Virtual Gilmore Girls

Episode 8.15 "Sticks and Stones"
 by Jewels12 and AdinaRJ


Authors' Note: Thanks to all of you fans for your continued patience!  Also a big, huge, gigundo thank you goes to our betas, sosmitten and lulabo for all the hard work and help - we couldn't have done it without you!


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"People, people!" Taylor shouted over the kafuffle   of voices in Miss Patty’s Dance Studio. "Let’s focus please," he demanded, banging his gavel for effect. The noise diminished and all eyes moved to the stage. "An important matter has been brought to my attention," Taylor said seriously. "This year has been forecast to be a particularly aggressive one on the squirrel front."

The room was filled with the usual suspects, all of whom were looking at each other with both confused and amused expressions.

"We must be proactive, people. We need to prepare for the onslaught accordingly, and I propose that we form a coalition to neutralize the attack." 

"H-how long do we have, Taylor?" Lorelai asked, her voice laden with mock distress. 

There were a few stray giggles.

"This is not a laughing matter, Lorelai," Taylor returned harshly. "If you looked at the figures... you'd realize how significant..." He took a deep breath and clutched his lower back, wincing. 

Noticing Taylor’s preoccupation, Patty rose from her chair and took the reins. "Uh, so I guess we should form a coalition then," she said, glancing at Taylor. He nodded in approval, his posture failing him as he collapsed in the seat to his left.

Kirk was the first to volunteer his services. A few other eager beavers hopped on board as well. 

Taylor lifted his head from its current position between his legs, and forced a smile of gratitude at the participating townies. He patted his sweat-dampened face with a handkerchief.  

"Okay, our next item on the agenda–" Patty began, but Taylor swiftly interrupted.  

"Step aside, Patty. I’ll take it from here," Taylor half-grunted as he stood up and staggered his way to the podium. Patty graciously returned to her chair and allowed Taylor the spotlight. He jumped right into his speech, as if he’d never broken from it. "Moving on, we should discuss the..." he paused, his face tightening. He took another heavy breath and struggled to continue his thought, "We need... to strategize..." He doubled over mid-sentence and started pacing the floor.  

The audience watched the actions of their Town Selectman in silent amazement.   

"Is this part of the meeting?" Lorelai whispered to Rory.  

Rory shook her head. "I don't think so."  

"You're looking a little pale there, Taylor," Patty noted.  

Taylor brushed off her concern, and continued to pace the floor, his hand glued to his lower back.  


"What is he doing?" Gypsy spoke from her seat next to Andrew.


"Is this a test?" Andrew asked. "Maybe this is some kind of test."

Gypsy gave him a curious look. "A test?" 

"Yeah," Andrew said. "Like an assessment of our reaction time in an emergency, or something." 

Gypsy raised her eyebrows, as if considering his theory.  

Taylor had returned to his place behind the podium, leaning all his weight against it. 

"He looks a little green now," Lorelai commented. 

"He's breathing heavily," Rory added.  

Taylor reached for his glass of water and brought it shakily to his lips. 

"He's taking a drink of water," Lorelai continued narrating.

Luke shook his head at the girls. "Do you think you two could spare us the play-by-play?"  

Lorelai frowned. "But Luke, this is for the people at home."   

"What?" he asked, clearly confused.
"Surely you're aware of the hidden cameras?" she said, winking at Rory. 

"The hidden what?" Luke said.

Everyone turned their attention to Lorelai. 

"We're on camera?" Sookie asked, a hopeful smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.

"We're being Punk'd!" Gypsy shouted.

That announcement spurred on a full-blown commotion of enthusiasm and excitement from every corner. 

"Guys, I was just kidding about the cameras!" Lorelai explained, struggling to be heard over the competing chatter.

Luke spoke up suddenly, his strong voice earning him the attention of the entire auditorium. "Did any of you ever consider the possibility that Taylor may in fact be in pain?" 

They all looked to the stage in unison, as Taylor crawled on his hands and knees along the floor. Noticing their troubled expressions, his reaction was quick and defensive. "I'm fine! Just feeling a little light headed. Patty, I need to, um," he gestured outside. "Could you wrap things up here?"

"Uh, sure, Taylor. Whatever you say," Patty replied without missing a beat.

With great effort, Taylor climbed to his feet and made his way out the door, nodding and smiling his way through the crowd. "I’m fine. Everything is fine," he assured his unconvinced supporters. "I’m sure it’s just a cramp," he reasoned, finally sliding out the door and disappearing from sight.
The moment the door closed, Patty quickly settled the townspeople and carried on with the meeting's agenda.


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"I got an interesting phone call last night," Rory announced as she and Lorelai walked leisurely back to their house.   

"Oh, yeah?" Lorelai said.  "When we were unpacking, right?"       

"Yep, that's the one."  Rory quickened her pace.

"Hey, kid.  Slow down.  The house isn't going anywhere," her mother quipped.

Rory stopped and turned to face Lorelai.  "Dad called me."  

"Okay," Lorelai said.  "That's interesting enough as it is.  Is there more?" 

"He heard about me quitting."  Rory pulled on the end of her ponytail. 

"Ah.  Right," Lorelai responded.

"Is that all you can say?" Rory demanded, turning to her mother.  She couldn't help the accusing edge that had crept into her voice.

"No," Lorelai responded in a lighthearted tone.   "I can also say 'Bad', 'Up', and 'Mama'."  Rory glared at her and Lorelai shrugged.  "Okay, sorry, not funny.  He heard about you quitting.  And?"

"You told him.  You called him and told him about me quitting."   Rory crossed her arms.  He always went to Lorelai first, and Rory was sick and tired of it. 

"Rory, that's not why I—" Lorelai tried to interject.

"It doesn't matter!" Rory yelled.  "He calls and tries to act like a dad, like he really cares."

"Rory, I have news for you.  He is your dad, and he does care," Lorelai said in a gentle voice. 

Rory let out an unladylike snort.  "He sure doesn't act like it.  Anyway, it's not your place to call him and tell him.  If I want him to know something, I'll tell him!"

