Virtual Gilmore Girls

Episode 8.09 "Home Is Where the Heart Is"
by Rae


Author's Note: A quick thank you to Witchy. Without her help and encouragement I probably never would have finished this. And to the dynamic trio: Avery—for calming me down; Lulabo—for getting me to finally laugh; and Sosmitten—who is always there in the end, making everything better. Thanks.

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"I hate wearing a tie," Luke grumbled as he opened the truck door for Lorelai.

"I know hon, but it is a Christmas party," she replied dryly.

She couldn't believe it was almost Christmas. When Rory was little they would mark the day of her parents' annual Christmas dinner on the calendar as the start of their own celebrations. It was one of the few times she actually enjoyed being at her parents' house. The sights, the smells. Even she needed a place she called home for the holidays.

"Christmas isn't for two weeks," Luke stated, interrupting her thoughts as he started the car.

"But now you're part of the Gilmore yearly holiday tradition. You get to get all dressed up and sit with the grownups, knock back a couple of eggnogs and have a gourmet meal served on china painted with the little tiny Christmas trees.

"Sounds delightful," he smirked.

"And... I wore this little red dress, just for you," she cooed, in her best breathy girl voice.

"Okay, I guess there are some perks," he admitted, admiring her legs in the short skirt.

She twisted in her seat to face him and ran her fingers along the back of his neck, "And, if you're a very good boy, Santa will bring you..."

Suddenly the familiar sound of "Jingle Bells" startled them both. Lorelai grabbed her purse and smirked at Luke's quick look of disappointment.

"Hey, hon," Lorelai said as she flipped open her phone. "Guess where we are going?"

"We who?"

"Luke and I—that we."

"Oh. I don't know. Christmas shopping?" Rory replied without really trying.

"We're on our way to the annual Gilmore Christmas dinner," Lorelai said as she winked at Luke.

"Did you get him into a tie?" Rory asked skeptically.

"Of course. A red one. It matches my dress."

"Wow. Color coordinated dressing. I'm impressed," Rory quipped.

"We are a very impressive couple. And we like eggnog. So we're ready for the evening."

"Ohhhh, eggnog. And the plates with the little Christmas trees. And the salt and pepper shakers that look like Christmas ornaments."

"Wow. I forgot about those. Luke, make sure you check out the salt and pepper shakers. You need to get some for the diner," Lorelai commented, as he rolled his eyes in her direction.

"Their house always looks so pretty at Christmas," Rory sighed

"Yeah, it does. I remember your eyes would get so big every year when you saw the tree and all those presents."

"Mom. I was five. Please," Rory groaned.

"I'm still not sure if my father ever got over the fact that you thought he had a secret life as Santa Claus," she mocked, while Luke chuckled.

"Stop embarrassing me in front of Luke," Rory admonished.

"I'm not embarrassing you, I'm reminiscing."


"I miss you," Lorelai said softly. "It's the first time I've gone to their house for Christmas without you."

"Mom. You grew up there," Rory corrected dryly.

"I know, but..."

"It's not the same," Rory finished for her. "I know. It's so weird not being there," she commented sadly.

"You'll be home soon. You will get here for Christmas, won't you?" Lorelai said with a sudden panicky voice.

"I promise. Nothing will stop me from getting home this time."

"But what if..."

"It's snowing," Rory interrupted.

"Really?" Lorelai commented, sighing.

"Yeah, I'm looking out my window and it just started. It's coming down in those big fat flakes that makes everything look like a Christmas card."

"Not a flake in Connecticut. I can't believe it hasn't snowed yet. Just like last year."

"It's waiting for me to come home first," Rory said knowingly.

"So now you control the weather?" Lorelai asked, "I don't know Missy, I think you're getting too big for your britches."

"Well, maybe you should ask Santa to bring you snow for Christmas?" Rory countered.

"Yeah, I'll ask Grandpa to get right on it."

Lorelai grinned at Luke who couldn't help but snort at their conversation.

"Call me later. I want to hear all about your evening. Take notes. I want full details," Rory demanded.

"You got it. So what are you going to do tonight?"

"I thought I'd just hang out in my room. Work," Rory answered without enthusiasm.

"With all that beautiful snow to enjoy?"

"You're right. Maybe I'll take a walk. Check out the local shops."

"Well, be careful of strange men in red suits."

"How about strange men in Armani suits? Are they okay?" Rory laughed.


"I'm always careful, Mom. Have a good time tonight," Rory answered seriously.

"Talk to you later, babe."

Clicking the phone shut, she smiled a little too brightly at Luke.

"She'll get home for Christmas, even if I have to go get her myself," Luke commented.

"I know she will," Lorelai answered. "So, what Christmas carols do you know?"

"Why?" he asked reluctantly.

"For when we gather after dinner in the parlor around the piano to sing."

"You're joking, right?" Luke asked, looking horrified.

As they pulled into the driveway she decided she better let him off the hook.

"If I tell you there's no carol singing, will you try to relax and enjoy yourself?"

"Yes," he answered, relieved.

They stood at the Gilmore front door like statues, both lost in their separate thoughts. She turned to Luke to adjust his tie, and gave him a impish grin.

"Good. There is no singing. But expect other treats. What do you know about Cubans?"

"As in Castro?" he asked perplexed, as the maid invites them in.

"As in cigars," she whispered as they hand her their coats.

"Absolutely nothing."

"Well, try to look impressed."

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Sookie looked around the kitchen with satisfaction. She couldn't believe she had been away from all this for twelve whole weeks. It felt so good to be working again. It wasn't that she didn't love the time off and the moments with her children, but this was where she could create, let her imagination fly. And it felt incredible to be out of the house and on her own for a change. She wanted everything to be perfect on her first day back.

She was whipping some cream for her dessert, testing the texture every couple of minutes, when the phone rang.

