services they weren't sure they'd ever even need. The glare she'd received in return, however, was enough to get her to pick up one of the glossy pamphlets and skim obediently through its offerings.


"A back facial?" Lorelai exclaimed. "They do realize backs don't have faces, right?"


She flipped to the next page, expecting something extravagant, though not quite as outlandish as she ended up finding. "Caviar facials? Champagne facials?" She gaped at the page. "Are you kidding? The Dragonfly can't afford to serve that stuff as food, never mind to have people smear it all over themselves."


Emily merely lifted an eyebrow in response and gestured for Lorelai to keep reading.


"Makeup application?" Lorelai snorted after a few more pages. "No," she vowed, putting her foot down and returning Emily's stern glare. "No way is it going to be a beauty salon. Guests can deal with their own makeup and if they end up looking like Kiss that's their problem."


She continued browsing through the pamphlets, sipping the coffee she'd wrangled out of Luke despite the fact that she'd already downed more than a few cups since breakfast. She turned another page and nearly spit that coffee all over Emily. "Volcanic mud bath?" she snorted, bursting out laughing. "I'm sorry, do we have volcanoes in Connecticut?" she inquired incredulously.


Emily simply eyed Lorelai with a withering gaze over the rim of her tea cup.


Knowing she wasn't going to get anywhere just complaining about things, Lorelai sighed and forced herself to find something — anything — reasonable amongst the services listed in the brochures. A few pages further in, she smiled in relief. "Okay, see," she pointed out to Emily, "here. Massages are normal. And I'll bet Sookie would like the pregnancy one," she added affably, taking in some of the specialty ones listed. Scanning farther down the page, however, caused her to wince. "Yikes," she hissed, sucking in a quick breath. "These prices are really not normal though. Mom, we can't charge this much," she protested, laying down the offending brochure. "This is crazy."


"Lorelai," Emily explained wearily, as if it was a simple concept Lorelai should have known since age three, "places like the Norwich Inn will be your competitors." After a sip of her own coffee, she continued, reasoning haughtily, "You must offer comparable services, and it only makes sense that, to be profitable, you charge comparable fees."


"Mom, we're not on the same level as this place, never were, never will be," Lorelai pointed out in vain. "They're way out of our league." With Emily still stoic and unwavering, Lorelai snatched up the booklet again, and flipped through it helplessly. "We can maybe do plain old massages and facials," she conceded, seeing some of the more modest packages towards the back, "but— Ooh!" she squealed suddenly, all protests forgotten. "A coffee body polish!" She grinned widely, pointing down to the open page. "Me likes that one."


Luke happened to be within earshot, serving the adjacent table, and immediately barked a gruff "No" over his shoulder.


"But—" Lorelai pouted in protest.


Luke was firm in his coffee-scrub rejection, repeating, "No," as he turned to face the Gilmore table. Without another word, he plucked the pamphlet from Lorelai's grip and slid it back towards Emily.


"You stay out of this," Lorelai frowned melodramatically.


Luke just shook his head and headed back towards the kitchen.


As soon as his back was turned, Lorelai reached over and grabbed the brochure again. She cast one last longing look at the coffee scrub before refocusing on the larger issue. Flipping another few pages ahead in the book, she waved it in Emily's face. "But seriously Mom, tarot card readings?" she exclaimed. "You've got to be kidd—" Her protest came to a halt when her phone began ringing.


Or not exactly ringing, per se, a fact that Lorelai was quickly reminded of when Emily inquired curiously, "Why is there a man's voice coming out of your purse?"


"It's Barack, Mom," Lorelai replied casually, rifling around in her purse to find the phone.


"The Senator from Illinois is in your purse?" Emily deadpanned.


Lorelai groaned at her mother's intentional naïveté. "It means it's Rory, Mom," she said, just as she managed to grab her cell. Yanking it out of her bag, she shushed Emily with a wave of her hand. Grinning, she flipped open the phone and answered it gleefully, "Hey you!"


Her enthusiasm was not met on the other end of the line. Rory responded with a listless "Hi."


Lorelai tilted her head curiously and began to give Rory a joking reminder about laying off the all-night partying on the campaign trail when she caught a glimpse, out of the corner of her eye, of Emily meticulously copying down some of the more outlandish offerings from the various spa brochures. "How— Uh— Hey, hon?" she stammered distractedly. "I love that you called, and I don't mean to blow you off, but your grandmother is going to add a volcano to the Dragonfly if I don't keep an eye on her. Or possibly relocate it to France for easy access to the champagne for facials." As she spoke, Lorelai fought to keep the phone balanced on her shoulder while simultaneously reaching for Emily's pen and trying to hide the phone from Luke.


"Okay..." Rory replied hesitantly.


"And Luke is giving me the death stare anyway," Lorelai added, cowering slightly under Luke's watchful gaze. In an effort to at least show him that it was a worthy illegal cell phone call, she held up the phone, calling over to him, "Say hi to Rory, Luke!"


"Hi Rory..." Luke mumbled begrudgingly, waving at Lorelai in defeat.


"Luke says 'Hi.'" Lorelai smiled triumphantly. "Oh, and so does Grandma," she amended, catching sight of Emily's disapproving look from across the table. "Call me back later?"


"Uh, sure," Rory agreed. "Bye."


"Bye sweets. Get some sleep," Lorelai replied, wishing she could have talked longer. She snapped the phone shut and slid it back into her purse in hopes of appeasing both Emily and Luke.


It was Lorelai's intent to get back to the brochures so she could at least pretend she'd accomplished something and hadn't subjected herself to the torture that was Emily for no reason. But after a minute or two of feeling Emily's gaze boring into her, she couldn't help but look up.


"Do you really think it's wise to associate Rory so closely with that Senator?" Emily inquired snidely.


"Mom, she's already associated," Lorelai pointed out nonchalantly, reaching for another brochure. "She's covering his campaign."


Emily nodded in partial agreement, amending, "As an impartial journalist."


"That doesn't mean she can't like him," Lorelai replied, wary of where her mother was going with this. Cowering under Emily's inquisitive stare, she was beginning to wonder if maybe her mother and father had somehow gotten the mistaken impression that Rory's apple had fallen closer to their WASP-y political tree than hers.


"And does she?" Emily interrogated further.


Shrugging, Lorelai brushed the comment off. She really didn't want to sic her mother on Rory, especially if, as it sounded, Rory wasn't at 100%, but the last thing she felt like doing on top of perusing outrageous spa packages was to get in some sort of political argument with her mother. "You'll have to ask her," she said.


Emily opened her mouth as if to respond, but before she could say anything, she was interrupted by Zach, who had seemingly taken a liking to some of the spa offerings.