"Hon, I'm sorry."  Lorelai spread her hands out in a gesture of surrender.  "I didn't call him for that.  It was Gigi's birthday, so I called to talk to her.  By the way, it would have been nice if her sister remembered that, too.  Anyway, your dad asked about you when we were talking, and so I told him.  I'm not going to lie to him, Rory."

"It's still none of his business, and I don't like that you told him."  Rory uncrossed her arms, pulling her sleeves down over her hands.  She stared at her mother.

"Rory, I don't know what you want me to do," Lorelai responded.  "I'm sorry."

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In the morning, Lorelai found a short, polite note instead of finding her daughter as she expected.  "Gone to the library," the note read.  "Back later."  Lorelai frowned slightly.  Rory had barely spoken to her last night after they got home. Lorelai was hoping that after a good night's sleep, Rory would no longer be angry.  After seeing how anxious Rory was to get out of the house without seeing her mother, though, Lorelai could see that everything was not okay.   

Later that day, the phone rang shrilly and Lorelai ran down the stairs as the afternoon sun streamed in through the living room.  "Don't hang up!" she yelled as she looked under the coffee table.  "I'm coming!"

The phone rang again.  "I'm working on it!" Lorelai cried.  "Aha!" she exclaimed, pulling out the cordless phone from between the couch cushions.  "Hello?" she answered breathlessly.

"Hey, Lor, it's me," Christopher's voice came over the other end.

"Christopher!" Lorelai said in surprise, sitting down.  "What's up?"   

"I wanted to talk about Rory... I'm really worried about her, Lor."  

Join the club, Lorelai thought to herself.  "She'll figure it out." 

"I know, but..." Christopher's voice trailed off. 

"Chris?" Lorelai asked after a minute.

"Could we just meet up?  Have a parent pow-wow?"

"I don't know if that's such a good idea," Lorelai hedged.  

"Why not?" he asked. 

Lorelai sighed.  "I just would be more comfortable if I talked to Rory first."

"Talk to her about what?" he asked incredulously.  "We're doing an intervention here!  You don't discuss it with her first!"

"I just want everyone to be on the same page," Lorelai told him firmly.  "I'll call you back."

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Luke walked into the house and sat down heavily on the couch.  "Hey!" he called.  "Are you home?  Kirk was in rare form today."

"Be right there!" Lorelai called from upstairs.  A minute later, she trotted down the stairs.  She sat down next to Luke, tucking her arm into his and resting her head on his shoulder.  "Hi," she said softly.   

"Hey yourself," Luke returned. 

"Tell me about Kirk," Lorelai requested. 

Luke leaned his head to the side and looked at Lorelai, raising an eyebrow.  "You really want to hear about Kirk?  You've lived in this town for over twenty years."

"I guess you're right," Lorelai agreed.  "So, um, listen," she said after a pause.

Luke stiffened slightly.  "I'm listening." 


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"The town meeting next week sure has a lot to live up to," Andrew said to the crowd of patrons that occupied the diner.   


Everyone nodded in agreement.


"Hey, has anyone heard from Taylor?" Lulu wondered, concern filling her voice.


"Not since Monday," came the unanimous reply. 

"That was two days ago. What should we do? Should we do something?" Kirk said anxiously.


"You should count your blessings," Luke said gruffly, as he wiped down the counter with a rag.


As if on cue, Babette and Miss Patty entered the diner, their smiles a tad more presumptuous than usual. "Big news, everybody!" Babette hollered.


"We found out about Taylor," Patty chimed in.


"He's at Saint Francis hospital passing one mother of a kidney stone," Babette continued, as she and Patty settled at the center table.


Expressions of shock and bewilderment covered every face. Luke's expression was pushing more towards amusement.


"I should have known," Gypsy muttered, pounding her fists against the table. She lifted her head and was met with curious stares. "I had a kidney stone once," she explained. "Damn thing took three weeks to come out. It was like giving birth...except without the satisfaction."  


A few people chuckled at that remark. Luke shook his head impatiently.


"They put a stent inside of me," Gypsy pressed on, clearly reveling in the attention. "It's like this small tube that runs from your kidney to your bladder. It's supposed to make passing pieces of the stone easier, but it also makes you have to take a leak every 15 minutes—"  


"I'm running a diner here!" Luke erupted.


"What's your point?" Gypsy sharply returned.


"Clean up the conversation, or take it somewhere else," he admonished.


"So I should skip the part where I was put in stirrups?"   


"Dear God, yes!" Luke pleaded.


Zach appeared out of nowhere, jumping right in to the conversation. "Dude, I've heard kidney stones are more painful than childbirth."


"We've already been there, Zach," Luke cautioned through clenched teeth.


Gypsy continued to bare all, "I could have had twelve kids in the time it took me to pass that stupid pebble of death." 


"Second warning, Gypsy," Luke barked.


She rolled her eyes. The conversation faltered for a moment.


Andrew soon revived it. "I would pay big bucks to see Taylor in stirrups." Almost everyone laughed at that comment. 


"Okay, that's it!" A red-faced Luke bounded around the counter and roughly escorted the disruptive locals from their tables. "Out! Everybody out!" he ordered. The townies departed the premises, whispering their apologies as they were forced out the door. Luke returned inside to find his remaining customers staring at him with open mouths. "Uh...that was...that's just a bit that we do," he tried to explain, to no avail. He sighed. "Who wants free coffee?"


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Rory walked up to the front desk of the inn and dropped her bag next to it. "Hi, Mom."

Lorelai waved. "Yes, Mr. Hayes. Okay, great, you're all set. See you then." She hung up the phone. "Hey, kid!" she said with a note of surprise in her voice. "Didn't expect to see you today. To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?"

Rory shrugged. "I don't know. Just wanted to talk to you." She paused, busying herself under the desk by fiddling with stationery. "Mom, I'm sorry about the other night. I guess I was a little extreme."  

"I noticed," Lorelai said. "You've barely said more than three words to me since we got home after the town meeting." Rory looked away, embarrassed. "It's funny, actually," Lorelai continued. "Your dad called me yesterday."

