Virtual Gilmore Girls

Episode 8.07 "Freakin' Happy and Relaxed"
by Lula Bo and wounded


Author's Note: Thanks to our readers for making this project worth working on week after week. And a big 'thank you' to sosmitten for her thoroughness in beta-ing this, and other episodes, and her dedication to VS8.



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Rory sat in her chair at the latest meeting in Arcadia Lakes, South Carolina, Senator Barack Obama speaking eloquently of his approach to public policy. Sipping a lukewarm cup of coffee, she doodled in her notebook, but still managed to direct most of her attention to the front of the room, lest the Senator had anything new to add to his usual speech. She was trying, as per Michael's suggestion, to mix it up a bit, write something different. Her previous attempts at what she thought were original pieces hadn't sat well with him, so she was back to the drawing board. 

As the Senator continued to speak, Rory felt her right pocket vibrate. She looked around nervously, but it seemed none of the other reporters noticed or, at least, didn't care, so she withdrew her cell phone.

Flipping it open, she saw there was a new text message from her mother:

"Hi kid. Wassup?"

Rory sighed, looked up to notice the Senator was still talking, and quickly typed back: "I'm busy. You'll get me in trouble."

After a couple of minutes, she received a new message: "Rlx. Im sure Obma wont cnfisc8 ur phone."

"Mom, stop using text-speak. It's people like you who are defiling the English language," she wrote back. 

"Hey, my msgs get typed fast. Ur tkn 4eva wth prpr pnctutn." 

Rory cringed as she typed. "Mom, seriously, this is painful."

"Ur insltng me."

"How am I supposed to respect you when you're barely using vowels?"

"Vwls r ovrr8td. How r u?"   

Lorelai had a habit of surprising her with calls and messages during the day, to check in, see how she was doing on the road. It was nice, given the long distance and the fact that they couldn't talk as much as they always have. But sometimes, her mother chose the most inopportune times: the  time she called at 3 am when she was unable to sleep, the time when Rory was frantically writing with her deadline mere minutes away, and now... 

Rory rolled her eyes. "BUSY," she typed, in capital letters, hoping to get the message across.

But when she looked up and listened to the lecture that was happening around her, the Senator was still not saying anything particularly new. She sighed.

"How are you?" she quickly typed.   "Fine. Luke's wrkng, Im wtchng, eatng."   "Mmm. Have a burger for me," Rory wrote, already drooling at the mention of one of Luke's burgers.   "Alrdy on my 2nd."   "Any news in the Hollow?" she asked. "I haven't had a chance to check the Gazette's website yet."   "Als Pncke Wrld havng 20 yr anvrsary, srvng pncks 4 1st time in 20 yrs. Taylr dcded on real turkeys 2 roam town 4 Thx-giving fest. Kirk n Lulu thinkng up themes 4 wedding."   "Anything interesting?"   "Luke alrdy put kabbosh on Luke n Lorelai theme. Star Wars not populr w/ Lulu. Krk's thnkng maybe a Lady n da Tramp theme...with actual dog costumes."   "No way!" Rory let out, an amused grin plastered to her face. Oh Kirk, she thought.

Rory hadn't realized she had uttered those rather loudly. The entire room—including the Senator, who had stopped his speech—turned to look at her.

"Sorry," she said, to nobody and everybody, and sunk down lower in her chair, embarrassed. Turning off her phone, she shoved it back into her pocket. 

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Emily quickly went down the stairs, carrying a folder containing the final plans for the extension. She and Lorelai had finally agreed upon a feasible plan, and were meeting with the contractor for discussions about the final design plan and a cost estimate for the expansion. She strolled towards the dining room, only to find it empty, even though breakfast was laid at the table.

"Richard?" she called, looking around. He never seemed to be around when she needed him. "Richard!"

"I'm right here, Emily," he said, startling her as he appeared from his study. "There is no need to yell." 

"Oh. So, I have a full day," Emily began to explain as Richard seated himself for some breakfast.

"Aren't you going to sit down, Emily?" he asked, gesturing at her usual chair.

"Oh, no, I don't have the time," she said absently. "I have my DAR meeting, and then the cleaners, and then I am meeting with Lorelai and the contractor at noon."

Richard shrugged his shoulders, opening up his newspaper. "Very well, Emily."

"I have a second meeting with Lorelai this evening, as well, so Geraldine will have dinner ready for you at six," she explained.

He looked up at her from his newspaper. "By myself? What about you?"

"Oh, I'll have dinner at the inn with Lorelai," she said with a dismissive wave of her hand. Emily was constantly on the go as of late, but she was enjoying being a part of something large. And there was the added benefit of spending time with Lorelai beyond their Friday night dinners. Emily looked at her watch and noticed the time. "Oh, I am late. Constance may attempt to start the meeting without me, I expect," she said wryly. "Goodbye, Richard," she told him, walking away before he could even respond.

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"There'd better be coffee in that pot," Lorelai warned, fiddling with her left earring as she ran down the staircase. She was already late for work, having forgotten to set the alarm. Again. And now her left earring was not cooperating; she could have sworn there was a hole in her left lobe just last night that now seemed to have mysteriously disappeared.

"Oh, you're an angel," she said as she entered the kitchen and noticed her travel mug already waiting for her on the coffee table.

"Good morning," Luke said from his position over the stove, making breakfast. 

"Morning," she said, walking over and giving him a quick kiss. She pocketed her earring, removing her right one and putting it away, as well. "You're up early. You really haven't grasped the concept of sleeping in, have you?"

Luke ignored her. "You staying for breakfast?" he asked instead.