"Dude," he declared, hovering next to Lorelai and staring at one of the brochures intently. "I could totally use one of these stress-relief massage-y things. Life back at home with the twins is brutal, man."


Emily nodded in Zach's direction knowingly.


Lorelai just shook her head and sighed.


♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  


Later that afternoon, Lorelai and Paul Anka were studying the grim contents of the refrigerator, Lorelai seriously pondering yet another trip to Luke's, when she heard the front door burst open, followed by a series of frantic 'Lorelai!'s.


"Jackson?" Lorelai queried as she closed the refrigerator. She certainly didn't mind Jackson bursting into her house unannounced, but it was definitely a bit out of the ordinary. As was the flurry of activity she was met with when she made her way into the foyer.


Jackson had plopped Martha on the floor and was in the midst of dumping what looked to be an entire Babies 'R' Us worth of toys, clothes, and diaper bags next to her. Only when he paused briefly did he take notice of Lorelai's presence and greet her with a frenzied "My mother's not here yet!"


Lorelai, feeling as confused as Martha looked, bent over to pick up the little girl while muttering a dubious "Okay..." in Jackson's direction.


"She was going to watch Martha and Davey when Sookie went into labor!" came Jackson's next outburst.


Lorelai gasped. "Sookie's in labor?"


"Sookie's in the car!" Jackson cried in return.


"In labor?" Lorelai repeated incredulously.


"In the car!" Jackson corrected in exasperation as he stepped out onto the porch to corral Davey.


Her eyes wide, Lorelai jogged after him, and modified her inquiry slightly. "In labor in the car?"


"Yes!" Jackson roared, still trying to catch Davey, who apparently thought he was in the midst of a game of tag with Daddy.


"Well, go! Go!" Lorelai ordered excitedly, scampering down the stairs towards Jackson's car. "I've got them."


Davey was still running in circles around the yard, making Jackson cast one last wary glance in Lorelai's direction before taking her advice and climbing into the car. Davey caught sight of his Dad leaving and bolted towards the car, leaving Lorelai to dash after him. "Davey, come 'ere," she scolded as she caught hold of his pudgy arm. "The only birth you needed to be at was yours." Holding back the toddler she gave a smile to Sookie and Jackson as they backed out of the driveway, calling, "Call me later Jackson! Sookie, I'll come visit!"


Just as the SUV was making its way down the street, the door to Babette's place swung open. "Hey sugar," Babette screeched, "what's all the ruckus? Morey's takin' a nap."


Lorelai let go of Davey in order to wave. "Oh hey, Babette. Sookie went into labor early," she explained, "so—" Out of the corner of her eye, Lorelai saw that Paul Anka had wandered out onto the porch and Davey was making a beeline for him. "Davey, wait up," she called. "Sorry Babette, I've got to catch him before he gets to Paul Anka." With that, she and Martha were racing across the lawn to save the dog from being terrorized by the toddler.


Over her shoulder, Lorelai could hear Babette laughing, assuring her, "Aw, don't worry honey, you just let me know when you hear somethin' from the hospital!"


♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  


That afternoon, Rory exited her third bookstore empty-handed. There were plenty of things she would have liked to pick up, but given the luggage limits, she'd had to pass on them. Indianola didn't have much else to offer from what she'd seen, so as she meandered her way back towards the hotel, she figured she might as well try calling her mother again.


Unlike earlier, Lorelai answered almost immediately. "Finally!" she exclaimed, "I thought by 'later' you meant in like fifteen minutes."


"Uh," Rory interjected, "you said later. How was I supposed to know what that meant?"


"You're just supposed to know," Lorelai asserted. "Fifteen minutes and I totally could have convinced Emily that our 'meeting' was over and that I had to talk to you," she whined, eliciting a smirk from Rory in spite of herself. Lorelai's dramatics continued when she declared, "I was beginning to think you got whisked off to some undisclosed location."


"Why would I get whisked off to an undisclosed location?" Rory inquired.


"I don't know," Lorelai scoffed, "isn't that what happens in politics? I think Cheney lives in his undisclosed location. You never see him," she whispered conspiratorially. "I think he's dead. Or a cyborg. All those heart attacks..."


Rory cracked a brief smile again, though it faded when she turned a corner and found herself back in the vicinity of the hotel sooner than she'd anticipated. "Well, I'm not dead. Not undisclosed either," she confirmed, "just in Iowa. Dubuque yesterday, Indianola today and tomorrow."


"Ooh, sounds exotic," Lorelai gushed.


"Not really," Rory said. "Just a town. And there's a bunch of farms. And a SuperWalmart."


Lorelai laughed, "Of course." And sounding every bit the giddy Gilmore girl she was and Rory wasn't, she inquired excitedly, "So how's the trail?"


Rory hesitated a moment; something stopped her from going into much detail, and she settled for a noncommittal "It's okay."


Rory could practically see the incredulous face she knew Lorelai was making when she demanded, "Just okay? See," Lorelai stated matter-of-factly, "'okay' is when Taylor only has the hot chocolate mix with regular marshmallows. It's not the kind with extra marshmallows that you wanted," she asserted, "but it still has marshmallows, so it's okay."


Rory remained silent, waiting to see where Lorelai was going.


"You're on a national campaign," Lorelai finally stressed, as if Rory might somehow have forgotten.


Rory shrugged. "It's pretty much the same as always," she sighed, wishing she could muster up some of the enthusiasm that Lorelai was looking for.


"Okay..." Lorelai drew out cautiously, sounding rather skeptical.


That signaled to Rory that she'd done enough of the sullen teenager routine. Lest Lorelai start asking more questions, she forced herself to perk up and find a safer subject. "So what is this about you and Grandma?" she asked, sounding moderately more lively than she had.


"Ugh," Lorelai moaned, back to her melodramatic self, "she wants me to add a spa to the Dragonfly. Or at least a tennis court in a bubble. And she wants to be in charge," she finished in a pathetic-sounding wail.


Rory smirked. "Is that really wise?"


"Well no," Lorelai cried. "Which is why I don't want to do it! But you know Emily," she lamented. "She's a pit bull in pearls and Chanel. But, ugh, I really don't want to even think about that mess."


Rory could hear the sound of her mother shuddering even over the phone, so she took it as her cue to let that subject drop as well. "Okay, so Grandma's taking over the Inn," she noted aloud. "What else is up in the Hollow? Give me the scoop."


"Um, hello, you're little miss journalism," Lorelai pointed out, the unspoken 'duh' coming through clearly. "You do scoops, not me. Unless it's ice cream," she revised thoughtfully. "Then I do scoops. Multiple scoops. Big ones."