"Sookie, for you," Manny called, interrupting her daydreams.

"Hello," she said in a cheery voice which suddenly turned into a frown as she could hear the chaos that sounded distinctly like her family.

"Jackson," she yelled into the phone. "What's going on?" she exclaimed, trying not to panic.

"I can't find the diaper bag," he answered. "Hold on, I'm going to put the baby down."

She immediately heard the cry of her little one, as Jackson picked the phone back up.

"Is everything okay? Why is Wanda crying?" she asked concerned.

"She cries every time I put her down," Jackson admitted after a moment. "And I can't find the diaper bag. I'm out of wipes."

"It's in the downstairs hall closet," she said distractedly. "Did you burp her?" she asked.

"Of course; I have done this before. you know. She's been fed, burped. She just needs changing."

"Okay," she said unconvinced, but she didn't want to keep him on the phone.

"Don't worry, I can handle this," he said. "Got it. Gotta go."

"Is everything okay?" Manny asked politely.

"Sure. I'm sure everything's fine," she replied just a little too brightly.

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Rory paused in the lobby, buttoning her coat and putting on her gloves. She wasn't going to stay stuck in her hotel room tonight, missing the holiday spirit.

The streets glistened as the freshly fallen snow covered everything in blanket of white. The main street was lit up and glowing and the Christmas lights twinkled in the shop windows, casting soft shadows on the displays. It was the perfect night for a walk, the air crisp and cold, but not frigid.

She strolled among the shoppers, enjoying the hustle and bustle of the city. Downtown Grand Rapids reminded her of New Haven. She passed a group of girls moaning about mid-terms and the memories flooded back. Was it only last year that she was shopping between classes, anxious for Christmas break?

She needed a break. A break from the traveling, a break from the endless speeches, a break from her editor. She knew she had finally found some common ground with him, had been able to give him the angles he'd wanted. But it hadn't been enough, at least not for her. She still found herself looking for that illusive something extra.

A neon sign caught her attention and she stood at the curb, waiting for the light so she could cross the street. The music store was a classic, something right out of Empire Records. Her first thought was that her mom should be here, that Lorelai would love this. She flipped idly through the vinyl until she found what she was looking for. She smiled at the familiar album cover, just as she had nearly six years ago.

She touched the record with gentle fingers, and wondered where that girl had gone. The one who jumped on a bus to New York City in saddle shoes and a plaid skirt in search of a friend.

"Will this be all, ma'am?" asked the boy at the counter.

"Yes, thank you," she answered.

On her way out the door, Rory knitted her brow. "Ma'am?" When did she grow up, she wondered?

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Lorelai found herself feeling overly sentimental as she wandered through the parlor and admired the tree. Her mother had outdone herself this year.

Everything was perfect.

She could almost see herself as a child, sitting cross-legged on the floor staring up at the tree. She had always been fascinated with the lights, the smell of fresh pine, the brightly wrapped packages.

The sights and smells brought her back into her childhood. She stood lost in reflection... staring at the tree...

"Ladies sit with their legs crossed, Lorelai," her grandmother admonished, as she entered the room. She had turned six that year, started first grade, and was officially considered a young lady, her grandmother had told her.

Her mother bustled around, running back and forth to the kitchen, making sure everything was perfect. They were waiting for Richard to come home, his plane was late again. Trix was anxious to see her son and Emily was frantic to have her husband home.

"What are my favorite ladies doing tonight?" Richard boomed as he entered the room.

"Richard, I didn't hear you come in," Trix exclaimed, as he leaned over to kiss her on the cheek. "How was your trip?"

"Splendid. It was splendid..."

"Richard, you're home," Emily interrupted as she entered the parlor. "I was getting worried."

"I landed the Weaver account," he said excitedly. "Everyone said it couldn't be done, but I did it."

"Richard," she gasped, "I'm so proud of you."

"Break out the champagne. Tonight we celebrate," he boomed.

"So what has my little girl been up to?" he asked, focusing on her.

"I've been good, Daddy," she said laughing, "I saw the sugar plums dance."

"I took her to the Nutcracker at the Bushnell last night," Trix explained. "Sugar plum fairies, Lorelai," her grandmother corrected.

"They can dance in my head now, just like in the story you read me," Lorelai commented.

"I guess they can," he laughed. "I brought you something very special," he said slowly.

"Can I see? Can I have it now? she begged, getting more excited by the minute.

"Lorelai," her grandmother corrected, "ladies don't jump in the parlor."

"Can I have it now, Daddy?" she whispered, trying hard to stand still.

"I think I can arrange that," Richard whispered back at her.

Taking the box out of his pocket, he handed her the black velvet case.

"It's not a kitten," she said with disappointment.

"No, Lorelai. It's not a kitten," he sighed.

She had been asking for a kitten for weeks now. It was the only thing she had wanted for Christmas that year. Both her parents had been telling her over and over that a kitten was out of the question, but she had been hoping that they would change their minds.

She opened the box reluctantly. The small diamond on the front of the heart shaped locket glittered against the gold.

"It's beautiful," she said politely, as he placed it around her neck.

"Richard, you'll spoil the child. And it's too big for her," Trix exclaimed.

"She'll grow into it," he clipped at his mother, dismissing her. "Do you like it?" he asked her softly.

"Yes," she answered, not wanting to disappoint him. "But it's not a kitten."

She repeated that a lot that year.

Her fingers ran over the locket she wore around her neck, touching the chain softly.

"Lorelai," her father interrupted, as he handed her a glass of eggnog, bringing her back into the present.

"Thanks," she said, giving him a huge smile.

"You look lovely tonight," he commented.

"You look quite handsome yourself," she countered politely, winking at him.

"You're wearing your locket, " he noticed, both surprised and pleased.

"Yes. It's lovely," she smiled.

"So, can I escort you into the dining room, young lady?" he asked, like he had asked so many times when she was a young child.