She looked at him apologetically, reaching her hand up to his face, combing back his hair.  "I can't, babe. I'm already late. Michel's going to have my head or take over my office or something if I don't leave ten minutes ago.

"And then," she continued, with a melodramatic air. "I have a meeting with my mother. Two of them! Which means..." she began, looking away, not wanting to see the dejected look on Luke's face when she admitted she'd miss dinner.

"You're going to be home late tonight," Luke finished for her.

"I'm so sorry," she began sincerely, looking up at him.

"It's okay," he told her.

"I mean, I know we haven't had dinner together in a while but, I swear, things'll change soon," she went on. 

"I said it's okay."

"Just let me get through these next few meetings with my mother, and I'll be all yours," she vowed.

"That's fine, Lorelai."

"Really?" she asked, finally hearing him, looking up to see his face full of sincerity.

"Really," he assured her. "It's good that you're spending time with your mother."

Good? Time with mother? She couldn't believe that concept. "Explain how."

"You two are fighting less, and are working on a project together. She's accepting of your life, your choices." He looked down to finish his sentence, removing the eggs from the stove and grabbing the toast from the toaster. "And, you know, you could always put in a good word for me while you're at it."

"Aw, hon," she said, leaning over to hug him. "I always do. And you are too good. So, I tell you what," she continued, leaning her body into his, her voice taking on a seductive tone. "Try and stay up tonight. I'll make it worth your while."

"You'll be exhausted," he told her as he continued to assemble breakfast.

She couldn't even argue; damn but Luke was so practical! "Fine," she agreed, pulling away. "But tomorrow night, have your schedule free. It'll be just you and me."

"Tomorrow's my birthday," he said, sounding skeptical.

She matched him arched eyebrow for arched eyebrow. "I know," she said, grinning mischievously.

"Sounds good," he said with a smile.

"Okay, I am out of here," Lorelai said, slinging her purse on her shoulder. "Coffee," she said, grabbing her mug. "Food," she said, reaching as Luke shoved a bacon-egg-cheese sandwich in a baggie into her hand. "Kiss," she demanded as Luke leaned down and kissed her goodbye.

"Bye," he said as he lingered on her lips for a while before pulling away.

"Bye, babe," she said as she ran for the door. "And walk Paul Anka before you leave for work!"

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After weeks on the road, Rory still hadn't found a reliably inoffensive way to wake herself up in the morning. She'd tried the travel alarm clock she and her mother had purchased on that last, marathon day of shopping; it had a shrill, bleating beep that was not quite loud enough to startle her out of sleep but reliably woke her up ten minutes late when it finally pierced the haze of sleep. She'd tried every ring on her cell phone; it always woke her in a panic that her mother was calling to tell her someone was dead or maimed in a freak pumpkin-carving accident. The hotel alarm clocks were always too fast or too slow and never once met Rory's exact minute-and-a-half-ahead setting requirements. She'd finally decided to give in and use the wake up call feature of the hotel phone, but it still felt as though she were dragging herself awake every morning. The third day of setting three alarms to go off simultaneously, she sat up in bed, one palm pressed to her forehead, and whimpered to herself that it had never been this hard before.

She fumbled a moment before successfully hanging up two phones and slapping the travel alarm. She had a better system for orienting herself in a new hotel room the first night and morning than she did for waking up. She'd made it a practice to leave a water glass on the side of the bed closest to the bathroom and her latest reading material on the opposite night stand. It was the best way to remind herself where she was in the middle of the night if she had to pee. She'd remembered the water glass, but forgotten that, after finishing her latest draft, she'd been unable to stop her mind from running through it. To quiet her head, she'd found the latest episode of Bionic Woman streaming online and promptly fell asleep to it with the laptop resting on the corner of the nightstand by the bathroom. Swinging her legs over the side of the bed, she snagged the computer's power cord with her heel and caught her laptop just before it crashed to the floor. The NBC site was still up on her now-lit laptop screen; yawning, Rory minimized it and shuffled across the room to set her hotel coffee maker to percolating. She flipped the TV on and set it to CNN, keeping the volume low. Her horrible first cup of the day started, she headed to the bathroom to brush her teeth and shower. 

Yesterday had been a long day of travel followed by hours of grueling policy speeches, and Rory could still feel the scum of travel and her greasy Chinese dinner on her skin. She'd written a draft of her article while picking at a combo plate of pork fried rice and sesame chicken, pasted the document into an email, and sent it before settling down with a cup of coffee from the hall machine and the boring adventures of the new Jaime Sommers. She told herself now, as she started the shower running, to remember the Bionic Woman sleep remedy for future late night writing sessions, which always left her wound up. She combed her fingers through her hair, wondering idly if she needed a haircut. As she studied a lock of hair searching for split ends, she mentally ran through her day, wondering if Michael had read his email yet. And then a truly horrible thought occurred to her.

An inadequately sized hotel towel wrapped around her midsection, Rory scurried back towards the bed. Her coffee already smelled burnt, as it always did in these crappy hotel makers. She bent over the bed and laptop, trying to hurry her internet along with a whispered "c'mon, c'mon." The coffee pot gurgled as someone on the TV behind her wondered about Britney Spears' legal situation. There was a single new message in her work inbox, and Rory clicked the bolded "re: public policy" subject line. Michael's account had generated an out-of-office auto reply; she barely registered that he would be out until the following morning as she scrolled over to her sent box and clicked on the email she'd written the night before. It filled her screen, paragraphs and paragraphs of plain text—three pages of notes she'd culled together and drafted into something resembling a proposed series of articles, all regarding Barack Obama's history of pubic policy.