"I'm getting the scoop from you," Rory countered, finally grinning outright.


"Fine, you win," Lorelai relented begrudgingly. "Well, uh, let's see. Martha is currently ripping up my latest Cosmo—"


Confused, Rory cut Lorelai off. "Martha?"


"Stewart, yes," came Lorelai's next quip. "She was out of confetti for her latest crafty project, so she dropped by to shred my magazines."


Rory rolled her eyes at her mom's antics, clarifying her question the next time she spoke up. "Or Martha Belleville, perhaps?"


"Yup," Lorelai confirmed. "Sookie went into labor," she explained, "so I've got the big siblings until Jackson's mom gets into town."


"Wow," Rory exclaimed, reminded yet again that life goes on, and exactly how much of it she was missing being out on the road. Sookie wasn't even related to her and she was still lamenting missing out; she honestly had no idea how Darshana and everyone else could spend so much time away from their children and families.


Meanwhile, Lorelai continued rattling off what amounted to the Stars Hollow news ticker. "And Zach is back from his tou—"


Rory cut her off again. "I know," she interjected tersely, still a little miffed that Lane had been so busy earlier.


"Okay..." Lorelai repeated, obviously taken aback by Rory's harsh tone.


Rory winced, having let that remark and its associated bitterness slip unintentionally. For a moment she thought she'd escaped further questioning, but sure enough, Lorelai eventually broke the silence. "Are you sure everything is okay?" she asked, sounding concerned.


"I'm fi—" Rory started to insist, but found herself getting cut off by her mother this time.


"What the—?" Lorelai wondered aloud.


Clueless as to what was going on, Rory uttered an eloquent "Huh?" back at Lorelai.


Rory heard Lorelai sigh, then speak the one word that said it all. "Kirk."


"Oh," Rory replied knowingly, recognizing the ravings of said town lunatic in the background now that she knew what she was listening for.


"He's outside," Lorelai informed her, "yelling about an emergency town meeting tonight. Or one of those clown bleedings I keep hearing about."


"Ooh, intrigue," Rory teased. "I wonder what it's about. Maybe Taylor's going to announce his intent to run for president," she guessed.


"Politics on the brain much?" Lorelai chastised jokingly. "Someone probably just dropped a gum wrapper outside the market again, so we all have to get lectured on littering and pollution and global warming and Al Gore," she droned.


Rory chuckled. "Probably," she agreed. "So are you going?"


"Who knows," Lorelai lamented with a sigh, "I've got Davey and Martha here to deal with."


"You know, you should take advantage of those meetings," Rory lectured. "I now know from first-hand experience that not all towns have meetings quite as amusing as Stars Hollow's."


Lorelai snorted a laugh, and acknowledged Rory's wisdom with a solemn, "Duly noted."


The next thing Rory heard was a muffled "Hey!" from Lorelai, though it was directed away from the phone. It was followed quickly by a harried, "Ah, gotta run babe, Martha's trying to eat Cosmo now."


"Okay, bye," Rory replied, and snapped her phone shut. Over the course of the phone call, she'd made it all the way back to her hotel, which now loomed before her.


She wasn't looking forward to heading back inside, but knew she should probably try and get something of a decent quality written today.


With her shoulders slumped, she trudged into the lobby.


♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  


Lorelai poked her head into Miss Patty's as stealthily as she could, and quickly ushered Davey in ahead of her. As luck would have it, it didn't appear she would be getting lectured by Taylor for her tardiness; even focused as she was at maneuvering Martha's stroller through the doorway, she could still clearly make out widespread speculation as to the reason for the meeting. Taylor was busy trying in vain to calm them down. "People, people! If you would just be quiet," he chastised, "then I could explain to you what you're doing here and you could stop making up these hocus-pocus theories!"


"Then just tell us, Taylor," Patty pleaded from her spot on the stage. "Some of us have plans for Saturday night," she added with a salacious wink at no one in particular.


"Spare us, Patty," muttered Taylor. "Now if you'd all just settle down..."


As she scanned the crowded room for a stroller-friendly seat, Lorelai was surprised to see a familiar backwards baseball cap a few rows up, especially considering that she hadn't had time to cajole Luke into showing up for the meeting. She also noticed that he was conveniently adjacent to an empty chair at the end of an aisle. She herded Davey in that direction and slid into the vacant seat, dragging Martha's stroller up next to her.


"Hey, what are you doing here?" Lorelai hissed at Luke while maneuvering Martha out of her stroller.


Luke didn't answer the question, but instead looked on dubiously as Davey parked himself on the floor with a fleet of Matchbox cars. "What are they doing here?" he asked.


"Jackson and Sookie had to book it to the delivery room," Lorelai explained hurriedly, "so I—"


"Lorelai..." Taylor scolded, looking pointedly at his watch for emphasis.


A smirk threatened on Lorelai's face as she fought to appear contrite. "Sorry," she apologized, "carry on."


"Now," Taylor began, pausing to straighten his cardigan, "it has come to my attention that the newest citizen of Stars Hollow is making its way into the world this evening."


Much to Taylor's chagrin, the room burst into a chorus of varied shouts, cheers, and clapping. "Yes, yes, sure, yippee, wahoo," he mimicked with sarcasm. "Congratulations Sookie and Jackson. But people," he urged, "this is why we need to have this meeting — look around you, we have our newest resident's siblings over there," he pointed towards Lorelai, "Lane has twins, there is yet another Banyan child on the way, Liz and TJ have their daughter—"


From the opposite corner of the room, TJ leapt to his feet out of nowhere, interrupting Taylor. "Yeah!" he hooted, "and we're working on another one!"


Luke dropped his head into his palms. "I didn't need to know that," he grumbled.


"This is exactly what I mean, people!" Taylor cried, shaking his head in disappointment. "This virtual baby boom in Stars Hollow will become not a boom boon — but a hindrance, people, to our economy when we have scores of unruly children running around," he lectured. "And any parents chasing after them will have been taken away from an otherwise profitable business or tourist draw. If we want to compete with Woodbridge and Litchfield, we need Stars Hollow to remain the quaint, picturesque town that our visitors know it to be!"


Lane immediately leapt to her feet in protest. "You can't tell people how many kids to have!"


Across the room, Gypsy scoffed, "Population control?" Patty just shook her head, muttering "Oy, Taylor..." while Babette lamented aloud, "Aw shucks, I shouldn't 'a' said nothin' about Sookie."


Amidst the clamor of protests, Lorelai leaned over towards Luke and, irked by Taylor's audacity, whispered, "Is he serious?"