Grabbing his arm, she smiled up at him as they walked. "I really wanted that kitten," she whispered so just he could hear. After all these years, she knew it still bothered him that no matter what they had done that year, they could not make her happy.

"I know, Lorelai, I know." he groaned. "Would you like one this year?" he asked, teasing her.

"We'd have to put Paul Anka in therapy," she commented.

"Why would Paul Anka need therapy?" Luke asked, catching up to them.

"Because of the kitten," Lorelai answered.

"What kitten?" Luke questioned, confused.

"The one I didn't get her when she was six," Richard explained with a sigh.

"Oh, that kitten," Luke replied, giving Richard a sympathetic glance.

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Turning a corner, bags in hand, Rory spied the toy store with glee. It was a wonderland of sights and sounds, an old fashioned store full of classics.

She instantly thought of Gigi and what she could possibly find for the girl that she didn't already have. She flipped open her phone to make the call and as it rang, she wondered what his reaction would be. She hadn't talked to him in a long time. But he hadn't called her either, she realized as he picked up.

"Rory... wow, I wasn't expecting it to be you," Christopher answered with hesitation.

"Hi, Dad! I haven't heard from you in awhile and I'm in a toy store, in Michigan, and I thought I'd give you a call and ask you what you think I should get Gigi for Christmas," she blurted in one breath.

"Gee, hon. I don't know. She's got so many things," he answered blandly.

"I know. But I want to get her something special. Something she'll remember, you know. I never see her and she must wonder if she even has an older sister sometimes."

"She talks about you all the time," Chris answered quietly.

"Really? I miss you guys. We had a lot of fun last year," she replied without thinking, not wanting to bring up the past.

"Yeah, we did. It was the first time I really got to spend Christmas with you as a family," he muttered and she could hear the bitterness in his voice as her stomach began to churn.

"Well, you were always invited," she countered, and winced at how critical it sounded.

"I know, Rory. I missed a lot. I missed all of it," Chris answered solemnly.

She hadn't called to fight with him. She hadn't called to make him feel bad or let him make her feel bad. It was Christmas and he was her Dad and that was what was important.

"So, do you know what I wanted when I was five?" she joked, attempting to lighten the mood.

"The entire works of Shakespeare?" he replied dryly.

"No. I wanted a monkey. A real live monkey that I could dress and feed and carry around on my shoulder," she said remembering.

"I take it Lorelai came up with something appropriately distracting."

"Of course. She bought me a stuffed one that had pose-able arms and legs and I wore it draped around me wherever I went for weeks."

"Sounds adorable."

"She made it breakfast and read it a story every night," she continued, wistfully, wandering around the store.

"Gigi will love a monkey. And I promise to read to it but I draw the line at cooking it breakfast," he countered dryly.

"Wow. I think I found it. It looks just like Davy Jones," she exclaimed as she walked into the next aisle and saw the display of stuffed animals and puppets.

"That's what you named your monkey?" Chris laughed.

"It was Mom's idea. She said if we had to have a monkey in the house, it needed a proper name. She would sing that song when we walked down the street. It took me years to get the joke," she sighed, "but by then poor Mr. Jones was a thing of the past."

"You're both crazy; you know that, don't you?"

"Yeah. So I'll be home for Christmas for a few days. When can I see you guys?"


"What?" she answered, knowing that tone by heart.

"I'm packing. I'm taking Gigi to Paris for Christmas. We leave tomorrow," he said quietly.

"Well, it's a good thing I called you tonight then," she answered with false brightness. "I'll see you when you get back. Tell Gigi that I'll mail her gift to her. I'll even throw in a few books."

"Rory, I'm sorry. I'll miss seeing you this Christmas," he said earnestly, like he always did.

"Me too. Have a wonderful Christmas, Dad," she replied as she had so many other years.

"You, too. Tell your mom.... well, tell her happy holidays."

"Right, I will. Bye, Dad."

She smiled ruefully at the stuffed monkey as she pocketed her phone. It didn't take long to find some books appropriate for Gigi.

"Will that be all, Miss?" the elderly gentleman asked as he bagged her purchases.

"Yes," she answered handing him her credit card.

"Did you find everything you needed?" he inquired politely.

"Yes. Everything was perfect. Exactly what I was looking for. Thank you."

"Thank you, Miss. Merry Christmas."

Rory stepped out of the cheery store feeling deflated.

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Sookie had just put the finishing touches on her signature dish for the evening when the phone startled her. She glanced quickly at the clock, realizing guiltily she hadn't even given Jackson a thought in the last hour. She had been having so much fun this evening, cooking and creating.

"How's it going?" she asked instead of answering her normal "Dragonfly Inn."

"How'd you know it was me," Jackson answered, sounding offended.

"It's late, who else would call the kitchen at this hour?" she soothed.

"Well, I guess that makes sense," he muttered. "I can do this, you know. You don't have to worry."

"I'm not worried," she said smiling. "Is the baby asleep?"

"No," admitted reluctantly. "Martha's doing her Ethel Merman impression tonight. Did you have to teach her so many songs? Every time I get little Wanda to sleep, Martha breaks out into another song."

"Let me talk to her," Sookie said.

"Martha, Mommy wants to talk to you."

"Hi Mommy," her daughter bellowed. Holding the phone away from her ear, she wondered whether she needed to get little Martha a hearing test.

"Martha, Daddy's trying to get your baby sister to sleep. You need to be very quiet, okay? Did you put your pj's on yet?"

"Yep and I brushed my teeths. Even the back ones."

"Good girl. What's Davey doing?"

"He's watching TV," she whispered. "Daddy said he could watch whatever he wanted to as long as he promised to play with me later."

"Okay, baby. You go to bed on time now, okay? Listen to Daddy. No more singing tonight."

"Okay," she answered, hanging up the phone.