Rory rolled her eyes. "What'd he want now?"

"He said," Lorelai began, steering Rory away from the lobby, "that he was worried about you. He wanted to team up and have an intervention."

"This isn't part of it, is it?" Rory asked, a note of panic creeping into her voice.

"Of course not!" Lorelai assured her. After a beat, she asked, "Why? Does it feel like one?"

Rory crinkled her brow. "I don't think so. I don't know. I've never had an intervention before." She opened the door to Lorelai's office.

"I think I had to intervene one time when you were too attached to a book," Lorelai said thoughtfully.

"So if this isn't an intervention," Rory said, coming back to the topic at hand, "then what is it?"  

"Oh! Ummm..." said Lorelai. "A conversation?"

"What are you going to tell Dad?" Rory asked her mother, taking a seat in one of the chairs.

"I don't know yet." Lorelai sat down in one of the chairs and crossed her legs.

"Maybe... Maybe I could call him," Rory suggested. "If it's my life he wants to talk about, he should be talking to me, not you." Rory shifted in her seat, uncomfortable.  It seemed her father was always going through her mom when it concerned anything, even Rory herself. It was absolutely ridiculous that even at 23, her father was still going through her mom to check up on her instead of calling her like a normal adult.  

"You're absolutely right," Lorelai agreed. "I shouldn't be in the middle anymore. It becomes like a game of telephone, and instead of saying 'Rory's pretty', it becomes 'Cory's fetid'."

"It's still none of his business," Rory stated. 

Lorelai nodded. "Okay. That's your prerogative. But you should be telling this to him, not to me."

"Yeah," Rory said, getting her serious face on. "I will."


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Later that day, during a lull in business, Lorelai escaped to her office.  She picked up her cell phone and quickly scrolled through the directory, pressing send when she found the one she was looking for.   

"Hello?" came the voice on the other end.

"Hey, Chris," Lorelai greeted, leaning back in her chair.

"Hey, Lor!"  he replied, sounding pleased to hear from her.  "I was hoping you'd call."   

"I had a break from work," she commented.  "I talked to Rory earlier."

"Oh, good!" Christopher said.  "What's the deal?  Is she rejoining the campaign?  Got another job lined up?  What about—"

"Slow down, Chris," Lorelai interrupted.  "I just talked to her.  She actually brought up a good point."

"Oh?"  His voice was skeptical.

"Rory's an adult," Lorelai reminded him.  "She's 23.  And she decided that she wants to talk to you about this.  That if you're concerned about Rory, you should be discussing it with her." 

Christopher sighed, and Lorelai held the phone away from her ear slightly.  "I guess that's a good idea.  I didn't really think about that.  I just figured I'd call you and you'd know everything that was going on with her anyway."   

Lorelai raised her eyebrows.  "Well, I'm glad you agree."


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"And we'll be back in a bit with more Project Runway!" came the announcer from the TV.

Rory turned to Lorelai when the commercial came on. "Dad called me again this morning."

"That's what you wanted, right?" Lorelai asked. "You're not mad at me again?"

"Nah, it's fine." Rory said. "I talked to him, and... I don't know. I think I just basically told him to back off."

"And you feel good about that?" Lorelai pressed.

"Yeah," Rory said after a pause. "It just seemed like added pressure, plus it always feels weird when he tries to pull the 'dad' card.  The last thing I need is him trying to get involved now. But we're meeting tomorrow to talk about stuff. Should be okay."

Lorelai reached over and squeezed Rory's hand briefly. "He tries, hon. You know your dad."

"Yeah, he's very trying," Rory muttered.  

"Rory–" Lorelai started.

"Show's back," Rory quickly interrupted. "Hey, that's actually a nice dress," she commented.

About ten minutes later, the front door opened and Luke walked in. "Oh, hey," he said, standing next to the couch. "I didn't know you guys were..."

"Hi, babe!" Lorelai grinned at him. 

"Hi, Luke!" Rory greeted. "You wanna watch with us?"

"Uh, no, that's okay." Luke swung his arms nervously. "I'm kinda tired. I think I'll just go to bed." 

"You feeling okay?" Lorelai looked up at him with concern.

"Fine. Just tired." Luke touched Lorelai's shoulder softly as he walked past.

At the next commercial break, Lorelai stood up. 

"Show's not over," Rory commented, looking at Lorelai with a slightly bemused expression.

"It's okay," Lorelai said. "I'm just gonna go check on the man." She paused at the foot of the stairs. "Hey—is it weird that he's here?"

"Kind of?" Rory said. "I don't know. I mean, it's Luke, and he was always here before. Except now he's there," she pointed up the stairs.  

"Yeah," Lorelai said slowly. "Is it okay, though?"  

"It's more than okay," Rory assured her mother.

 As Lorelai walked up the stairs, she smiled to herself. This was nice. A little strange—they were still getting used to it—but nice. It was an understatement to say it had taken them (not to mention herself) a while to get to this point, but it was good.

"Hey," Lorelai said gently, pausing by the doorway when she reached the room.

"Hi," Luke said, looking up from his book.

"What's up?" Lorelai sat down on the edge of the bed. "You hightailed it out of the room before."

Luke closed the book and set it aside. "I didn't hightail it out of there," he said with a slight frown. "You two were busy, and I didn't want to interrupt."

"Luke, you wouldn't be interrupting. Especially since we invited you to join us." Lorelai stroked his arm.

Luke shrugged, then looked at her. "You were watching that fashion show. I have no desire to watch fashion designers compete."

"Okay," Lorelai said slowly. "You just seemed to leave really quickly. This is your house, too, now. I don't want you to have to hide up here."

"I wasn't hiding," Luke protested.

"Hey," Lorelai said, squeezing his forearm, "I just want you to feel comfortable here. No matter who's here."

"I do feel comfortable here," he said, shifting slightly.

"You didn't seem like it," Lorelai said.

"It's fine," Luke insisted.