She didn't get a chance to hear if Luke had anything to say, for no sooner had she gotten her question out had Kirk stood up and started to shout above the din. "Taylor, if you're worried about parents having to take care of all of their offspring, let me offer my services as a certified child care specialist. I've taken Red Cross courses," he declared, "and have been fingerprinted by the state. I also have experience walking dogs—"


"Ah, that's wonderful Kirk," Taylor shushed Kirk patronizingly. "No one will be needing your services, because I," he announced with glee, "have a preemptive solution to a surge in future births in Stars Hollow."


Heads turned and hushed murmurs made their way around the dance studio as Taylor dragged a large easel covered in fabric to the center of the stage. With a flourish, he yanked the sheet off the display, announcing, "As you all know, the Stars Hollow High's Annual Family Health Fair is next week." After a dramatic pause, he added, "And I would like to enlist two of our esteemed citizens to give presentations on birth control and family planning to the rest of their fellow Stars Hollowans."


That notion alone elicited snickers from many audience members, Lorelai included. Taylor glowered threateningly, but continued. "As we all know, Luke and Lorelai have had 'indiscretions' in the past," he explained, complete with air quotes. "Luckily those indiscretions have turned out to be charming young ladies—"


Lorelai's jaw dropped upon hearing their names. She heard Luke take a deep breath beside her and mutter to himself, "What the..." as he let a hand drop to her thigh, gripping tightly. Her own eyes had gone wide at the uncanny sense of déjà vu.


Nevertheless, Taylor continued on, undaunted. "And, in recent years — both together and apart," he stressed, "they have each managed to, how shall we say this... prevent any further indiscretions of that sort, thereby doing their part to keep the population of Stars Hollow from expanding, which is a fine example for the rest of you." He finished proudly as Lorelai's mouth hung even farther open.


Squinting in Lorelai's direction, Taylor waved a finger as his face scrunched up in disdain. "You'll have to leave those with someone else, of course," he said, gesturing to Davey playing on the floor and Martha in Lorelai's lap.


"But Taylor," Babette shouted, "they ain't gonna stay that way long! Look at the two of 'em," she exclaimed, turning around to beam at the shell-shocked couple.


Up near the podium, Patty voiced her agreement wistfully, "Oh the babies they'll make..."


Lorelai sat, stunned, as similar comments from the rest of the town followed. The next thing she knew, Kirk had appeared from across the room and was shoving a small piece of paper into Luke's hand. "Luke," he stated, "here's my card for all of your future baby-sitting needs."


"How do you have cards made already?" Luke spluttered, his voice jumping an octave. Turning away from Kirk, he stepped out into the aisle and began yelling harshly at Taylor, at Babette, at whomever his gaze landed upon. "This is insane!" he shouted, "You people are crazy! This stuff is none of your business!"


Lorelai would have tried to calm him down had she not been quite so thrown herself. Without her to restrain him, Luke soon stomped out of the studio.


She took that as her cue to follow him, so she quickly put Martha in her stroller, gathered up Davey and his toys, and headed for the door, pointedly ignoring Taylor as he called after her, "Don't forget to take a free limited edition Stars Hollow condom from the basket near the door!"


♫   ♫   ♫  


By the time Lorelai made it outside with the kids in tow, Luke had gotten quite a head start. On the sidewalk in front of Patty's, Lorelai squinted in the dimming light and scanned the streets, finally locating him across the square, apparently heading for the lake. "Hey!" she called after him. "Luke, where are you going?"


He didn't slow down at all, or even seem to hear her, so Lorelai grabbed for Davey's hand, and with her other hand pushing the stroller, took off after Luke. Cutting across the square helped her make up some ground, but was not the easiest task in the world. "Would you slow down?" she implored, slightly out of breath as she jogged the last few steps to Luke. "This is not an all-terrain stroller. Or toddler," she added when Davey yanked his arm away from her with a frown.


As soon as Lorelai had reached him, Luke whirled around, his face already red. "Can you believe him?" he cried. "How could he—?" he stammered, his arms waving. "What was he—? How many kids people have is none of his business! We've got the federal government listening to our phone calls and now Taylor is going to institute Stars Hollow's own one-child per family policy?" he raged incredulously. "And us!" he added. His eyes practically bulged out of his head as he continued yelling, "What the hell are people thinking? First of all, what we do is none of their business! But they're always going to make us their business, aren't they?" he asked rhetorically. "Of course they are. But they know we just got back together! They know there's no kids happening here!"


Somewhere in the middle of Luke's rant, though Martha remained rather oblivious, Davey had apparently registered that all was not well with the two tall people around him. Looking rather distressed, he attached himself to Lorelai's leg. Scooping him up, Lorelai quickly amended Luke's ravings for Davey's benefit. "No kids except these guys," she said brightly. "At least until Grandma gets here, right?" she asked Davey, silly voice and all.


Crisis averted, Davey grinned widely, giving an animated nod. "Uh huh."


Luke initially appeared confused by Lorelai's antics, so she eyed him sternly and nodded ever so slightly in the direction of both Davey and Martha's stroller. Realization dawned quickly on Luke's face. "Ah jeez, sorry," he muttered in apology and rested his hands on his head, elbows spread. "Sorry. I just—"


Lorelai shrugged, replying "I know..." though she really didn't know what to make of Luke's outburst. Sure, she had thought Taylor's plot was rather invasive, but Luke's reaction seemed overly volatile, even for him.


"Look," Luke sighed, visibly calmer, "you've got your hands full. I'm just going to go home."


Lorelai's immediate instinct was to ask Luke to come help out and keep her company while she stayed at Sookie's with the kids. But given the tirade she'd just heard, she held back. "Okay," she finally acknowledged.


With that, Luke was off, apparently lost in his own thoughts already. He did, however, turn around after a few steps, adding as an afterthought, "Let me know when you hear about Sookie."


"Okay," Lorelai agreed numbly.


"Bye!" Davey called, waving cheerfully after Luke.


♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  


Rory cradled her phone between her ear and her shoulder.  "Michael, I know," she said wearily.  "We discussed this last week."


"Yes, Rory, we did discuss it.  And your last piece was better. But I still haven't seen the drastic improvement I was hoping for," came her editor's calm voice.  "I know you have a unique voice, and I want to see it in your work.  As is, it's just too dry."


"Dry?" Rory repeated, holding her bangs up off her forehead.  "Well," she asked, trying to keep any edge out of her voice, "how do I make it wetter?"  She held the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes.  The lack of sleep was getting to her, as well as the lack of good coffee.  What she wouldn't give for a cup of Luke's coffee right about now.


"It's not 'wet' versus dry, Rory," Michael responded patiently.  "Your articles and notes are all the same.  It's redundant." 