"Oh, no."  

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The assembled press corps were waiting for Harlan to bring the bus around; they were heading to a local factory for a meet-and-greet followed by a speech about greenhouse emissions. Rory sat on the curb, cradling her cell in the palm of her hand and trying to stem the panic still riding high in her throat. She'd barely had time to process her error before she had to shower, dress, and get her ass down to the bus stop with everyone else.

She flipped the phone open and dialed, heaving a sigh. The phone at the house rang until the machine picked up. "Hey, you've reached Lorelai. I'm sorry I missed your call, but I've been bamboozled out of my life savings by a Nigerian prince. But I've got an old guitar, and I'm out busking for spare change and sympathy. If you'd like to make a monetary offer for the film story of my life story, leave a message and I'll get back to you."

Rory rolled her eyes. "Mom. Real life drama happening here. Call me back when you've decided who's playing you in the movie. Seriously: this is worse than that time you put cayenne pepper in your cereal instead of cinnamon." She glanced furtively at the reporters around her, and, since they were either all on their cell phones, also, yawning, or making bored small talk with each other, she took a deep breath. Cupping her hand over her mouth, she continued, "I sent my editor inappropriate and potentially litigious material via email, and I'm freaking out! I need you to call me back, kill me, or find a way to hack into Michael's hard drive before he gets what I sent. This is not a good day, Mom. This is a Very Bad Day." 

She hung up, her cheeks hot despite the fact that no one, not even her mother, had heard her.

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In the early afternoon, Lorelai, Emily and Tom were seated in Lorelai's office, discussing the extension. Tom seemed rather excited over the plans they had chosen, as the inn was pretty much his baby, as well as Lorelai's. They discussed at length, Tom believing that the project could take a few months, and would definitely be done by the projected opening date in May.

"So, I'll pore over the plans, and I should get to you with an estimate by the end of the week," he told them as he stood up.

"Thanks, Tom," Lorelai said, standing up as well. " And may I remind you, being a loyal customer for three projects now, a Loyal Customer Discount would be appreciated!"

Emily rolled her eyes, echoing, "Yes, thank you," less bluntly than her daughter.

"We'll be in touch," said Tom, and let himself out of Lorelai's office.

"Was begging him for a discount really necessary, Lorelai?" asked Emily as soon as Tom had shut the door. "You know very well that money is not an issue."

"Mom, Tom's a friend. He knows I was just teasing," Lorelai explained, sitting back down in her chair. "And besides, it let him know that a fair price would be appreciated. He doesn't have to give us a discount, but I just put it out there."

Emily noticed a smile playing upon her daughter's lips.

"Why are you smiling?" she asked.

"This is all so official," said Lorelai with a shrug of her shoulders. "It's really happening."

Emily gave a knowing grin. "It is indeed," she agreed. "And you thought it was a silly idea."

"Mo-oom," Lorelai whined with a roll of her eyes. "I was just doing my thing where I don't agree with you. I couldn't let you down. What would you think of me?"

They shared a smile, when a knock on the door that interrupted them.

"Come in!" called Lorelai, and Emily noticed her daughter's smile widen as Luke entered the office. Luke's eyes locked with Emily's briefly before averting his eyes Lorelai. "Hey."

"Luke!" Lorelai said, getting up and walking towards him eagerly, giving him a quick peck on the cheek. "What are you doing here?" 

"I thought I'd bring you guys some lunch," he supplied. He then turned to Emily. "Um, I brought you a salad. I remember you liked it the last time you were in the diner..."

"Aw, thank you. That's so nice," said Lorelai, then looking at her mother. "Isn't that nice, Mom?" she pressed.

"It is," she agreed, though Lorelai's attention-span was so short when it came to her, it seemed, that the moment her boyfriend entered the room, the fact that they were in the middle of an important meeting did not seem to phase her.   "So, how are the plans going?" Luke asked them both, interrupting Emily's thoughts.   "They're going great, actually," she told Luke. "Right, mom?"   "They're going well," Emily agreed. "Very well, actually, and we have quite a bit of work ahead of us, so..."   "Oh, of course," Luke said, understanding. "You guys have work to do, and I have to head back to the diner anyway."   "Well, thank you for lunch," said Lorelai. "And I'll see you tonight."   She leaned forward to kiss Luke goodbye, and Emily cleared her throat, stopping her.   They both quickly pulled apart, and Luke's face turned pink.   "Um, goodbye Emily," said Luke. "I'll see you soon."

"Goodbye, Luke."

And he was gone.

Once he was out the door, Emily turned back to their project excitedly. "So, let's discuss color schemes!"

Lorelai sighed. "Yes, mom." 

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After Emily had left for her errands, Lorelai had a small bit of time afterwards to get some paperwork done, before her mother had returned yet again for more talks of colors and designs. They had been hard at work for two hours; Manny brought them both a nice dinner in Lorelai's office, and Emily sang the pork chops' praises. When Lorelai had mentioned, ever-so-casually, that the recipe was actually Luke's, and given to Sookie for the Dragonfly menu after some careful persuasion on Lorelai's part, Emily could not  contain her surprise immediately. She had primly swallowed, wiped the corners of her mouth with a napkin, and remarked that it was very refined. Lorelai smiled and promised to pass along the compliment.

They had been haggling over color schemes for nearly the entire meeting;  Emily had stepped out briefly to use the ladies' room to "freshen up," and Lorelai took the opportunity to stretch her legs with a walk to the kitchen. She was craving something sweet at the end of this particularly long day. She poured herself a cup of coffee and plated three cupcakes to bring back to the office. 