Lorelai relented. "Okay." She sighed lightly. "We all have to make adjustments and get used to this," she told him. "I don't want anyone to feel like they shouldn't be here."

Luke squeezed her hand. "I am comfortable here, and we will get used to it," he assured her.

"Good," she said, leaning in to kiss him.

"Go back downstairs," he told her. "It's okay. You can go watch your... runaway project or whatever it's called."  

Lorelai giggled and stood up.


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"Still nothing?" Morey asked.  He was part of a significant crowd of Stars Hollow inhabitants that had gathered at Luke's for a Thursday morning buzz session.  


"Still nothing," Patty answered. "But he's been released from the hospital." 

"Yeah, he's gettin' real friendly with morphine," Babette rasped, chuckling.  


"The one and only perk of being afflicted with a kidney stone," Gypsy remarked.


"So...when do you think it's going to pass?" Kirk asked, his eyes landing on Luke.


Luke raised his eyebrows. "What are you asking me for?" he grumbled.


"I'm starting a pool."


No one seemed surprised by that announcement. 


"What's your guess, Luke?" Lulu probed, helping her husband devise a chart.


Luke shook his head. "I don't know...six months?" When the laughter died down he frowned and said, "You know, Weston's has plenty of seating too."


"Six months it is," Kirk quickly obliged. "Hey, wait a minute," he added a moment later. "Do you think we should also have a category for how it comes out?"


"What do you mean, how?" Gypsy wondered.


Kirk shrugged. "You know, like which way it's going to go."


Gypsy rolled her eyes. "There's only one way for it to go, you idiot." Several people chuckled.


"Well, how am I supposed to know that? I've never had a kidney stone," Kirk reasoned.


"Take a peek inside a biology text book some time," Luke offered, patting Kirk on the shoulder.


"All right." Lulu clapped her hands, stealing the unnecessary attention from Kirk. "Who's next?"


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Friday afternoon, Rory parked her car outside the coffee shop in Hartford, and slipped her keys into her purse.  She walked inside and looked around.


"Hi, kiddo!" Christopher called and stood up.  "Thanks for meeting me."   

"Yeah," Rory said, sitting down at the table.  "I had some time."

"What do you want?  Fancy coffee?  Cake?" he offered.  "Anything you want.  You want to get the whole menu?"   

"Easy, Dad," Rory said with a slight laugh.  She unwrapped her scarf and laid it on the seat beside her.  "Regular coffee is good for now."

"What have you been up to?" he asked Rory after the waitress left their table.  

Rory never hated stupid small talk more than she did just then.  He knew what she'd been up to—or, rather, what she hadn't—because her mother had told him.    "You know, this and that," she said evasively.  "I've just been looking into some different options." 

"Different options," he repeated.  "You sounded so excited about the campaign trail the last time I talked to you.  What happened with that?"

"The last time you talked to me?" Rory said incredulously.  "When was that?  August?"   

"Hey," he protested.  "I talked to you at Christmas."

"I called you then," Rory reminded him.  "God, Dad, you didn't even call me for my birthday!"    

Christopher looked down, ashamed.  "I'm sorry.  You know how it is," he said weakly.  "Time gets away from you.  I meant to call.  I thought about you all the time."  He offered her a sheepish smile.  "I'm sorry, really."   

Rory sighed.  She was not in the mood for this.  She bit her tongue and chose not to answer.  "Let me see that menu again," she said instead.  "I think I saw a brownie on there that sounded good."

"Sure."  Christopher handed Rory the menu and she studied it closely.  "So what sort of options are you looking into?" he asked conversationally.

Rory shrugged.  "Other journalism stuff.  Maybe grad school.  Just seeing what's out there."

"That's good!"  he commented.  "Your mom mentioned–"  

"I'd really appreciate it if you would talk to me first and not go through Mom," Rory cut him off, the words coming out stronger than she expected.

"What's wrong?"  Christopher asked.

It's just..." she paused, trying to gather her thoughts.  "You always do that.  You always talk to her about me, and I'm sick of it!  You talk to Mom about me.  You talk to Mom about her.  You talk to Mom about everything!  You never talk to me!"   

"Rory!" he exclaimed, surprised at the outburst.

"It's true!" Rory was on a roll now.  "I'm a grown-up now, and if you have something to say to me, say it to me.  Leave Mom out of it."

"I can't do that, Rory,"  he said firmly.   "I'm your father, and if I think there's something important that I need to discuss with your mother, I will."

"That was okay when I was twelve.   I'm not a child anymore, Dad.  I'm 23, and you can't use the 'coparenting' excuse anymore.  And that's all it is now, is an excuse."  Rory shook her head.  This was pointless.  "Just forget it.  I'll send you an email when I'm settled."  She stood up, grabbing her things, and started to leave.  Halfway to the door, she stopped.  This wasn't going to solve anything, and it certainly wasn't going to help her case in getting him to treat her like a person, let alone an adult.  If things were going to change, she had to tell him exactly what was wrong and what she wanted from him.     

She walked back to the table and sat back down.   "Look," she said in a low voice, trying to control herself.  "It's just that things have always been a certain way between us.  And that has to change."  She paused, trying to gather her thoughts.  "You say you want to be in my life, but you don't act like it.  It's like you only think about it when it's convenient.  And it's only convenient when things between you and Mom are good.  It's like you want to be in my life for her sake. You never just call me to ask how I'm doing, or what's up.  You wait for Mom or me to call you to ask about me.   And you shouldn't even be asking Mom at all.  You want to know about me, don't just idly wonder.  Call me."

"You're busy," her dad protested.  "I don't want to interrupt."  Rory shook her head.  It was an excuse, and a stupid one at that.

"Maybe I want you to interrupt!" Rory exclaimed.  "Maybe it'd be a welcome distraction to hear from my dad.  You complain that you don't know what's going on in my life.  That's because you don't really seem like you want to know!"

"Of course I want to know!" he said.  "I'll try, Rory, okay?  I'll really try harder."
"That's all you ever say," she muttered, rubbing circles on her temples.  She had a headache and it was getting worse by the minute.