She really wanted to talk to Jackson again, but she thought she'd give him a little more time to settle the kids before she called him back.

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Lorelai smiled at Luke, trying to distract him from his nervousness. She was so relieved that her parents had invited Margaret and Henry Walters. He always laughed at her jokes and she remembered they were one of the few couples that always went out of their way to include Rory in the conversation.

The food was excellent, but of course that was to be expected. Emily certainly had impeccable taste, Lorelai admitted.

"Richard, how is business these days?" Henry Walters asked at the dinner table.

"I've had to slow down a bit, but I still have my hand in," Richard nodded. "I'm not quite ready to retire completely."

"Now if you'd taken my advice years ago and joined the Yacht Club you'd have more than enough to do to stay busy," he commented.

"I've never been one for the water, Henry, you know that. Golf's my game," Richard answered.

"Can someone pass Luke the salt?" Lorelai asked sweetly. Luke gave her a curious look, as he took the salt shaker from Mrs. Walters's hand. He frowned at her and shook his head. She was never going to get him to put salt shakers shaped like little bright red and green Christmas ornaments in his diner, she realized.

"Luke has a boat," Lorelai chimed into the conversation.

"That's right. I forgot you were interested in yachting," Richard agreed.

"It's just a boat," he muttered to the group.

"What do you have?" Henry asked politely.

"Twenty-foot Cabin Cruiser," Luke answered quickly.

"It has a head," Lorelai commented. "That's a..."

"We all know what a head is, Lorelai," Emily interrupted frowning at her.

Henry chuckled at Lorelai. "You fish?" he asked Luke.

"As often as I can," Luke answered shortly.

"The blues were running quiet well this summer," Henry continued.

"I didn't get out on the boat much," Luke said, "but next year I plan to take it out as much as possible."

"I prefer stripers, but I wasn't having much luck."

"Blues aren't my favorite either, but I have a great recipe for Poor Man's Lobster," Luke answered comfortably, in his element.

"Luke loves lobster," Lorelai said winking at him.

"In which marina are you berthed?" Henry asked with interest.

"It's in Bridgeport. But I'd like to bring it a bit closer."

"You must bring it to Wethersfield Cove. It's a great ride down the river to the sound."

"Thanks. I'll look into it," Luke answered politely.

"So, Henry, are you going to the Vineyard this year? We missed seeing you last year," Richard asked, changing the subject.

Lorelai noticed her father was looking a little left out of the conversation. Poor Dad, she thought, he really was a duck out of water when it came to talking about fishing or boating.

"I'll get you an application for membership at the club," Henry commented to Luke before turning to Richard. "We bought a place on Block Island. I've got a private slip. I can take the yacht down and the family comes in on and off all summer on the ferry. I should have done it a long time ago."

"Margaret, you didn't miss the Vineyard in the summer? You've been summering there for years!" Emily exclaimed.

"I really didn't. We were so busy. There are wonderful little shops to explore. I even joined the Arts Guild and took some pottery classes. It's quite an artistic community. I've become a patron for a local artist. She does the most beautiful water colors," Margaret said.

"Ever been to the Island, Luke?" Henry asked, bringing Luke back into the conversation.

"A couple of times when I was a kid. My mother had some family who owned a cottage there. We had a good time."

"Well, gentlemen, let's retire to my study and let the women have a few minutes to gossip," Richard said standing. "I have a 50 year old port I've been waiting to open."

"Luke," Lorelai heard Henry say as they left the table, "you really must bring Lorelai to the Island for a few days. Let us show you around. We'll do some serious fishing," he said patting Luke on the back.

"I'd like that," she heard Luke answer.

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She was not in the mood to shop anymore, but she didn't want to go back to the hotel either. She turned down West Main Street, looking for a cafe when a car came to a screeching halt next to her, spraying her with snow and slush.

Perfect, she thought, as she brushed off her coat, ready to make a comment to the driver. The young man, in his twenties, apologized as he exited his car and saw her standing on the sidewalk glaring at him. He opened his passenger door and took out several pizza boxes and nodded in her direction. She watched him ring the bell on the closed store front and she blinked as she realized they were standing in front of The Grand Rapids Press. The downstairs was dark but the second floor was lit up. The door opened suddenly and a harassed looking man in his mid thirties tossed some rolled up bills at the driver and called him by name. Curious, she called out to the man at the door.

"That for the newsroom?" she commented.

"Yup," he answered, balancing the boxes and the door.

She grabbed the door for him. "You need some help?"

"You want to come up?"

"Sure. I'm covering the Obama campaign," she commented officially. "I'd love to meet the editor."

"Right this way," he said leading her up two flights of stairs.

The newsroom was anything but quiet when she entered. The click of the keyboards and the whispered curses of the editors brought a smile to her face. The room was large. Desks were cluttered with empty coffee cups. Piles of papers, notes and mail littered all of the available surfaces of the room, giving the place a sense of ordered disarray.

"Pizza," the young man bellowed, dropping the boxes unceremoniously on a stack of newspapers.

"So, you're on the campaign trail?" he asked, handing her a plate.

"Yes. Rory Gilmore, The Critical Observer. It's an online magazine," she explained.

"Jack Kramer," he nodded, taking a bite of pizza, "managing editor."

"Oh, I..."

"You weren't expecting Lou Grant were you?" he asked with the wink in her direction.

"No, of course not," but she knew her surprise was evident.

"Deadline," he murmured, maneuvering her towards his desk. "Pull up a chair, I can multi-task."

She watched as he pulled up page one on his computer and started working.

"So where are you from Rory Gilmore?"

"Connecticut. I graduated from Yale this year, and I was offered the job with The Observer to cover the campaign."

"Yale, huh? Good for you. Fred graduated from Yale. When was that Fred?"

"'73," came a gruff answer from behind a computer.