Emily had insisted that a schedule be established and maintained, in spite of agreeing to take a slightly slower approach a few weeks ago, and while they were on track with the construction planning and services research, they had yet to settle on a design scheme. And because Emily had an unbreakable hair appointment followed by a symphony fundraising meeting and this particular part of the planning phase had to be done today, Lorelai had acquiesced to this second meeting. As she sat at her desk and separated the top of one cupcake from the bottom, she hoped banking all the good will she could now would help her out with her mother, and her moods, somewhere down the line.  

"It is scientifically impossible for a woman your age to maintain the figure you have on the diet you eat," Emily drawled as she stepped into the office. "Really, Lorelai. You should look into nutritional counseling before you end up in the same situation as your father."

"I'll schedule that right after the fat flush and sunshine colonic, Mom," Lorelai replied. "Besides, one's for you."

Emily smoothed her hair and began gathering her things. "While I appreciate the thought, I should be on my way. I think this was a very productive, successful meeting, and I think we have done extremely well keeping to our schedule."

"Well," Lorelai said, her voice falsely bright, "we would not want to fall behind on decorating the as-yet-unconstructed portion of the building, I agree." 

"The planning phase is crucial," Emily said patiently. "Don't play dumb with me, Lorelai, I'm fully aware of your business acumen and this inn is testament to the fact that you have done this before and done it quite successfully. Which you did by maintaining a strict, non-negotiable schedule from the very start." She paused, looking at her daughter archly. "I'm not wrong, am I?"

"No," Lorelai admitted. "You're not."

"Good. Then I think we should keep the momentum going as best we can. Are you free for lunch tomorrow? We should get together and continue this discussion."

Lorelai's face fell. "Oh, tomorrow?" she said, her voice high and thin. "Well, tomorrow's kind of—I have some things going on that I can't reschedule."

"Do any of them happen to be during your lunch hour?" Emily asked.

"Well, nooo," Lorelai replied. She stuck her finger into the frosting of the second cupcake, hooked up a little of the sugary mess, and stuck the tip of her finger in her mouth to stall for time. She spoke hiding behind her hand. "But I have a lot going on."

"Not at lunch, though," Emily persisted.

"No, not at lunch," she admitted. "I can take a lunch meeting, yes, Mother."

Emily beamed as she drew on her coat. "Excellent. Don't forget to bring the fabric sample book, or there'll be no point at all."

Lorelai slumped in her seat, reaching for the cupcake again. "Nope, no point at all."

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It had been impossible for Rory to concentrate on anything the Senator said throughout the day. The fact that the speeches he gave that day were nearly identical to ones she'd heard several times over the past few weeks was small comfort, given what, exactly, she was obsessing over. It was a relief to board the bus and rattle back to the hotel, even more so to slide her card into the lock on her door and change out of her suit into a pair of soft pajamas. She settled herself in the middle of her bed, a cup of coffee in her hand, and stared down her email account.

It took her a few minutes of clicking through the menus on her email to find the "recall" option. It had not occurred to her to do so until a few moments into the day's events, and at that point there was no going back to the hotel. She sighed in relief and sipped her coffee as she slid her mouse through the other actions to the bottom. As she eyed her screen over the rim of her cup, a slight trickle of coffee worked its way over the cheap ceramic cup and dribbled down her chin to her tee shirt. Cursing, Rory reached back to place the coffee on the bedside table and fumbled her way to the bathroom for a wet washcloth. This particular souvenir from her European trip with Lorelai was one of her favorites, one she'd picked up at a hostel in Nice; it had a nose on the belly of the shirt just above some French that translated to "I smelled some stinky cheese in France."  Batting at her shirt front fretfully with the washcloth, she settled on the bed again. She frowned, seeing that the page was updating itself, though she had yet to try recalling anything. The site refreshed, and Rory leaned forward, her brow furrowed.

"Your message has been sent," she read aloud. "No, no, no, no, no!" She skimmed her finger over the mouse pad to view the sent message.

She cursed again, loudly, at what she saw. She had forwarded her email to the entire company. After a moment of horrified staring, she fell on her back to the mattress, covered her face, with her hands, and shook her head, chanting, "No, no, no, no, no." 

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Emily had just finished her breakfast by the time Richard arrived in the dining room to join her. He kissed her good morning and sat to his coffee and egg whites with a grimace of distaste.

"It's for your own good," Emily told him, off his look. "I was just telling Lorelai yesterday, nutrition is the answer to all major health problems, and if we had paid more attention to it earlier, maybe this wouldn't be such a concern now."

"Hogwash," Richard pronounced, pouring a generous amount of cream into his coffee. "If I have to eat the food, I'd rather not discuss the food, Emily. Now, before you rush off to whatever most important meeting you have this morning, tell me: what are you up to today?"

Emily removed her napkin from her lap and began closing the date book that lay open beside her plate. "Oh, you know, a series of meetings with the DAR about that cerebral palsy fundraiser—there's really no theme that seems appropriate, but it's high time someone make a decision and get to the important aspects of the event, like the food, the seating. It's all very tedious. And after that, I have a lunch with Lorelai to discuss the spa a bit further, a shopping appointment for our Christmas portrait and the symphony season, and most likely dinner with Lorelai, again. I can't see how we'll get everything done in a single lunch hour, there's so much to do, so I expect we'll need to continue in the evening as well."

Richard reached for the pepper shaker, his eyes lowered. "You won't be home for dinner?" he asked.

"Well, no, I can't see how, with so much to do."

He set the pepper beside his plate and folded his hands beneath his chin. "I'm concerned, Emily, at the amount of time you're putting into this project with Lorelai. Don't you feel it's encroaching into your life just the slightest bit?"