And repetitive, Rory added in her mind.  "I'm just not sure what you expect me to do when every city, every speech, and every conference is the same stump speech over and over," she admitted. "Obama's not changing anything, so I really don't know how I'm supposed to."


"Which is why I hired you.  You're supposed to give a fresh outlook to our publication," Michael reminded her.  "And part of that fresh outlook is to put a new perspective on stuff that may seem the same."


"Michael—" Rory started to protest.

"Just make it happen, Gilmore. We'll talk later in the week, okay?"


Rory nodded, offering a weak "Okay" in return.


And then there was nothing.

Rory brought the phone down from her ear and stared at it.  Cell phones didn't even click when someone disconnected.  It almost made her long for the old-fashioned sound of a phone physically being put back on the cradle.


Laying the phone down on the bed beside her, she glanced aimlessly around the bland room. If she was going to be expected to write 'fresh' articles, she needed some fresh air. She quickly gathered up a few things, shoving them into her laptop bag as she tugged on her coat. When she exited the elevator and made her way back into the hotel lobby, she couldn't help but catch a glimpse of Meredith and Patrick deep in discussion on one of the couches. She sucked in a quick breath, her chest suddenly tight. Rory dropped her head and made a show of twisting her hair up in a messy bun while avoiding eye contact with anyone. At once, she turned and made a beeline for the outside door.  Leaning against the side of the building, she relished the cool night air. 


She sighed a moment later, pushing herself away from the wall and shaking her head. It was bad enough that she'd been utterly mortified by falling drunk into bed with Patrick and completely misinterpreting the whole fiasco, but she'd also succeeded in completely screwing herself over work-wise as well. So in one fell swoop, she'd succeeded in losing both a mentor of sorts and the only friend she'd really made so far.


As much as she wanted to be able to write it all off in her head with a sarcastic 'Great' or 'Super,' Rory wasn't quite there yet. She lingered near the hotel a moment longer, glancing back and forth dejectedly.


Eventually she started walking aimlessly, and, taking out her phone, scrolled down the list of names.  "Lane, Logan," it read. She hesitated on Logan's name for a split second, snorting to herself. Would Michael, she wondered wryly, have been quite so critical of her writing if she'd been only a wedding away from being a Huntzburger?


Rory hated that such a thought had even crossed her mind; she immediately pushed the idea out of her head and began skimming through her address book again. "Luke's, Mom..." She paused again on 'Mom,' her thumb hovering over the send button.  She wavered for a second, then shook her head, closing the phone and stuffing it back in her pocket.


"There's got to be something in this town," she said into the empty night as she walked down the street.  Her eyes darted back and forth, scanning the streets for a Starbucks, an independent coffee shop, a supermarket, convenience store, anything open.

"Huh," Rory said aloud as she rounded a corner and neon lights came into view.  "Ask and ye shall receive."  A big sign reading 'LaSalle Diner' loomed above her.  "Talk about service."  Hoisting her bag farther up on her shoulder, she headed inside.  She smiled halfheartedly when she saw a familiar scene: a counter with a cash register at one end and a long line of stools in front of it. Collapsing onto one, she dropped her bag beside her.


"Hi," she greeted the kind-faced woman behind the counter.  "Can I get some coffee, please?" 

"Coming right up, hon," the woman answered in a gravelly voice, filling up a cup and handing Rory some small creamers. 

"Thanks," Rory said.  "Are you Ms. LaSalle?  Is this your diner?" she asked, her voice a mixture of hope and wistfulness.

The woman chuckled.  "No.  My name's Cora.  I don't even know where the name LaSalle came from, honestly.  I just work here, honey."

"Oh.  Well, you make good coffee, at any rate," Rory told her.

Cora smiled and thanked Rory, turning to help other customers.

"I hear Obama's in town," Rory heard a voice behind her say, and she straightened up, listening intently.  "Are you going to hear him speak?"

"I thought it was just press conferences," another voice answered.  "Either way, though, I don't know.  I've seen his campaign online and stuff, and I'm really not thrilled. And I'm so sick of those stupid TV commercials. I swear, between him and all the other ones, they're on more than the shows are."

"He's better than the others," the first voice came back.  "Though not by much."

"What's the difference?" a third voice entered the conversation.  "It's not like Obama or any of the others actually care about anything other than winning the position.  Are any of them going to make things any better?"

Rory was thoughtful as she listened to these outsiders muse on Obama.  She took a sip of coffee, still catching bits and pieces of the conversation behind her. Well, she snorted wryly to herself, at least she wasn't the only one who wasn't getting rave reviews of late.


Plus, she'd finally found good coffee, so all wasn't lost.


♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  


Lorelai shuffled quickly down the sterile hospital hallway Sunday morning, scanning doorways as she went until she found the room number Jackson had given her. Peering around the doorframe, she saw that Sookie was awake and functioning, so she burst in with an exuberant "Hey you!"


"Hi!" Sookie replied wearily, her own excitement obviously tempered by the long night she'd had.


"How's that little girl doing?" Lorelai gushed as she crossed the room. "Did you guys pick a name?" she inquired, peppering Sookie with questions and joking, "Is it Lorelai this time?"


Sookie let out a giggle. "No." She nudged the bassinette next to her a smidge in Lorelai's direction. "Meet Wanda Violet Colgate Belleville."


Lorelai barely managed to stifle an amused snort at the 'Colgate,' and settled for muttering under her breath. "I knew it..."


"What?" Sookie inquired absently.


"Uh, nothing," Lorelai stammered. She recovered by directing her attention back to Wanda, reaching to pick her up. "Can I?" she asked.


Sookie nodded her permission, and Lorelai scooped up the newborn, cradling her as she sat down in a chair near Sookie's bed. "Sook, she's beautiful," she gushed, gazing down at the little girl.


"Didn't feel so beautiful," Sookie grumbled, though she finished with a smile as she conceded, "but yeah, she is." She reached over to pat the blanket in which Wanda was ensconced, asking, "The other two were okay?"


Lorelai nodded in confirmation. "Yup, we all stayed at your place and Jackson's mom took over this morning."


Sookie's first question quickly turned into a flurry of inquiries. "How's the Dragonfly? Is the Inn okay?" she worried. "She came too early and I—"


"Sook, it's fine," Lorelai assured her. "We had more of a plan this time than last time."


Sookie's expression remained doubtful. "So everything went perfectly?"


"Well, you know..." Lorelai conceded slowly, "English isn't Manny's first language, so when he typed up the dinner menus, we ended up with sh— oops," she caught herself, gesturing down to Wanda. "Impressionable ears... Um," she rephrased, "let's say 'crappy' mushrooms instead of 'shiitake' in the risotto, but we managed."