"Fred Dawson, city desk." Jack pointed. "Lauren, cops and courts; Gene, obits; Marc, wire."

She gave a quiet "Hey," as she heard the appropriate grunts of acknowledgment from around the room.

She watched for a moment as he brought page one to life, writing a clever headline and flowing the story around the picture.

"So, online mag. The press of the future," he commented smiling. "It's becoming an electronic world out there. That's part of the reason you see younger people spearheading the newsrooms now. Everything's about the web. Online papers. Nightly blogs. Video. It's not just about print anymore. It's a competitive business. I'd like to think that there would always be a printed product, something you can touch and feel, smell, wrap the fish in... but who knows what ten or twenty years will bring."

"I have that headshot ready for you Jack," someone commented from across the room.

"Sandra, staff photographer," Jack noted, his eyes never leaving the computer screen. "Fred, are you done editing that?"

"All set. Above the fold?"

"Yeah. It will be the lead tonight," Jack agreed.

Rory sat back and listened, enjoying the back and forth banter. It reminded her of deadlines at the Yale Daily news, the nights in the Stamford newsroom. There was a tension in the room, an urgency as they approached deadline. They worked as a unit, shouting out questions, commenting to each other.

"Brian, are you going to get the late sports score in or are we going to have to replate?"

"We'll get it. Game's almost over."


"Who's got the blog tonight?" Jack asked to a suddenly silent room.

"Howard's on the schedule," someone yelled out looking at the board.

"Howard's not in," he grumbled, cursing a few times under his breath. "Sorry," he tossed off in her direction.

"So, Rory, how about giving me a little Obama lesson for my web blog tonight."

"I'd love to," she smiled.

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Sookie stood back and admired her dessert. It was good—no, great. She still had it, she thought.

Michel walked into the kitchen with the cordless phone. "I believe your offspring have taken over the asylum," he commented dryly, handing her the phone. "This came in on the main line."

"He won't play Dora with me," Martha complained loudly. "You promised," she said, starting to cry.

"Put Davey on the phone, Martha... now," she commanded.

"Hi, Mom," Davey answered innocently.

"Where's your father?" Sookie asked impatiently, as she made faces at Michel who was standing next to her, unabashedly eavesdropping.

"He's rocking the baby," Davey answered.

"Didn't you promise to play a game with your sister?"

"Yes," Davey complained, "but please don't make me play Dora."

"Then come up with something different. Something you can both agree on. It's only for 15 minutes," Sookie lectured.

"Can we play Crocodile Hunter?" he said after a moment.

"Can I be the crocodile?" she heard Martha shout excitedly in the background.

"I guess so," Sookie replied, wondering where he came up with such ideas. "But play quietly, okay? And I expect you to go right to bed afterward, mister. Or no TV tomorrow, got it?" Sookie said, laying down the law.

Hanging up the phone, she glared at Michel who was still standing there smiling.

"What?" she asked, getting annoyed.

"I take it things are getting a little out of your control?" he quipped, egging her on.

"I'll let you know this, mister," she said as she poked him in the chest backing him out of the room, "that I can do this. I can do it all. I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan." She pushed him the last couple of feet through the swinging door, turning quickly to walk determinedly back into the kitchen.

"I am a woman; W-O-M-A-N," she shouted, throwing her arms up in the air.

"Amen," Manny and the rest of the staff commented quietly.

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Short skirts and cold truck seats don't mix, Lorelai thought as she settled in for the ride home. Shivering, she wrapped her coat a little tighter around her body. Luke had blasted the heater but it took forever to warm up the cabin of the truck. He frowned at her for a moment before shrugging out of his black wool overcoat, draping it across her legs.

It's a crime to cover those up, you know," he said, dropping a quick kiss on her lips.

"You had a good time," she commented, noticing his relaxed state.

"It was okay," he muttered, reversing out of the drive.

"Did my dad try to give you a cigar?" she asked with a smirk.

He pulled a thin wrapped object out of the inside of his jacket pocket and handed it to her.

"You took it?" she laughed, "You don't smoke Luke. You hate smoking."

"It was a gesture," he replied, sincerely.

"Ohhh, I get it. You're one of the boys now," she mocked.

"I'm not one of the boys," he answered dryly.

"Your middle name is Louis, right?" she asked , confusing him with the quick change of subject.

"Why?" he answered slowly.

"I need to know so I can pick up your cufflinks and tie clip?"

"What are you talking about?" he replied.

"So LL Danes. That has a nice ring to it. Sort of like LL Bean. I know, you can be LL Danes in LL Bean," she finished giggling at the thought.


"Your engraved cufflinks and tie clip. You know, for the yacht club. You're in the big time now, buster," she grinned.

"I'm not wearing engraved anything," he contradicted.

"Good thing your middle name isn't Stephen," she continued "or the cufflinks would definitely be out of the question."

"No cufflinks," he said, laughing along with her in spite of himself.

"You know you're lucky my father didn't have another coronary when his friend asked you to come out to visit him this summer."

"Why? Was that a bad thing?" he questioned, looking concerned.

"He asked you to join his 'private boys that play with boats' club. That kind of leaves my father out of the picture, seeing he doesn't have a boat," she reasoned.

"Oh, man. I didn't even think of that. Was he mad? Should I apologize? I don't have to move the boat to Hartford," he replied panicking. "I thought he seemed a little uncomfortable but geez..."

"Luke, it's fine. You fit in with his friend," she replied. "That's a good thing," she said softly.

"You sure?" he asked, still looking overwhelmed.

"I'm sure. But don't be surprised if the Gilmores buy property on Block Island this summer."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  

"Thanks, Manny, everyone," Sookie told the staff as they finished the clean up for the night.

It had been a successful night. She looked around her kitchen with pride. She was exhausted, but it was worth it. She desperately needed to put her feet up and relax. The kids would all be sleeping when she got home. Maybe Jackson would be in the mood to have a quiet glass of wine with her to celebrate.