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Friday evening, after they returned from dinner at the Gilmores, Lorelai and Rory were in the kitchen, loading up their dishes of ice cream with all the fixings. Dessert had been something fancy, unrecognizable, and not all that satisfying.

"How'd it go earlier?" Lorelai asked, squeezing chocolate sauce into the bowl.

"Fine," Rory answered shortly, grabbing a handful of marshmallows.

"So you told him what you told me?  About wanting to handle things yourself?"  Lorelai reached for another squeeze bottle.  "Butterscotch?"

Rory nodded, taking the bottle.  "Caramel?" she offered.  "I think I got the point across."

"Good," Lorelai said, eating a spoonful.  "Oh, man, this is good."  She added some cookie crumbs. 

"Best sundae in years, I think," Rory agreed.

"So you think you got through to him?"  Lorelai fished.  "No more Mommy-in-the-middle?"

"It was fine," Rory said again.  "I don't really want to talk about it."

"Okay," Lorelai acquiesced, then changed the subject.  "So, did you hear the latest about Taylor?"

"He's not still in the hospital, is he?" Rory asked, grateful for the reprieve.

"The town has started a pool on when the stone will pass."

"What day do you have?" Rory asked.


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Rory tiptoed quietly into the kitchen, her stomach grumbling. She opened the refrigerator door and grabbed a half-eaten container of chicken chow mein, collapsing into a chair. Less than a minute later, she heard footsteps coming from the staircase. Convinced it was her mother, she sat up a little straighter and ate a little faster, not in a sharing mood. As the footsteps neared, they grew heavier, and then a familiar grunt sounded.


Rory dropped her fork and jumped from her seat, flattening her hair with her hands and rubbing the sleep from her eyes. She watched nervously as Luke passed through the short hallway to the kitchen. His eyes locked on hers and he froze.


"Uh, Rory... hi," he said, his voice gravelly.


"Hey, Luke," she replied, chuckling awkwardly.


"I didn't wake you, did I?" he asked, concerned.


"Oh, no," she said, gesturing to the Chinese food carton on the table.


He nodded, stepping further into the kitchen and grabbing a glass from the cupboard. "So, how are you?" he said as he filled his glass with water.


Rory sat down again at the table before answering. "Good. I'm good. Nothing much to report."


Luke took a seat next to her, tapping his fingers against his glass. "Good sleep?" he asked a moment later.


She smiled. "So far, so good."


He took a long drink, then looked at her straight on. "Is this weird?"


"Popular question these days," she answered. He gave her a quizzical look, but she just shrugged and said, "Well, maybe a little."   

"Yeah," Luke agreed. "I don't want it to be weird."


"No, I don't either," Rory agreed. 

"Okay," he said, seemingly unsure of how to proceed.   


"We could try it again," Rory suggested.


"Try what?" Luke asked.


"Uh...nothing. Actually, I think I might go to bed now. I'm feeling pretty sleepy. You know, Chinese food is like turkey...'cause it makes you, um, sleepy." She fake-yawned. "You okay here?" she asked.


Luke smiled uncomfortably. "Yeah, I'm good."


Rory stood up from the table.


"Uh, Rory?" Luke said, before she'd stepped away.




"How are you?" he asked, more pointedly this time.


"I'm fine. Just kind of a work in progress, I guess," she said. "Thanks for asking, though," she added.   


Luke nodded, letting the subject drop.  


Rory moved from the table and stopped in front of her door, turning to Luke. "'Night, Luke," she said, waving awkwardly.


"'Night, Rory," Luke returned.   


Rory closed her door and leaned against the back of it, releasing a heavy breath. 


♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  


Saturday evening, Lorelai and Rory sat comfortably on the couch, flipping through magazines, while the television buzzed in the background.


"So...I've been thinking," Lorelai began, folding her Cosmo on her lap.


"A dangerous pastime," Rory teased.


Lorelai narrowed her eyes playfully, and continued, "You know how it's been a little awkward around here... with Luke adjusting to the big move, and your accidental rendezvous with him last night, and the whole reading upstairs thing?"


Rory nodded.


"Well, what do you think about the idea of having a housewarming party? You know, like a celebration officially welcoming Luke into our home."


"That sounds nice," Rory agreed.


"Yeah?" Lorelai asked, hopeful.


"Yeah. I think Luke would appreciate the gesture. Well, as long as we don't go too wild. We're not inviting the whole town or anything, are we?"


Lorelai smiled. "No, no. Just us. A nice, intimate gathering."




"And...I was thinking that we could maybe cook him a nice dinner, decorate the place a little, put up a banner." She paused, taking in Rory's expression. "Why are you looking at me like that?"


"You think we should cook him dinner? Are you crazy?"


Lorelai nodded. "Certifiable. But, seriously, how hard can it be? We'll find an easy recipe and follow the directions. It's not rocket science."


"It might as well be." 


"How's tomorrow?" Lorelai asked, undeterred by Rory's lack of enthusiasm. "I have the day off. And I'm sure I'll be able to convince Luke to keep his evening free," she said with a naughty glint in her eyes.   


"Wow, that's soon. We don't even know what we're making yet."    


Lorelai shut the TV off and stood up from the couch. "Grab your laptop. I'll get the Nutter Butters. We're kickin' it into high gear, sister!" Lorelai shouted as she marched off to the kitchen.  


♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  

The crowd inside Luke's diner on Sunday began forming at the lunch hour, and took up lodging well into the afternoon.  They were creeping into lull territory at this point. Luke needed his lull. He lived for the lull. It was a time he used for catching up on bills, filling out paper work, re-stocking shelves in the storage room, and taking the occasional power nap upstairs.


Instead of having the freedom to partake in any of the aforementioned activities, Luke was stuck chaperoning a gabfest. He was definitely ticked off.


"So, what's the latest word on Taylor?" Andrew asked Patty, who sat at a neighboring table.


"Well, I heard from a very reliable source that Taylor said, and I quote, 'I think it's moving.'"