Sookie seemed to take that news fairly well, so after a moment, Lorelai continued. "And then there was this thing with no one showing up to do breakfast this morning..."


"Oh no!" Sookie cried. "What'd you'd do?"


Lorelai shrugged and offered her explanation in a purposely blasé tone. "I ran home and got a whole bunch of pop-tarts and that s'mores cereal to give th—"


Looking utterly horrified, Sookie cut her off, gasping, "You didn't!"


"No, I didn't," Lorelai replied, teasing. "I got a lovely spread of pastries and bagels from Weston's. But you owe me for all this missy," she glowered jokingly at Sookie. "Yes," she cooed down at Wanda, jiggling her the slightest bit, "your mommy owes me big time, for you and your big sister."


Sookie narrowed her eyes slyly in Lorelai's direction. "Like you won't get your revenge when it's your turn," she smirked.


It took Lorelai a moment to register what Sookie was hinting at, but once she did, she dropped her head in weary disbelief. "Not you too," she moaned. "Sook," she said frankly, looking back up to face her friend, "I'm not going to be checking in here any time soon, don't worry."


Sookie's face fell. "Why not? You guys talked kids last time you were together, right?"


Lorelai shook her head with fervor. "We're taking things slow this time," she affirmed.


Initially, Sookie seemed to have been placated by Lorelai's insistence, but her silence only lasted a moment. "Hon," she piped up tentatively, "you do remember you've got a pretty big birthday coming up next year, right?"


With a huff, Lorelai rolled her eyes in increasing annoyance. "Gee," she retorted, "thanks for the reminder."


"I just mean..." Sookie wavered a bit before finally spitting out, "If you wait too long, you might not be able to get your revenge."


"We're taking things slow, Sook," Lorelai repeated.


Sookie countered bluntly. "But you want kids."


"I—" Lorelai's had barely gotten the first word of her reply out when she got cut off.


"Or to at least talk about them?" Sookie jumped in, coaxing with a hopeful expression on her face.


"I know, I know, I know-wuh," Lorelai groused, growing ever more petulant and frustrated. She was as aware as anyone of the implications of her advancing age, but with what she felt was the tenuous nature of her relationship with Luke, kids weren't even a subject she let herself think about, for better or for worse. The last thing she felt like dealing with was anyone else, even if it was Sookie as opposed to the entire population of Stars Hollow, weighing in on her family planning issues. "Believe me — I know. Tick-tock," she imitated snidely. "But Luke and I are so..." She struggled to find the right word, finally landing on a softer "new. Again," she emphasized. "There's no way we're ready to be talking marriage and kids again yet."


Sookie, obviously not persuaded, lifted an eyebrow suspiciously.


"I'm not pushing it Sook," Lorelai reiterated adamantly. "Great as these little guys are," she acknowledged, cuddling Wanda for effect, "I'm not going to push things," she finished with an air of finality. "Not now." Besides, Lorelai told herself, it could all be moot anyway if Luke wasn't thinking along those lines anymore.


Lorelai's last comment had gotten Sookie to back off and Sookie remained quiet after that, leaving the two women at an impasse. The awkward silence persisted, as even Wanda failed to voice further opinion on the matter.


Lorelai, lost in thought with her gaze fixed randomly in space, finally spoke up in a hollow voice. "So what are your thoughts on a Mom-to-be spa package?"




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As soon as Sunday's morning briefing wrapped up, Rory tossed her notes in her laptop bag and darted out of the hotel's ballroom. Now that she knew what caliber of coffee was available elsewhere in town, she'd foregone the substandard offerings of the press tour and held out for LaSalle's. She scurried across town, hoping that between the coffee and the diner's comfortable environment she could actually make some progress on fixing up her most recent article. She didn't have much choice; the town barbecue Obama would be appearing at later in the day would take up most of the evening, and then first thing the next morning it was back on the bus to the airport. With the campaign heading to Nevada, the article about Iowa was going to have to get finished sooner rather than later.


Rory sighed at the prospect of facing a day of writing, only to inevitably get shot down by Michael later. But, as she trudged the last few steps to the diner, the smell of coffee was just as enticing as last night.


She made her way to the counter, mustering up a smile for the elderly waiter behind it. "Hi, coffee please?" she ordered politely.


The man, whose name tag read Howard, nodded. "Anything to eat there, miss?"


"Um," Rory debated mentally. She'd already had a few danishes at the briefing, but quickly reasoned that a little warm comfort food might get her in a better mood. "Yeah, sure," she acquiesced. "Pancakes?" she asked hopefully.


"Sure thing, honey." Howard nodded with a warm smile as he scribbled down Rory's order and handed it off to the kitchen. When he turned around, he peered at her curiously. "You new around here?"


Rory shook her head as she pulled out a notepad. "Just passing through," she explained. "Covering the Obama campaign." When Howard didn't respond, she recalled the less than favorable comments she'd overheard the night before about the Senator and worried that bringing up politics was not necessarily the best way to get in the good graces of the locals. "I was here last night though," she said hurriedly. "Cora was here; her coffee was really good," she offered.


Luckily that seemed to do the trick. "Yeah, nice lady that one," Howard replied. "My boy's sister-in-law's neighbor, actually," he added after a pensive pause. "But I'll let you in on a secret," he told Rory with a wink, "my coffee's even better."


"Can't wait." Rory grinned before turning back to her notes. "Actually," she piped up after a moment, "do you mind if I switch to a booth to spread out?"


Howard waved at her from down the counter where he was delivering another customer's breakfast. "Sure thing, if you can find an empty one."


Rory picked up her bag and mug with a quiet "Thanks" and turned around to scan the restaurant. To her dismay, the only open booth was neither isolated nor peaceful looking; the Sunday brunch crowd was out in full force.


Still, she headed over to the table and began spreading out her work.


Not thirty seconds after she began typing did she hear a loud voice from the table behind her. "I'm only going to the barbecue for the free food. I couldn't care less about this Obama guy; he's just like all the others."


Rory dropped her head to her hands and sighed.


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As Rory climbed down from the bus after the ride back from the Obama barbecue, she skimmed over her notes from the event with a frustrated sigh. Listening to negative comments all day had done nothing to inspire improvement in her work, and she knew whatever she'd be able to come up with about the barbecue would be no better.


She made her way dejectedly across the lobby, resigned to yet another unproductive night of trying to write. As she neared the elevators, she just barely caught sight of Patrick behind one of the closing doors.


Waiting for the next elevator, Rory bit her lip, her eyes falling closed. If she was going to get any advice about her writing, she was just going to have to suck it up and talk to him.