She studied him with cold eyes. "No, Richard, I do not feel that it's encroaching into anything at the moment. I'm sorry you feel that way."

"I am merely observing that these meetings are becoming—that you are—that is to say—"

"That is to say what, exactly?"  she asked sharply.  "Is my missing a meal or two that much of an inconvenience?"

"Of course not," he protested.  "I only mean to point out—"

"I realize that this isn't some sort of international business deal.  We're really just building a silly addition after all, so if it's really that important that I'm home for dinner every night I could call my daughter and let her know that my responsibilities at home prevent my cooperation in the joint venture we've undertaken."  She could hear the bitterness in her words even as she continued.  "I'm sure she'd be relieved, actually."

Richard gaped. "Emily, that is not at all what I meant—please, sit down, we can discuss this—"

"No, Richard, we can't," she told him. "If you'll excuse me, I am going to be late."

Richard pushed his plate away and sat, staring miserably at his wife's empty chair.

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Rory had not slept at all. Not even Jaime Sommers could knock her out. That she was watching a show on the internet only reminded her that there was an internet, and her enormous faux pas was just floating out there in cyberspace, just waiting to be read by any number of professionals who would, she was sure, never hear the name Rory Gilmore again without laughing. And then telling anyone in earshot why they were laughing. It would become a grotesque cycle of humiliation that would follow her to her death. She became convinced of this shortly after two in the morning and, until five, could not stop wondering how it would figure in her obituary. There were few people she could call that would, she thought, have the resources to help her and make her feel better. Rory wasn't sure how she ended up dialing the one person who probably would do neither, but she figured, if nothing else, the reality check might do her good.

Paris answered on the second ring. "What?"

"Paris? Hey, it's Rory."

Paris exhaled loudly. "I know who it is, Rory, I have caller ID. And, for future reference, if you're going to call me in between classes, it would best not to waste what little time I have on small talk. I have no time for small talk. I barely have time to sleep, let alone have some meandering conversation about breakfast cereal and what kind of milk I had in my coffee this morning."

"You sound stressed," Rory sighed.

"Stressed? Stressed? No, Rory, I'm not stressed. Trying to get through four years of med school in two with an added PhD is not stressful at all. I'm actually on my way to get an avocado facial and a paraffin pedicure at the local salon so I can become best friends with Jennifer Coolidge and learn life lessons that will help me make friends and gain position here at Harvard." She paused for breath, and Rory opened her mouth to speak. "No, I'm not stressed, Rory. The hives are just a natural product of how freakin' happy and relaxed I am right now!"

"Hives?" Rory squeaked. "You have hives? Oh, Paris. When was the last time you sat down? Or, you know, blinked?"

"I'll have time for sleep when I'm a triple doctorate and curing rare forms of cancer," Paris said bitterly. "What do you want this time?"

Rory decided just to spit it out. "I accidentally sent a really embarrassing email to my boss, then forwarded it to my entire company. I spelled public wrong. Like, forgot a letter, wrong." 

Paris snorted into the phone. "So?"

"So! I can't get it back, and now everyone will think I'm an idiot who doesn't know how to proofread."

"Well, maybe you are an idiot who doesn't know how to proofread," Paris observed. "Because if you weren't, you wouldn't have sent it to your boss with the wrong word in it. Get over it. Call your tech guy, have him log into your account and recall the email, and no one will remember it in a week."

"You think so?"

"No," Paris said. "They'll rag on you about it until you leave for another paper, but at least you'll have tried to get it back."

Rory slumped. "You're a comfort and delight, Paris." 

"Oh, suck it up, Mary. You'll live. Everyone in the world already thinks you crap ice cream, you could do with some humiliation," Paris drawled.  "Listen, I have to catch up with a professor before my next class. The idiot graded me half a grade down for what he called an improperly labeled chart in my last lab, but the man's half-blind if he thinks I'm wrong and I'm going to prove it."

"Good luck," Rory said. "Call me later?"

"Only if you'll stop being so whiny."


"Call you later." 

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Lorelai and Emily were laughing while they had lunch in the dining room, fabric samples ignored, as Lorelai told her mom anecdotes from when the Dragonfly was being fixed up.

"And then, Kirk decided he wanted to be in charge of drywall," Lorelai continued, as she took her last bite of chicken. "After the incident with the hammer, we had no idea how he managed to sneak in to the place, since we had put out an APB to all the guys that he was not allowed on the premises until the project was completed."

"And how did it turn out?" asked Emily, putting her dish aside and leaning closer.

"Disastrous," said Lorelai, recalling the time with a shudder. "I just hope Kirk's fianc? keeps him occupied this time around and he stays the hell away from my inn."

Lorelai could not remember the last time she and her mother had laughed and talked like this. It was refreshing and she was surprised that she was having more fun than she had hoped. 

Emily looked at her watch. "Oh, look at the time!" she exclaimed. "I am late for my manicure appointment. Marissa is quite something, I must say! Maybe we can snap her up! A spa always needs a manicurist!"

Lorelai rolled her eyes and gave her mother a smile. "Yeah, you do that," she said uncertainly. "Just please don't wag a hefty check in front of her face like you did the masseuse you saw last week..."

"I promise no such thing," her mother teased. "We'll continue this conversation later, Lorelai."

"Sure," said Lorelai, motioning at Derek to come clear their plates.

"I'll be back here at 6 o'clock sharp."

Lorelai's eyes widened. "Oh, not tonight, mom. I have plans," Lorelai told her gently. "How about tomorrow?" 