She was surprised when the back kitchen door rattled. Only Lorelai and Jackson had a key to that door.

"Jackson," she exclaimed, "what's wrong?"

He ushered the kids in the door, and she gasped as she got her first glimpse of her little girl.

"I tried to get it off, but it's really, really stuck," he commented, pointing to the piece of duct tape across Martha's little mouth.

"How?" she sputtered, trying to understand what happened.

"She was the crocodile," he explained. "Crocodile Hunter here," pointing to a bashful looking Davey, "was taking her to the zoo."

Martha bobbed her head up and down in agreement, her eyes smiling.

"Oh, baby," Sookie exclaimed, "let me try." She tugged on the tape as gently as she could, but it wasn't budging.

"Emergency room?" Jackson asked.

"Emergency room," she agreed.

"Hey, the baby's finally asleep," Jackson said in consolation.

"Great, honey," she agreed, trying to sound encouraging. She took one last look at her kitchen as she shut off the lights and locked the door. She could do this, she thought. She was woman, after all.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  

It felt so good to shed the heels she had been wearing all night. Lorelai groaned as she flexed her feet, letting her arches relax. She grabbed her phone and hit Rory's number as she moved around her bedroom. She opened her dresser, looking for a nightgown, frowning at how long it was taking Rory to answer her phone. The excitement of the evening was wearing off, the three glasses of eggnog making her groggy.

She was about ready to give up on Rory when she heard her daughter's voice.

"Hey, Mom," she quipped, sounding wide awake.

"So, you find a party after all?" Lorelai asked, hearing voices in the background.

"No, actually I went shopping and ended up in The Grand Rapids Press newsroom."


"Yeah, I just kind of wandered in here. Actually... they're on deadline. Can I call you tomorrow?"

"Apple tarts."


"Wow. You are distracted," Lorelai said, surprised.

"A little... no I'd cut that, hang on... sorry, Mom, I'm helping with a blog on campaign trails," she explained.

"Okay, hon, I'll let you go, but..."

The sudden disconnection took Lorelai by surprise. She made a face at the phone, before snapping it closed.

"Something wrong?" Luke asked as he entered the bedroom.

"No, just Rory. She's in the Grand Rapid Press's newsroom doing a blog," Lorelai answered, still holding the phone.

"I have no idea what you just said," Luke replied, as he turned the covers down and climbed in. "Whatever that is, it's a good thing, right?" he questioned, as he tucked the pillow behind his head.

"No. It's fine. She sounded so animated. So focused."

"Rory's always focused," Luke said frowning and glancing at Lorelai's face.

"She just sounded different. I guess she sounded like I thought she would when she went on the road. Distracted when I called her at odd times of the day. Intense," Lorelai explained, staring down at the phone in her hand.

"How does she usually sound?" he prompted.

"Too happy. Too reassuring. Too Rory, I guess," she replied frowning.

"And that's a bad thing?"

"Yeah, I think it is," she said after a moment, putting the phone down and crossing the room to sit on the edge of the bed facing Luke.

"You worry too much," Luke said softly, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

"Yeah, you're right," she said, smiling a sad little smile.

"So, guess what we're going to do tomorrow?" she said with a smirk.

"Sleep late?" he commented, frowning at her sudden change of subject.

"Of course... no after that," she replied, a little too animated. She does it too, she realized. She falls into her patented Lorelai banter when she doesn't want to think or face something that's bothering her.

"Eat breakfast," he teased. And she smiled a genuine smile at him, knowing he was playing along to make her happy.

"We're going to put up the Christmas tree..."

"Okay... and..." he queried, expecting more.

"We'll start in the morning and see how many Christmas movies we can get through during the day," she added, remembering other years when it was just she and Rory enjoying the marathon.

"Lorelai..." he answered, groaning.

"Holiday Inn, White Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, all the classics," she went on, listing her favorites.

"The one with Captain Picard, or the old one with the guy with the funny hair."

"The old one of course," she answered yawning.

"Okay. "

"Really..." she mocked, stifling another yawn.

"Maybe I'll bake some cookies."

"Oooo, the sugar ones with the Hershey kisses on top? Or the M&M ones, or the..." she continued, on a roll with all the possibilities, warming to the new addition to her yearly ritual.

He touched his hand to her lips, stopping her chatter.

"Lorelai, come to bed," Luke laughed. "You're making me tired just thinking about it."

Luke had turned out the light by the time she changed and brushed her teeth. She slid into bed next to him, listening to his even breathing. She was so tired, but she couldn't seem to get her mind to relax. Something was up with Rory, she could feel it. She stared at the ceiling for a few minutes before she turned to face the window. She punched her pillow a few times trying to get more comfortable, but she couldn't seem to get her mind to turn off.

"Lorelai," Luke whispered, wrapping his arm around her waist to pull her back against his chest.

"I'm sorry... I didn't mean to wake you," she said, letting herself relax finally.

"She'll figure it out," he said softly, dropping a sleepy kiss on the top of her head.

She fell asleep with the comforting thought that Luke knew her as well as she knew Rory.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  

"So, that's a wrap," Jack said, smiling at Rory. "Thanks."

"Anytime," She smiled back shyly. "It was... fun."

Brian from the sports department dropped a couple of papers on the desk for them as he passed by. Jack grabbed a paper, handing one to Rory.

"Hot off the presses," he commented, as he flipped through checking headlines and story jumps. He grabbed the phone and jabbed some numbers in quick succession. "We're good. Yeah. Thanks Frank."

"So, cold pizza?" he asked as he walked to the table to grab a piece for himself.

"Sure," Rory answered. "So, do you ever get to say stop the presses?" she joked.

"More than I'd like to," he answered wryly.