"What?" Zach shouted from the far corner of the diner. He was keeping himself occupied by scratching song lyrics out on a napkin.   


"It's moving!" Babette hollered in response.


"No freakin' way, man!" Zach said, moving closer to the conversation.


"Did he happen to mention which direction it was moving?" Kirk asked seriously.


Gypsy shook her head. "You still don't have a clue, do you?"


Luke pointed downwards with his index finger, helping Kirk to visualize.


"Well, I'm screwed," Kirk whined, frowning at the chart perched beside him.

"How about we make a new chart?" Lulu suggested, winking at the others, her intentions to appease her husband evident. 

"Sounds good to me," Andrew agreed.


"I'm in," Patty, Babette and Gypsy responded in unison.


Kirk's frown slowly transformed into a smile, and he was back in data-collecting mode. "All right, Luke, it's all you, buddy. What's your guess?"


Luke groaned. "I'm sticking with my original guess... buddy."


"Ditto, man," Zach chimed in. "I'm going down with the ship."


Nearly every other participant jumped at the chance to tweak their original estimates.


The bell above the door jingled, and Lorelai stepped inside, smiling at Luke and waving at the townies. She made her way over to the crowd and wiggled her way in, getting a better view of things. "This the chart?" she asked, nodding towards the poster board that was clutched tightly to Kirk's chest.  

"In all its glory," Luke said dryly.


"You wanna change your guess, sugah?" Babette asked Lorelai.


She narrowed her eyes. "Why would I want to do that?"


"It's moving," Luke emphasized the words, sarcasm edging his voice.


Lorelai smirked, picking up on the meaning. "Huh. Must have been the Lamaze class."


"Don't start," Luke admonished.


Lorelai moved closer to the counter, grinning. "They been talking dirty, Luke?" she whispered, amusement in her eyes.


He smiled, gesturing for her to follow him behind the curtain. Lorelai eyed him curiously once they were out of sight. "What's with the Houdini act?" she asked.


"I just wanted to private," he said.


"Is this a dirty talk?" Lorelai asked, her eyes lighting up at the thought. 


Luke sighed. "No, it's not a dirty talk. I was hoping that we could have an adult conversation."


She nodded, her expression turning serious. "What's on your mind, babe?"


He took a deep breath. "I was just wondering how things ended up with that whole...Christopher situation."


"Oh," Lorelai said. "Well, I basically told him that he needs to be discussing any concerns that he has about Rory, with Rory. She's an adult now, and I can't act as a go-between for them any more."


"And he was okay with that?" Luke asked suspiciously.


Lorelai shrugged. "It's what Rory wanted."


"And you're okay with that?" 


"Yeah, I'm okay. I'm very okay," Lorelai said, smiling confidently.


"Good," Luke replied, returning her smile.   

Lorelai reached out and stroked his arm. "I hate to do this, but I really need to run." 


Luke nodded in understanding, leading her back into the diner. "Do you want some coffee?" he asked, moving instinctively towards the coffee pot.


"I'd love some to go, and some for Rory too. And a couple donuts. Six." He gave her an inquiring look. "We're working hard, we need our strength," she justified.


"What exactly are you girls up to?"  


"You'll see. Just hurry home tonight, okay?" She gave him a hopeful smile and brushed a quick kiss on his lips, much to the delight of their audience.


Luke sighed, handing her a bag of her requested items. "I'll be home very soon," he assured her.


She smiled and turned on her heel. "Put me down for next Tuesday," she called over her shoulder as she exited the diner.


Kirk stomped his foot. "That was going to be my guess!" 


Everyone groaned.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  


"Did you hang the banner?" Lorelai asked her daughter when she entered the kitchen.


"The banner has been hung," Rory confirmed. "But I don't think Luke's going to appreciate the irony of it," she added thoughtfully.

"Well, 'Homecoming Queen' was the closest thing I could find to represent the occasion. Did you blow up all the balloons?" Lorelai asked in the next breath.


"Yes." Rory nodded.


"And you put out the streamers?"


"Yes," Rory said, dragging out the word. "You're stressing."


Lorelai sighed. "I am, aren't I? I just want it to be special, you know."


"I know. It will be. Luke's going to love whatever you do."


"Whatever we do. We're in this together, kid. If he hates it, then you're partially to blame."


Rory rolled her eyes. "So, how's dinner coming?"


"It's...coming," Lorelai said unconvincingly. She returned her attention to the saucepan on the stove and resumed stirring. 


"You're supposed to stir that continuously," Rory reminded her.


Lorelai shrugged in response as she unwrapped a stick of butter and added a chunk of it to the ingredients.


"Did you just put more butter in?" Rory asked, shocked.


Lorelai swallowed nervously. "No."


Rory gave her a dubious look.


"Yes," Lorelai admitted. "Well, it can't hurt."


"Mom, that's almost two whole sticks! That's way too much butter."


"It's a Paula Deen recipe. There is no such thing as too much butter! Besides, Luke will never know." She narrowed her eyes threateningly.


Rory raised her eyebrows. "Oh, I think he'll know."


The sound of heavy footsteps climbing the porch steps gave them pause.  "Shh...he's coming," Lorelai whispered. She held her breath and listened as Luke entered the house.


"Hello?" he called out a moment later.


Lorelai gestured for Rory to take over things in the kitchen, while she greeted the man of the hour. "Hey, hot stuff," she said, meeting him in the foyer.


Luke shook his head, smiling. "What's all this?" he asked, indicating the decorations.


"This, is a party," Lorelai said.

"What for?"


"For you." Lorelai grinned. "Tonight, we're celebrating the newest inhabitant of the Crap Shack."


"This is all for me?" Luke asked in amazement.


"Well, it ain't for Debbie," Lorelai teased. She moved closer to him and gave him a lingering kiss. "Happy Homecoming," she whispered against his lips. 

"Thank you," he said sincerely when they moved apart. "Is Rory here?"


"She's in the kitchen. Cooking," Lorelai felt compelled to add.