Lorelai saw her mother's face fall. "Plans? What plans?"

"It's Luke's birthday, mom," she explained.

"At what time?"   "Well, he was born at 6 o'clock in the morning," Lorelai began to explain.   "You know what I mean, Lorelai," Emily told her. "What time are your plans with Luke?"   "Well, there is no time, per se," Lorelai admitted. "But I have to head to Hartford, pick up the food, head back home, wrap his gifts, light a few candles... I was actually hoping to leave work early to get it all done."

 "Very well," Emily said. "I can be quick with my manicure and be back here earlier. And then we can head back to Hartford together!"   Lorelai noted the excitement in her mother's voice. "That's sweet, mom," she told her. "But I can't squeeze you in earlier.  I just have so much to do."   Emily's face fell. "This is important, too," she said coldly.   Lorelai noticed Derek's panicked face, and she motioned for him to leave, knowing it could get ugly.

"I agree," said Lorelai, definitely not trying to minimize the importance of the spa project and time with her mother. "But this can wait until tomorrow. My work and especially Luke's birthday can't."

"I don't have time for this, Lorelai," her mother went on. "All I ask is that you make time for me, for our project, and it seems you cannot take it seriously."

"I can't take it seriously?" Lorelai asked in a hushed voice, after some guests' ears had perked up at their growing argument. "I am here, I am making time, we are working on this project! We had no scheduled meeting for tonight, and I have plans! Ugh, why can't you understand that?"    "Oh, I understand perfectly, Lorelai," Emily said dramatically. "You always, always put yourself and your work and Luke first before your own mother!"

"Mom, I have been putting you and this spa project first for weeks now, ignoring Luke and my job."

"Well, pardon the inconvenience!" Emily spat out, Lorelai noting the hurt in her voice.

"Mom, I didn't mean it like that," Lorelai told her. "It's not a chore! But I could really use a night off from this project. So we will meet tomorrow!" she said with a tone of finality to her voice.

"Fine," was all Emily said, and she got up from her chair and exited the dining room.

"Fine," Lorelai said to no-one in particular, and slumped down in her seat.  

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Rory had been on hold ten minutes before she spoke to a real, live human tech expert, an adenoidal nerd named Henry. In her best professional voice, she explained to him that she needed to recall an email that she'd sent to her boss and accidentally forwarded to the world.

"So, can you help me?"

"Easy peasy, cheap and breezy," Henry said. "What's your account name?"

"It's under Lorelai L. Gilmore—L-l-gilmore-at-"

"Yeah, I got the rest," Henry said. He smacked his gum into the phone, and, after a moment, began to chortle. "You're the pubic girl, huh?" 

Rory sank to the bed, her hand over her eyes. "Oh, God. People are calling me the pu—that?"

He cracked his gum. "I don't know, but it's what I've been calling you all day."

"Great," she muttered. "Awesome."

"Okay, so this is easy to recall, but I gotta warn you—if this has been forwarded to non-company email accounts, it's gone. I can get it back from the general distribution list no problem, but it doesn't mean people won't have read it and sent it on to someone else, and if they've sent it, there's no recalling it from their outboxes, either."

"So you're saying it's out there. It's out there, for, like, ever."

"Eh, emails like this have a shelf-life of like, a month, maybe. When we get stuff like this, someone in HR usually recirculates the ?ead twice send once' form email we get every once in a while. Last time, it was because a dude in accounting accidentally forwarded a youtube link to the whole company for some video of an orangutan masturbating while standing on its head."

"So I have the distinction of following in the footsteps of someone who watches primates gratify themselves," Rory said dryly. "That's fantastic."

"You won't be the last, pube girl." 

"That makes me feel so much better," she told him. "You might as well call it back if you can. I just hope no one sent it to anyone else. Can you tell if it's been forwarded to someone not in the company?"

She could hear clicking on his end as he answered, sounding distracted. "You could google it. Give me a second here, I'll let you know when I'm done."

Rory opened her browser and clicked over to Google. After a moment's hesitation, she typed the phrase "Rory Gilmore pubic policy" into the search bar of the page. Most of the sites that came up had gibberishy descriptions; several were links to old articles she'd written for the Yale Daily News. Seeing one that contained a reference to "local girls," she navigated her mouse across the screen and clicked. The mish-mash of images that popped up on her screen nearly made her drop her phone, and as she tried to back her way out of the dirty site back towards google, more and more browser windows popped up with the same offensive material, and after a moment of distractingly over-exaggerated moaning coming from her speakers, the computer froze and then died.

"Uh, Henry?"


"I think my computer just crashed."

"Google?" he asked, his voice weary.

"You told me to!" she accused.

"All right, here's what you do," he began.

A half hour and many, many curse words later, Rory had her computer back on and the virus scan humming comfortingly as she placed the laptop back on her nightstand. She fell back to her pillows with a sigh.

"You're a prince, Henry, anyone ever tell you that?"

"Just my mom," he said. "You should be okay, but if you think you've got a bug, give us a call and we'll access you remotely. We set you up for that before you went on the road. We can debug from here."

"Thanks, Henry. I really, really appreciate it. Next time I'm in the area, I'm buying you lunch."

"You and every other green reporter with dirty pictures on her computer," he said. "You'll need to resend your original email to your boss—do a search and replace to fix that typo, and next time, Gilmore, proofread, okay? You'll save both of us a lot of aggravation."

"I promise. Thanks, Henry." 