♫   ♫   ♫  


Just a few moments later, Rory was pacing outside Patrick's room. After a few false starts, she finally knocked timidly.


Patrick swung the door open, and a surprised expression swept across his face.


"Hi," Rory blurted out awkwardly.


"Hey..." Patrick replied carefully, obviously not having expected Rory to be the person outside his door.


It took Rory a moment to find the words, and she felt her cheeks flushing while she stood there stammering. "Um," she finally spit out. "So I talked to Michael — my editor," she clarified awkwardly, "and I guess my work is still—"


"Rory, what are you doing here?" Patrick cut in, sounding slightly miffed by Rory's sudden appearance.


"Sorry, I just..." Rory apologized sheepishly. "Uh," she continued, clearing her throat when Patrick remained silent. "I think I need your help," she finally admitted. "Can we talk?"


Patrick was immediately on guard, taking a step back from Rory as he stammered, "Hey, I don't know if—"


"About writing," Rory interjected hurriedly. "Work stuff," she assured with a shaky smile. "I promise. And not here," she added, lest he take anything the wrong way. "I know a good place."


Patrick studied her carefully for a moment. Eventually he gave in, his shoulders drooping slightly as he fished around in the closet for his coat. Key card in hand, he exited the room. "Lead the way."


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When Lorelai trudged towards the diner after a long night of dealing with a convention of marionette aficionados, she was surprised to see Zach still there, and hovering oddly close to Luke.


Perplexed, she slipped into the diner, going unnoticed by both men. She was mildly amused by the frustrated expression on Luke's face as he tried in vain to escape Zach; from what she could tell, he'd probably been trying to get rid of him for a while already. Pulling out a chair at the table in the corner near the door, she plopped down and watched the scene unfold intently.


"Dude, this place is rockin' at lunch time," Zach insisted, following Luke around the counter. "Lane and I can totally both find stuff to do."


"Like find the money to pay you both?" Luke snapped. "And Brian, who you told me to hire? You were just taking over for Lane," he pointed out, also finally catching a glimpse of Lorelai across the room and giving her a half-smile of acknowledgement. "She's coming back," he added adamantly, whipping his scrubbing rag over the counter.


Zach ran his hands through his hair and his eyes were wide and wild when he looked back up at Luke. "I know man, but come on," he pleaded. "Those little dudes are great but I keep screwing everything up. Lane seriously turned into supermom while I was gone. She's got systems for everything and all I do is get in her way." He looked up at Luke dejectedly. "I can't sit at home all day. Lane won't let me near the twins, and she won't let me jam either. I gotta do something," he shrugged. "I figured the least I could do was work."


Luke shook his head. "Your little 'dudes' can't just be left alone. So you can't work at the same time as Lane anyway," he reminded Zach.


"Don't worry man, apparently Lane's got that covered," Zach said in defeat, pointing outside.


"I'll think about it," Luke finally gave in with a sigh. "But go home and try to help Lane," he instructed, obviously just weary of Zach's hovering. Glancing out the window, he added, looking slightly frightened, "And get your kid away from Kirk."


"Luke, you're awesome. Thanks man," Zach offered with a grateful smile. And then he dashed out the door.


Lorelai did a double take as she followed Luke's gaze outside. She just didn't want to believe that she was really seeing Lane's boys — or one of them anyway — in Kirk's care. Even when she saw that Mrs. Kim was there supervising and pushing the second stroller, she wasn't quite ready to accept that Kirk's child care service had actually come to fruition. "Was that Kirk and—?" she asked Luke, gesturing outside.


Luke nodded from where he stood behind the counter cleaning the decaf pot. "Uh huh," he confirmed.


"Why would..." Lorelai wondered aloud.


Luke chuckled before warning, "Don't ask."


"Okay," Lorelai relented, casting one last confused look in the direction the strollers had gone. When she turned back around, Luke had moved on to flipping through the receipts in the register, so she flopped down on the stool nearest him. "So," she inquired excitedly, "you wanna see pictures of little Wanda Violet Colgate Belleville?"


Luke looked up briefly, squinting a bit as he struggled with some mental math for a moment. He looked down again, scribbling some figures before he addressed Lorelai. "Oh, yeah, sure," he agreed, pushing the receipts away. Half a beat later, as Lorelai was fishing in her purse for her digital camera, he asked, dubious, "Wanda?"


"Hey," Lorelai giggled, "just be glad for the poor kid that Jackson didn't get his way with Colgate for a first name." Fiddling with some buttons on the camera, she put it into display mode and slid it across the counter to Luke.


As he flipped obediently through the pictures, Lorelai kept replaying the conversation she'd had with Sookie in her mind. She sat quietly for a while, watching Luke scan through the photos as she debated the merits of maintaining the status quo.


"Luke?" she eventually piped up quietly, almost surprising herself when she heard her own voice.


"Yeah?" Luke mumbled, appearing to be fighting with the camera controls, probably having pressed a wrong button.


Lorelai took a deep breath. "Are we ever going there?"


"You just came from there..." Luke said matter-of-factly as he gestured vaguely to the pictures. He didn't even look up from the camera, obviously missing the meaning of Lorelai's question.


"Not there, 'the hospital' there," Lorelai clarified with a wan smile at his misunderstanding. She paused for a moment, still clinging to the thought of 'slow.' "'Baby-makes-three' there," she finally blurted out.


Luke studied her for a moment, silently working his jaw. Lorelai was half-ready to play it off as a joke just to get him to have any sort of a reaction when he finally set the camera down and marched towards the door, growling, "I'm gonna kill him."


That was enough to get Lorelai moving. She had no idea what to make of his reaction, but she still thought it best to keep Luke in the diner for some sort of an explanation. "Whoa, whoa, whoa," she said, grabbing for his arm. "Who are we killing and am I going to have to bail you out of jail again?"


"Taylor," Luke snapped, "I'm gonna kill Taylor."


"Well, I'm not entirely against that," Lorelai acknowledged as she strategically wedged herself between Luke and the door. She began steering him back towards the counter as she continued, "but—" She let her words fall away, befuddled by the fact that Luke had somehow managed to make a mental leap to Taylor. "I'm sorry, how did we get here?" she asked, her features wrinkled in confusion.


"Him!" Luke exploded, "Taylor! Everyone! Sticking their noses in everyone else's business," he cried, arms flailing about for emphasis. "And now," he continued, gesturing at Lorelai specifically, "out of nowhere, you're coming in here talking about having kids!"


"So you don't want kids anymore?"