The atmosphere in the newsroom relaxed instantly once the paper was a wrap. Some headed out the door, but most lingered, finishing off the coffee and pizza. She listened as a few reporters ran some stories they were working on by him.

"Jack, are we covered for the weekend?" Sandra asked, packing up her camera equipment.

"Rob's got the Breakfast with Santa Toy Drive tomorrow," he replied looking at his clipboard. "Ray's got the High School game tomorrow night. The weekend's pretty quiet. Love the holidays."

"I have Stapleton's sentencing on Monday," Lauren interjected.

"Sandra, see what you can get for that, okay? And you're set with Jen for her feature Tuesday, right?" Jack questioned.

"All set, looking forward to it. Call me if something comes up," Sandra said with wave to the rest of the staff.

"Our Sunday editor has a great feature going, we're on part 3 this week," Jack explained, turning to Rory. She's been following this family through the trial and tribulations of our great healthcare system. Single working mom, two kids. The little one is in and out of the hospital. Severe asthma. She has health insurance through work, but the coverage is pathetic. Her insurance company doesn't want to cover the prescriptions the doctor suggests, it's not on their formulary," he said raising his eyebrows. "It's been a great piece. She makes too much money to qualify for state funded programs, but doesn't make enough to provide for her children. The working poor of America."

"Great kids," Fred commented from behind his desk.

"Fred's got a soft spot for the little girl," Jack teased.

"Can you make a difference, writing about it, bringing it to the public's attention?" Rory asked earnestly.

"The state attorney general's office called yesterday. They're investigating. So, yes... I still think there's power in the press," Jack answered. "We wouldn't be doing this otherwise, would we Fred?"

"I'm in it for the money," he deadpanned, to the delight of the rest of the room.

"So, how's covering the campaign? It must be exciting right, traveling..." Lauren asked.

"Well, it's kind of the same all the time. Same speeches, same hotels in different towns. It's been harder than I thought it would be... being unbiased. I was used to writing features or hard news."

"And the competition's a bitch," Fred commented.

"Fred was in Washington for six years, press corps," Jack explained.

"Really?" Rory said looking to Fred to elaborate.

"Politics isn't for everyone. I was fresh out of Yale, just like you when I went to Washington. At first, it was great. Nixon, Watergate, what more could you ask for? But when I stopped loving what I was doing, I knew it was time to move on. If you don't love what you're doing, it's going to be really hard to be great at it. You know what I mean?"

"Yes. I know what you mean," Rory agreed.

"See you guys tomorrow," Fred said grabbing his coat and quickly leaving the room.

"That's the most I've ever heard him say at one time," Jack said winking at Rory. "I think he liked you."

♫   ♫   ♫  

The snow had really started to accumulate by the time Rory entered the hotel. Taking the elevator to her floor, she rummaged through her bag to find her card key. She felt exhilarated, still flying high on the evening's events. She had loved collaborating with Jack on the web blog. He had a keen mind and a dry sense of humor. He made a great managing editor, she'd thought more than once that night, as she watched him work with his reporters. He knew how to suggest without sounding critical. He was able to interject just enough thought provoking questions to get their minds working when they couldn't get the angle they wanted. They trusted him and they respected him. He helped make them better writers and they helped him produce a better paper. She wondered, frowning, what it would like for her if she had that same kind of rapport with Michael. They were more like adversaries than partners.

She changed quickly in her pajamas, settling on the bed with her laptop. She should have stayed in and worked tonight, but she had no regrets. Her phone rang and she grabbed it without even glancing at who was calling, expecting it to be her mom.

"Merry Christmas, Ace."

"Logan... Hi," she answered, surprised by the call. Would she have answered if she had known it was him? Probably not, she thought.

"I figured that it had been long enough, that I could at least call you and wish you happy holidays," he said softly.

"I'm glad you called. Are you still in California?" she asked, realizing it was good to hear his voice.

"Yeah. No snow here; it's strange. I'm used to New England. So where did I catch you?"

"Michigan. It's been snowing all evening," she answered quietly, shutting her laptop and lying back on the pillows. They were discussing the weather, she thought, feeling kind of sad.

"How's the campaign trail?" he asked.

"Good. Really good," she said a little too enthusiastically.

There was a moment of awkward silence before he answered her. And when he did, she knew she hadn't fooled him.

"Rory," he said in a way no once else ever did. He knew her so well.

"I hate it. I hate traveling and buses. I hate hotel rooms with bad cable. I hate not being home," she said with a sigh. It was so easy to tell him the truth, she couldn't disappoint him anymore.

"That's just homesick. You have to expect that. What's really bothering you?" he whispered.

"Politics. I just don't get it," she lamented.

"Well, no one really does," he countered dryly.

"And my editor. First he hates everything I write. Now, when I'm hardly trying, he loves it.," she said after a heartbeat. There, she said it finally.

"Rory, you're a good writer," he answered quickly.

"I'm not a good writer for him. He wants page six fluff, and I want page one. I don't know if I can do this anymore."

"Hey, that's not like you, Ace, you don't give up that easily," Logan soothed.

"I'm way past giving up. This isn't what I want. It's not where I belong," she admitted, blurting it all out, finding doing so was easier than she had anticipated.

"Then do something else. There's a whole world out there that has nothing to do with campaigns and politics."

"I know. But it's my first job. No one is going to understand," she sighed.

"You mean Lorelai?"

"Yes. And my grandparents," she groaned.

"Rory, they always understand. You don't give them enough credit."

"They have these expectations. They always think I'm going to be great at whatever I try. They'll see this as giving up on my dream, not as switching gears."

"Dreams change," he stated softly.

"I know," she said sadly, as the conversation switched gears.

"What do you want to do?"

"I don't know. Write something that makes a difference, I guess," she said a little self-consciously, clicking off the light. "Sounds a little childish, right?"