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  

Richard wasn't home when Emily returned from the inn, still stinging from her argument with Lorelai. She checked on dinner and sent the maid home once the table was set; she wanted nothing so much as a solitary drink and time to gather herself together. She was lost in thought, her drink growing tepid in her hand, when she heard the front door open and shut. Richard grumbled to himself as he hung up his coat and took his keys from his pocket. Emily watched him orient himself in the house, the way he began to walk immediately towards his study but stopped when he saw the table set for two. Puzzled, he turned towards the sitting room. When he saw his wife sitting on the divan, martini in hand, he stopped in the foyer, his hands hanging limply at his sides. 

She gestured him into the sitting room towards a chair and rose to fix him a drink. "Richard, you're home. Good, dinner will be on the table in half an hour and you know how salmon gets when it sits. Lemon or lime for your tonic?"

"What are you doing home?" he asked. "I thought you had dinner with Lorelai?"

Emily rolled her eyes as she pressed a drink into her husband's hand. "Oh, that. Well, apparently Lorelai's social life is far too important for her to take a business meeting with her mother." Richard gave her a questioning look, and Emily sighed forlornly as she made herself another drink. "That girl is impossible. You ask her for one night, and she issues a decree as though she's the only one involved in this spa project."

"Lorelai canceled on you, I take it," Richard said.
  She looked away from him, studying the martini she held aloft in one hand. "Oh, you know Lorelai. Her priorities... well, her priorities are her priorities, regardless of other people." She glanced at Richard. "You must be enjoying this."

"You are obviously upset, Emily. I haven't the faintest idea what might be enjoyable about that." 

Emily rolled her eyes. When she spoke, she could taste the bitterness in her voice like a burned coffee, acrid and sharp. "Please, Richard. You wanted me home this evening, I'm home. You win. Emily's great adventure and mother/daughter d?ente has changed absolutely nothing in this household."
  Richard stood and crossed the room to sit beside her, taking her hand in both of his. "I am glad you're home, Emily, because I have missed you the last few weeks."
She tipped her head a little, conceding. "I'm enjoying this project," she said softly. "I like having something that's mine. I like sharing it with Lorelai. I just wish we were more—" She sought for the right word. "—more synchronized, more understanding. I feel like I never do know what's going on inside her head. Sometimes, it's like nothing's changed."
Richard squeezed her hand. "Many, many things have changed," he assured her. "I am confident of that. I am also confident that you and Lorelai will work out this tiff tomorrow or some other time, and there will be plenty of opportunities for the two of you to meet and plan your great adventure. She would not have agreed to do this if she didn't really want to."   "Do you really think so?" she asked, hopeful.
"I do," he told her. "I'm sorry I didn't give this the full respect it deserves, this morning. I just wanted to spend the evening with my wife." 

Emily nodded in chagrin. "I suppose I overreacted a little this morning."

"I think not unjustifiably," he admitted.

"I'm sorry," she told him. 

"As am I," he told her. "Now, let's put this behind us and enjoy our evening together."

Emily raised her glass to this, smiling wearily as she did.

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The rest of Lorelai's day was far-from-relaxing. After parting ways with her mother, Lorelai unsuccessfully tried to mediate a fight between Michel and one of the chefs whom Michel accused of cooking his lunch with regular butter instead of Omega 3 butter, and then tried to console Sookie over Norman Mailer's death, finally convincing her that adding his name to one of Martha's many middle names as an homage was just not a good idea. Once finally done with work, she ran out the door, Sookie's famous Apple and Honey cake in-hand.

There was traffic on the way into Hartford, and she got to Kebra Nagast, a vegetarian Jamaican restaurant that they had recently discovered and both, surprisingly, loved, an hour later than planned, ordering some food and storming out as quickly as she had run in. 

The drive back home was worse than she had imagined, an accident on the 1-84 setting traffic to a snail's pace. And when Luke called her from the house, asking where she was, she knew that her surprise dinner for Luke wasn't going to go as planned.

She got home exhausted at 8 o'clock, food cold and Luke amused and sympathetic. Her day was already bad enough what with her drama with Emily, and now her evening with Luke had been ruined, as well.

They managed to salvage what was left of the evening, popping their dinner into the microwave and then diving into the cake. After Luke had opened his gift—a few flannel shirts, some cologne, a new cook book—they popped in Field of Dreams (the birthday boy's movie choice) and pretty much talked over it, Lorelai relaying the events of earlier that day.

Once the remnants of their party were cleared, they headed upstairs for bed. Too tired for anything but sleep, they slipped into their pajamas. Lorelai eyed Luke as he turned off the bedroom lights and crawled in next to her.

"So, you like your presents?" she asked him hopefully as he lay down.

"I love my presents," he assured her.

"And you liked the cake?"

"It was good cake."

"And the food?" she asked. 

Luke chuckled. "Not-so-great reheated, but still good."

Lorelai smiled. "I'm glad." 

He smiled back at her. "Thank you. You didn't have to go through all the trouble, but I was happy to spend tonight with you."

"You're welcome," she told him, leaning in for a kiss. "And I'm sorry I've been a downer all evening."

"Hey, it was understandable," he said. "And I'm sorry you and your mom fought. I'm even sorrier that my birthday started it." 

"Aw, hon. It wasn't about you," she assured him. "This had less to do with you, and was more about Emily."   Lorelai turned her body to look up at the ceiling, letting out a sigh. She was just so tired, and a break at home—with Luke, preferably—was just what she needed. She wished her mother would understand. Lorelai knew very little about how to please Emily Gilmore; only able to disappoint, no matter her intentions. She'd been trying so hard to forge some semblance of a bond with her mother—for Rory's sake, as well as her own—and it truly seemed to be a fruitless effort.   "Hey, you two will work it out," he assured her, reaching his arm out and running a finger down her cheek.   She wished she could believe him. "Let's not talk about Emily right now," she told him, scooting closer to him in bed and wrapping her leg around him. "I wouldn't have missed tonight for anything, you know that."