"Cooking?" Luke asked.  Lorelai nodded. "Rory's cooking?" She nodded harder. "In the kitchen?" She gave him a 'duh' expression. "Unsupervised?"


"I was just in there a minute ago," Lorelai explained.


"Unsupervised?" he asked again.  


She rolled her eyes and grabbed him by the elbow, leading him into the jungle.


♫   ♫   ♫    


An hour later, every plate had been scraped clean, including Luke's, and the party had moved into the living room.


"So, you really liked it?" Lorelai asked Luke from her position next to him on the couch.


Luke smiled. "Yes, I really liked it. Should I put it in writing?"


Lorelai grinned. "Sorry, I'll stop asking you. I just...I'm so happy that you liked it."


"I'm glad. Although, the amount of butter you used would have made my shoelaces taste good," he said with a teasing glint.


Lorelai's mouth opened in shock. "You told him!" she accused Rory.


"I did not!" Rory shouted defensively.


"Did too!" Lorelai shouted back.


"I cook," Luke said by way of explanation. "Every day, multiple times a day. I think I can tell when an unconscionable amount of butter has been used." He smirked. 


"Unconscionable?" Lorelai demanded, unable to suppress her grin. 


"You said at dinner that it was a Paula Deen recipe?" Luke asked in confirmation.    


Lorelai nodded. "Yeah, 'The Lady and Sons' Chicken Pot Pie'. Why?"


"Because you put her reputation to shame," he answered.


Lorelai and Rory gave him a confused look.


"You know, you used more butter than she ever has," Luke clarified. 


Without warning, the girls broke into a fit of giggles. "Oh my God! Luke watches Paula! What are you, like a Food Network junkie?" Lorelai forced out between gasps.


Luke groaned, blushing.


"We send you love and best dishes, from our kitchen to yours," Rory said in her best Southern accent.


Luke shook his head.


Lorelai moved closer to him on the couch and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. "Aw, Luke, we tease because we love." 


He cracked the tiniest of smiles. "Just don't make me watch the Food Network with you," he warned.


Lorelai and Rory grinned.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫    

"Lor," Christopher said, trotting up to the front desk of the Dragonfly.

"Chris," she said in surprise.  "What are you doing here?"  

"I came to talk to Rory.  She mentioned the other day she'd been working here during the week."   

"Dad?" Rory asked in disbelief, coming out from the kitchen. "Why are you...?"  


"Hi, Rory." Her dad gave her a small smile and waved awkwardly.  

"I didn't expect to see you here," Rory told him, still staring at him in amazement.   


Christopher pulled Rory off to the side, near the stairs.  "I thought a lot about what you said at lunch the other day, and I really want to be a more significant player in your life. I know I've been doing a pretty lousy job of showing that, and I'm sorry."   


Rory didn't answer. It was an understatement at best, but she could tell he felt bad, and she didn't want to make him feel worse. In the silence, she heard footsteps grow louder and nearer.

"Hey, you two," Lorelai said. "Don't mean to interrupt, but maybe you'd like to go sit down in my office?"

"That would be nice, if you're sure you don't mind," Christopher responded.   

"No, not all," Lorelai waved it off. "Rory, you know the way."

Rory led her father to Lorelai's office and closed the door behind them. 

"Rory, I'm really sorry," Christopher said again once they were settled.  "I guess I've done a pretty crappy job of being your dad.  Seems something always comes up when I try to be involved.  I know that's no excuse, and I'm going to try to keep it from happening from now on."


She nodded, encouraging him to continue.   

"I think we should make a commitment  to each other to stay connected. Whether that's through email, phone or in person. I really want to be a part of your life."  Chris leaned forward, his expression earnest.


"I'd really like that, Dad, but we've been through this before. We tried the weekly phone calls back when I was in high school, and it fizzled quickly then, and we tried keeping in contact when I was at Yale, but that didn't work for very long, either. I guess..." she hesitated. "I guess I'm just skeptical."

"It's different this time, Rory. I get it now," Christopher insisted.  "For years, I've been saying I want to be more a part of your life, but I didn't really do much about it.  It was just easier to check in with your mom once in a while and let her tell me what was going on in both your lives."

Rory crossed her arms.  That was exactly the problem.  Not just that he was always taking the easy way, but that he felt he had to go through Lorelai to get to her.  "Well, that's not the way to do it," she told him.  "I really don't like that you do that.  It makes me feel like I'm still eight years old."  

"You're right," her father agreed.  "I'm sorry.  What you said the other day at the café really made me think.  I mean, you've been off  the campaign trail for, what, two months?"


Rory nodded.  "Thereabouts."

"I didn't even know until your mom called to wish Gigi a happy birthday.  I found out because she called to wish my kid a happy birthday, and I didn't even do that for my own kid." 

Rory swallowed hard.  It would be so easy to just believe him, but she refused to give in. "You know, Dad, even when we talked the other day, you were saying how you were busy and that's why you didn't call me."  She paused, twisting her hands in her lap.  "It's going to have to be different now, also, because I don't know where I'm going to be... I mean, I'm trying to find a job, and who knows where I'll end up. I just don't want you using that as an excuse."


"I won't.  I'm really trying here, Rory," her dad said.  "I'm really going to try a lot harder from now on."

"If you want this to happen, then you better stick to it.  I can't keep having the same conversation with you over and over." 

"I promise.  Maybe we could start by having a weekly phone call?  How's Thursday?"

"Let's just try to talk more," Rory suggested instead.  "Don't be afraid to call me if I might be busy, and don't call Mom to find out about me.  We'll try to work it out and get together regularly.  I'd like to see Gigi more often, too." 

"It's a deal," her dad said, standing up. 

As they walked back to the lobby, Rory jammed her hands in her pockets. 

"So, I'll talk to you soon," Chris said by the door.

"Better mean that," Rory said, pointing her index finger at him.    


"Promise," Chris assured her.  "Bye."


"That sounds like it went well," Lorelai observed, coming up behind Rory.


"Yeah, maybe," Rory said.  "I think maybe it did." 


♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  


Miss Patty's Studio was packed by 6:30 on Monday night. Not a seat was to be had. There was talk that Taylor would be making an appearance, and after the last meeting, people were expecting quite a show. As the clock neared 7:00, the crowd quieted in anticipation.


"Ooh, this is gonna be good," Lorelai whispered to Rory, unable to contain her excitement.


Rory chuckled.


Luke grunted.


The first person on the stage was Kirk. He was busy tinkering with some kind of display, hidden beneath a sheet. Lorelai looked on with keen interest.


Patty marched in behind Kirk, carrying a flipchart and placing it to the right of the podium. She shrugged at the questioning looks she received, apparently uncertain of the purpose her object held. 


Moments later, Taylor entered the studio, an accomplished smile on his face. He nodded hello to the people as he crossed the stage, coming to a halt behind the podium. He cleared his throat and started into his prepared speech. "As most of you are aware, I have been suffering from an agonizing condition for the past week–"     


"Has it passed yet?" A few impatient shouts came from the crowd.


"Let me finish, please!" Taylor returned, sharply. He paused briefly, collecting his thoughts, then continued, "My journey began last Monday, when my life would be forever changed..."


"I think he's still on a journey," Lorelai whispered to the people in her row, as Taylor rambled on. "You know, of the Jefferson Airplane variety." That brought a smile to several faces.


Taylor's voice elevated, earning him the undivided attention of the entire assembly. "And in the end...I was rewarded for my divine patience and inimitable strength. It passed."


A hush fell over the room.


"It passed?" Gypsy finally asked.


Taylor nodded. "It passed."


"It passed!" various people exclaimed with glee. Applause echoed throughout the building.


"When did it pass?" Morey asked Taylor on behalf of his fellow gamblers.


"Earlier this evening," Taylor said.  


Gypsy stood up from her seat and hooted obnoxiously. Kirk scowled at her from his position next to the hidden display.


"She won the pool," Lorelai explained to those disturbed by the sudden outburst.


"Which brings me to my next order of business," Taylor prattled on, unaffected by the goings on around him.  


"Is it time yet?" Kirk asked restlessly.


"Not yet, Kirk. I told you to wait for my signal," Taylor answered sternly. He moved closer to the flipchart, picked up a marker, and began what appeared to be, some kind of illustration. Taylor communicated his diagram to the audience in a vibrant, schoolteacher tone. "The stone took shape in my left kidney." He paused, pointing to the image. "As the stone grew agitated, it pushed violently against the walls of my tender organ, eventually breaching the barrier that stood in its way, and forcing itself into my ureter." Again, he gestured to his animation, sketching the path of the stone.


"Okay, he's definitely on something," Andrew remarked from his seat amidst the stunned masses. 


"Must be the lasting effects of the morphine," Jackson suspected.


"The stone channeled down the long, dark tunnel of my ureter, and came to a temporary rest in my bladder," Taylor continued. "It took many hours, but at long last, the stone made its final descent, down the narrow passage of my urethra...and into my awaiting strainer. And it is of benefit to you all, that I was so fastidious in my efforts to collect the stone." He looked to Kirk and gave him the go-ahead. "Kirk, you may unveil!"


Kirk smiled victoriously and revealed the display, exposing a large glass case. Inside the case, on a rotating shelf, was Taylor's kidney stone.


Sounds of shock and distaste filled the room.


"Well, I just lost my appetite," Luke groaned.


"Hey, Rory, pass me a Red Vine?" Lorelai asked in the same moment.


Taylor shuddered from his position next to Kirk. "Lorelai, please don't say the word pass."


She held back a chuckle. "Anyone else want a Red Vine?"


"Nah, I think I'll pass," Gypsy said a little louder than necessary.


Taylor glared at her. 


"Step right up, everybody," Kirk instructed. "Come and see the stone that ravaged Taylor. A stone so large, you'd want to wear it on your finger. Only five bucks a pop!"


"Kirk!" Taylor shouted. "I agreed to the glass, I did not agree to the viewing fee." He quickly cleared up the matter, "It's free, everyone. The first viewing is free."  


"Now that's an offer too good to pass up!" Jackson exclaimed.   


"The next person to say the word pass will be banned from Doose's Market for a week," Taylor threatened.


Slowly but surely, the crowd of people formed a line and took a peak at the conversation piece.   


"I think you should pull a William Shatner and sell it on eBay," Lorelai said to Taylor as she witnessed the exhibit firsthand.


He seemed to consider the suggestion.


After all interested parties had a chance to see the display, Taylor returned to the podium and gestured for everyone to take their seats. "This concludes our evening together," he informed the townspeople. "I thank you all for your support and well wishes during my difficult time. I'd also like to remind you all that March 9th is World Kidney Day. You can pick up a brochure at the back table on your way out."


"And you can pick up your T-shirts there as well," Kirk added. "One hundred percent pre-shrunk cotton, in three different designs," he noted, holding up examples of the merchandise. Taylor watched in wide-eyed amazement.


"Ooh, I want a 'Kidney Stones Rock!' T-shirt!" Lorelai squealed.


"I like the 'Morphine is for Junkies' one," Rory admitted.


"Hey, you totally stole my line!" Andrew accused Kirk after he revealed the third design: 'Kidney Stones: I'd rather have bird crap fall on my head'.


"I'll give it to you for half the price," Kirk offered.


"I'm not paying you! You should be paying me!" Andrew barked back.


Lorelai grabbed Rory and Luke by the arms. "I think we should split before a riot breaks out... and the glass shatters." Luke and Rory immediately agreed. They slipped out the door and into the night air, just as T-shirts started flying.


Lorelai frowned when they reached the sidewalk. "I really wanted a T-shirt."


Luke looked to her, then to Miss Patty's studio, shaking his head. "I'll meet you back home."

Lorelai beamed.  "I'll take a medium...get one for Rory too," she insisted. "See you back home."  


He nodded and slowly trudged back into the war zone.


"I love this town," Lorelai said happily, clutching her daughter's arm as they walked home.







To be continued... 





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