"No. Sounds like that dream is alive and well. Go for it, Ace. Don't settle for less," he sighed.

"Are you?" she asked, picking up on his mood, as he had picked up on hers.

"For now. The work, it's good but it's not where I thought I'd be right now. I screwed up, Rory, and I didn't see it until it was too late. I was so sure I knew exactly what I was doing right up until it all fell apart. I wanted it all to be fast and easy and it's not. It's going to take a long time. But I'll show him eventually that I have it."

She didn't have to ask who the "him" was. "Are you going home for Christmas?"

"No," he answered blandly.

"Logan, why not?"

"I think the conversation went something like this. 'So, son, I'm sure you're too busy to make it home for Christmas. Maybe next year,'" he quipped.

"He didn't ask you to come home?" she exclaimed, wanting to slap Mitchum Huntzburger.

"No," he answered.

"You don't have to prove anything to him," she said, but she knew that was not really true. Even she had fallen into the Mitchum trap at one point. Everything was about proving yourself with him.

"Yes, I do," he said seriously. "So are you getting back to Stars Hollow?" he asked, changing the subject.

"Yes. I haven't been home since May. I didn't make it for Thanksgiving."

"Enjoy every minute of it, Ace. Eating pie with Lorelai. Breakfast at Luke's," he said wistfully.

"Listen to Kirk and Taylor's yearly fight over the order of the reindeer on the town square," she laughed.

"Yeah, all of it," he agreed. "I guess I thought that's where I'd be this Christmas," he said sadly.

"Logan," she sighed. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be," he said softly. "You were right. The timing was all wrong," he admitted. "But, it's going to be a new year, for both of us. We've got our dreams to chase. We'll get there," he said, sounding sure of himself and of her.

"Thanks for calling, Logan. I really missed talking to you."

"I miss you too," he said. "Merry Christmas, Rory."

"Merry Christmas," she replied, snapping her phone closed.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  

The whole house smelled like the holidays, Lorelai thought, relaxing on the couch.

"Are they done yet?" Lorelai asked, yelling to Luke in the other room.

"They're cooling," he yelled back.

"I like them hot," she said, wandering into the kitchen to sneak a cookie off the cooking rack.

"Hands off," he said, swatting her with a pot holder.

"You're going to be sick you know," he said. "You've sampled enough cookies to feed a small army."

"Never," she quipped, though she did feel a bit queasy, and was riding a quite impressive sugar high.

"Come on," he said, leading her back to the couch, "let's watch the rest of the movie."

She grabbed the remote and started the movie again, snuggling up against Luke's side.

Bing's distinctive tenor filled the room.

"When you're worried and can not sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep..."

She smiled up at him, watching his face as he watched the movie.

"You really do like this movie," she commented, noticing his enjoyment.

"What's not to like?" he answered, sliding further down on the couch, putting his feet up on the coffee table.

It took her a minute to isolate the feeling that was flooding her. She settled on happy.

"I need to give Rory a quick call," she murmured. "Keep watching."

She walked into the kitchen, and looked longingly at the cookies, but she passed them by.

"Hey, kid," she said as Rory answered.

"Hey, Mom," Rory answered, a little out of breath.

"Are you running?" she laughed.

"Boarding the bus," she answered, "hang on a minute."

"Where'd you disappear to last night?" she heard a male voice ask.

"Shopping," she heard Rory answer, as she waited for her to settle in.

"Okay, I'm in," Rory said with a sigh.

"Shopping? Are you avoiding someone?" Lorelai asked, curious.

"I just don't want to share every detail with everyone, that's all," Rory stated.

"Still snowing there?"

"No, the sun's shining. Everything's melting. But it still looks pretty."

"Roads good?"

"Fine. How did the party go last night?" Rory asked.

"How does Captain LL Danes sound?"

"Luke's joining the Army?" Rory asked confused.

"No. The yacht club," Lorelai whispered.

"You're kidding me," Rory exclaimed. "Does Grandpa know?"

"Yes. His friend Henry gave Luke a personal invitation."

"Wow, I miss all the good stuff."

"Oh, believe me kid, this is just the beginning," Lorelai joked.

"Hey Mom," Rory said softly.

"What?" she asked, holding her breath, not sure for once at what Rory might say.

"We just turned onto the highway. We're heading East," she said quietly.

"You're heading home. I guess I need to save some of these cookies for you then."

"Luke baked cookies?" she squealed. "What kind?"

"All kinds, baby," Lorelai groaned.

"You feeling a little sick?" Rory chuckled. "Did you eat too many cookies again?"

"Yes," she admitted. "But don't tell Luke."

"Never, your secret is safe with me," Rory giggled.

"How many times did I tell you, don't mock the mommy?" Lorelai said.


"So tell me about this newsroom," Lorelai asked.

"It was great. Interesting. Especially Fred," Rory said yawning.

"Was he hot?"

"Fred? No he was old. He covered Nixon. Now the editor, he was hot," Rory admitted shyly.

"Really," Lorelai commented, as Luke came in to the kitchen to grab a beer.

"Hi Rory," Luke said he walked by to go back to the living room.

"Mom, go be with Luke. I'll call you later, okay?" Rory said yawning again loudly.

"Tired?" Lorelai asked.

"Exhausted. Stayed up late. I'm getting pretty good at napping on the bus though."

"It's amazing what skills you can sharpen being on the road."



"I'll be home for Christmas," Rory said quietly.

"You aren't going to break out in song now are you?" Lorelai asked, making Rory laugh.

"Never. I'll leave the singing to you," she teased.

"And I'll leave the light on for you," Lorelai said in a slow drawl.

"Not another motel joke," Rory groaned. "Bye Mom."

"Bye, Rory," she answered softly.

Walking back into the living room, she snuggled back against Luke's side.

Yes. This feeling was definitely happy.








To be continued...
















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