He smiled and wrapped his arms around her. "I know."

"Good," she said. "And I'd give you the rest of your present tonight, but I'm way too pooped. It'll have to wait until tomorrow."

"I can't wait," he said with a wink. "So, we sleep?"

"We sleep," she echoed, reaching over the bedside lamp and drowning the bedroom in darkness.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   

Rory lolled on the bed, her face flush, and she reached for another nip from the bedside table. "I gotta tell you, Paris," she slurred, "of all Henry's suggestions on how to fix my computer, the best one was that I go to a liquor store and get some fun sizes. Because they are fun."

"Yes, they're hilarious," Paris replied. "Are you still spastic?"

"Me? Spastic?" Rory asked, sitting upright, her mouth in a round, surprised O. "I am not the one, Dr. Paris, covered in hives righ' now, okay? You are the one who needs to get drunk and calm the eff down."

"?alm the eff down?'" Paris echoed. "You sound like a Calista Flockhart character right now, Rory."

Rory leaned forward, as though sharing a secret with her friend who was, at this moment, several states away. "This is the thing, Paris. This is the thing. The thing is that you and I, we take ourselves way seriously. Like, way too seriously. And, like, what is the fun in that? What is the sense in that? Why do we do that? We are killing ourselves, and it's not impressing anyone, and it is making us crazy and sad and all we want to do is go home and not do it anymore. I mean, you can only try so hard before your heart just explodes, you know?"

Paris said nothing for a moment. "Yeah. It helps to have someone to talk to, though."

Rory stared at her computer morosely. "You mean Doyle?"

"I mean anyone," Paris said. "Listen, you go to sleep, and I will talk to you soon when you're sober and a little less gooey with the self-pity. Buck up, Mary. You have a reputation to live up to."

"What, you mean other Marys? Like Mary Tyler Moore? You saying I'm gonna make it after all, Paris?"

"Yeah, Mary, that's exactly what I'm saying," Paris sighed. "Get some sleep."

"Mm. Take an oatmeal bath." 

"Night, Mary."

"Night, Paris."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   

Lorelai stood outside her parents' front door, her usual sense of trepidation missing. Now, she was determined, as well as a little concerned. Concerned that her mother hadn't showed up for their scheduled lunch that afternoon, but knowing full-well that it had everything to do with their spar the day before.

Lorelai also felt guilty for parting ways with her mother the way she did. Lorelai knew she wasn't in the wrong, but thought that she could've maybe, somehow, convinced her mother in a way that wouldn't have ended with them fighting. But, then again, what else did Gilmores do best but fight?   However, here she was, standing at her mother's doorstep. She always had been the one to take the few tentative steps at mending things with her mother. Today was no different; she hoped they could just forgive, forget and move forward with their project. There would probably be no mention of the issue at-hand. It's how things usually resolved themselves.

She gave a tentative knock and the door was quickly answered by a new maid.   She was ushered over to the dining room, where Emily was going through her correspondence.

She looked up at Lorelai, her face seemingly void of any emotion, although her eyes had evidence of anger, sadness. Lorelai had always known she must've been a constant source of sadness and disappointment to her parents, and always wished she could please them. Apparently, not agreeing to an unplanned meeting in favor of an important day in her boyfriend's life was another moment off that list.

She proceeded with caution. "Hi, Mom."

"Hello, Lorelai," Emily responded coolly.

Lorelai sighed. She promised herself she would not get mad.

"You didn't show up for our lunch meeting today," she began cautiously.

"I had other, more pressing, plans."

Of course, thought Lorelai, not even aware that she had uttered those words aloud.

"Well, clearly, spending time with me is such a bother. If you're too busy for this spa project, we could certainly call it off."

"Excuse me?" Lorelai hadn't expected that.

"We can cancel the plans. We'd have to pay the architect for his work, of course, but you could call Tom and tell him to put a halt on the quotation," she continued.

"What? Mom, that's not what I want!"

"It seemed like what you wanted yesterday."   "Mom. I want this. I am, surprisingly, enjoying spending all this time with you. But when you start making plans without telling me and suggesting I be late for my boyfriend's birthday dinner... I need some time for other things, some time for myself."

"You've been enjoying spending time with me?" her mother asked, a hopeful look on her face.     "I have," Lorelai admitted, her voice softening. "I mean, you can be tireless at times and pushy and condescending..."

"You flatter me," Emily said flatly. 

"But you are good at this," Lorelai told her. "And we work well together, and I need you. But you just have to accept that I have other things going on—work, a life—that can't always be put on hold in favor of the spa. Please understand that, Mom. I mean, when you and dad got back together after the separation, didn't you just want to spend as much time with him as humanly possible? You must know how it feels."

"I do," she heard her mother respond in a whisper, a slight smile playing at her lips. "Very well, Lorelai. I'll stop by tom—" she began, but caught herself. "I'll see you Friday at dinner," she corrected, "and we'll schedule something for next week." 

Lorelai smiled. "I'd like that," she said. "So, I'll see you on Friday."

Lorelai got up off her seat, and as she was about to exit the dining room, her mother's voice turned her back. "And I hope Luke will join us at dinner."

"He will, Mom," she said softly, touched. "I have to get back to work."

"Very well," said Emily, looking her daughter in the eyes before getting back to her task at-hand. "Goodbye, Lorelai."

"Bye, Mom."




To be continued...








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