Lorelai hadn't meant the question as any sort of attack; she was curious more than anything. But it stopped Luke in his tracks, and he focused once again on her, seemingly forgetting about Taylor. "I— I didn't say that," he stuttered. "I said I want to kill Taylor — he's got no place in our — in anyone's — personal issues. If he'd just kept his big mouth shut," he lamented, sounding defeated, "you wouldn't be sitting here looking at me like that."


With a sigh, Lorelai let her eyes fall closed for a second. This was exactly why she'd not wanted to bring anything up. The last thing she'd wanted to do was to make Luke feel like she was putting any sort of pressure on him, or on their relationship. "Luke," she said insistently, trying unsuccessfully to get him to focus on her. "Luke!" she finally repeated, with a snap of her fingers in front of his face for good measure. "It's not Taylor," she insisted, "This is me here."


When that finally seemed to get through to Luke, Lorelai gave a weak smile and led him over to one of the stools at the counter. He didn't protest when she indicated that he should sit, and she followed suit, hopping up on the one next to him. She turned, squaring herself to him, and gave him a little kick in the shin when his gaze drifted in the direction of Doose's. "Look," she explained in earnest, "even if he hadn't brought up the insanity at the meeting, Sookie just had a kid." She shrugged noncommittally. "Of course I'm going to be thinking about it a little."


Lorelai could tell immediately that that didn't go over particularly well either. Luke's eyes widened slightly as he leaned towards her with an air of incredulity. "What happened to going slow?" he asked, sounding slightly desperate, his voice a higher timbre than usual. "And you're talking about having all this crap going on at the Inn with your mother," he added, waving vaguely in the direction of the Dragonfly.


Intent on making him hear her, Lorelai grasped Luke's wayward hand and fixed her intense gaze on his eyes. "Look, I know we're not there yet," she said firmly, giving his hand a soft squeeze. "I'm not there yet," she stressed, and with a knowing lift of her eyebrow asserted, "and from the look on your face, you sure as hell aren't there yet either." That seemed to ease some of the tension in Luke's face, so she continued honestly. "I don't want to rush things, so I'm not even going to go anywhere near the 'm'-word either — look how well that's turned out for both of us in the past," she added with a self-deprecating smirk.


Luke snorted a wry laugh at that comment.


"But, regardless of the 'm'-word or the 'k'-word..." Lorelai began hesitantly, still trying to keep Luke from taking something the wrong way or getting too worked up. "Well, put it this way," she started again, "reproductively speaking, you men-folk may have a shelf life longer than Twinkies, but there is an expiration date on things in this general vicinity," she reminded him, gesturing emphatically to her abdomen. "I mean," she smiled, trying to keep things from getting overly serious, "I haven't seen an actual month, day, and year stamped in little blue type on my butt or anything..." She made a show of contorting her back to try and get a glimpse of her own rear end, which earned a small grin from Luke. "But," she added, slightly more somberly, "I'm still thinking that date is probably fairly soon."


"You're not that old—" Luke protested automatically.


Lorelai cut in with a wave of her hand. "Take note — this is the one conversation where you don't have to pander to me by saying how young and stunning I am," she told him. "Lane is having kids already. Rory's generation," she stressed. She continued to make her case, pointing out, "Theoretically, I could be a grandmother soon. Seriously," she added, "you know I don't go around advertising my age or anything, so consider this a special public service announcement for you."


Luke eyed her warily, though she could tell there was a hint of a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "So you want us to be 'there,' later," he clarified, tugging on Lorelai's wrist to get her off her stool and closer to him. "But if it's too much later," he wagered, "we won't be able to get 'there.'"


"Yes," Lorelai replied, happy that he finally seemed to be getting it, but not realizing that she had unintentionally answered the first part of the question in the affirmative as well. Half a beat later she caught herself and spit out a hurried, "Maybe."


Luke eyed her skeptically.


Lorelai shook her head to clear her confusion, and after another moment she began again. "I—" The words caught in her throat. "Honestly? I don't know," she finally admitted. "Only if you want to be 'there.' And not now, anyway," she reassured Luke. "The expiration date thing?" she asked with a forced laugh, "Just food for thought. Food for thought for future consumption," she finished firmly.


"Food for thought?" Luke asked hesitantly, still not sounding quite convinced as he wrapped his arms around Lorelai's waist.


Looping her arms around his neck to reciprocate, Lorelai nodded decisively. "Food for thought," she resolved.


Luke studied her a moment longer before finally lapsing back into what appeared to Lorelai to be 'regular old, self-assured Luke' mode. With a slight tilt of his head towards her, he said sincerely, "That I can deal with."


"Good." Lorelai grinned in response. After leaning in for a quick kiss, she pulled back and tilted her head to the side, pensive. "Is it wrong that I'm hungry now?" she asked playfully. "All this food talk..."


Luke dropped his chin to his chest in mock disappointment. "So you want food for eating," he groaned, stating the obvious rather than asking.


"Mmm, yes," Lorelai moaned before ordering gleefully. "Cheese fries," she decided aloud. "With extra cheese. And extra fries," she amended quickly as Luke pulled himself to his feet. "Go go go," she instructed, giving him a swat on the rear for good measure.


Luke sent a warning glare over her shoulder as he rounded the counter, but paused once he made it to the kitchen doorway. With a skeptical look, he peered around the doorframe at Lorelai. "Wanda? Really?"


Lorelai smirked. "Doula?" she teased, "Really?"


Luke paused and rolled his eyes. "Well, yeah," he agreed before heading into the kitchen.


"And who am I to talk?" Lorelai called after Luke. "At least she didn't name the kid after herself."


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Rory smiled at Cora and grabbed the two mugs of coffee the older woman had just poured. Turning away from the counter, she headed across the nearly empty diner to the table where she'd left Patrick.


"Here," she said, sliding one of the mugs over to him. "You'll never survive on hotel stuff again."


"If you say so," Patrick replied, less genially than Rory would have liked. He obediently took a sip, and his eyes widened as he did so. "You're not kidding. You realize that every cup of coffee from here on in will just not be good enough."


Rory grinned genuinely at him for the first time in a long time. "Funny you should mention 'not good enough,'" she said, the grin falling from her face. "Because that's pretty much what Michael said my articles were."


Patrick raised his eyebrows over the rim of his mug.


Rory shrugged, lamenting, "They're still dry."


"Ah," Patrick replied with a deep breath.


"I mean," Rory offered hesitantly, trying to break the ice, "I tried writing in the shower, but my notebook just got soggy."


Patrick chuckled and shook his head with what appeared to be a sincere smile. "Well, let's see it," he said, waving his hand in the direction of Rory's briefcase.


Rory returned the smile and slid a stack of papers across the table.





To be continued...








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