Virtual Gilmore Girls

Episode 8.16 "It's Finally Ticking"
 by DippersBaby and Mrs. Dionysius O'Gall


Authors' Note: Thanks to Avery and wounded for their fantastic attention to beta detail!


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Lorelai stepped into the Dragonfly Inn's kitchen, expecting to hear the usual sounds of Sookie's hectic but well-run domain, as she went for her usual post-lunch coffee foray. But instead, she walked in to the sound of Sookie's voice, and a shrill "You go."

Go Sookie! Lorelai thought. I'll give Michel three seconds...

"No, you."

Michel's response was delivered with his customary haughtiness.


He was answered with the sound of furious chopping.

Lorelai filled her cup, and sighed with satisfaction. The Dragonfly Inn: where the staff is like family, especially the arguing part. She looked over the rim of her cup towards Sookie.

"You... you go this time. I just went by there a few minutes ago." Sookie turned her attention away from Michel, and back to the array of winter vegetables awaiting her knife. Michel winced as she mercilessly attacked the closest legume.

"Lorelai..." Michel whined, noticing her presence at the coffee station.

"Is there a problem?" Lorelai asked, stirring some creamer into her cup.

"Yes, there's an insufferable person out there..." Michel complained.

In cadence with the chop-chop-chop of Sookie's cleaver, Lorelai interrupted the whining concierge. "Don't want to hear it. La-la-la-la-la," she sing-songed, walking towards the kitchen exit with a topped-off cup of coffee.

"Wait! Norman Mailer!" Sookie blurted.

"Is dead," Lorelai helpfully supplied, turning towards Sookie.

"I know, poor man, can you believe it..." Sookie continued, putting down the cleaver. "There's this guy out in the dining room, just like Norman Mailer. Sitting there. Except not ordering iced tea. And not dead. But not ordering a thing. So he might as well be..."

"He's a guest, right?"


"No. He is an interloper using up all our free wireless," Michel groused. "He is not registered. And we are full. If that man," Michel could barely force the word out of his mouth, "continues to sit there, he will use up all our wireless and I will not be able..."


"You will not be able to stream Celine Dion videos off of YouTube," Lorelai smirked as Michel turned up his nose with disdain.

Sookie waved a large purple eggplant in Lorelai's direction. "He's been here since breakfast, and all through lunch. It's a good thing some of the guests went antiquing today. Otherwise, we would have had a seating problem."


"Has he ever been here before?"

One end of the eggplant landed in the trash bin. "He doesn't look like any food critic I know, and he's way too obvious to be a secret shopper."

"All morning long, huh?" Lorelai took a gulp of her coffee. "Maybe we're picking up transmissions from the Cylons." She shrugged.  "Carry on with the veggie guillotine, Madame Defarge; I'll go take a look at Norman Mailer redux." 

Curious, Lorelai made her way to the dining area, and noticed an ordinary-looking man sitting at a table, laptop open. She casually walked past him, stopping to nonchalantly rearrange the place settings at an adjacent table. She smiled at him, both to let him know that she was aware of his presence, and as a good-faith business gesture, just in case he was a guest. Satisfied that he was indeed just using her dining room as an ersatz Starbucks, she turned to introduce herself.

"Good afternoon, I'm Lorelai Gilmore!" she brightly announced, extending her hand for a business-like handshake.


"Fred Summers," the dining room guest returned her handshake as he simultaneously arose. "Nice to meet you, Ms. Gilmore."


"Lorelai, please," she said, pulling up a chair at his table. "Do you mind?"


"Please join me."


"Can I get you anything?" She placed her coffee mug on the table. "Our kitchen is open."


"I'm fine, thank you. Actually, there is a reason I'm here." Fred looked around the dining room. "This is a very impressive establishment."


Lorelai smiled proudly. "It's just a little inn."

"Ah, but with an incredible occupancy rate and a consistently high ranking." Fred cleared his throat. "Do you have a minute?" He turned and reached for some papers. "Lorelai, I'm with the Cendant Group."

Lorelai's eyes grew wide with recognition.

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Luke's Diner was doing brisk business for a weekday mid-afternoon on a sunny, yet cold, winter day. The door seemed in a constant state of motion, with both townies and visitors coming in. Rory had spent the better part of an hour there, and was finding it difficult to concentrate with all the comings and goings.

"Hey Rory," Andrew greeted as he made his way to the door, clutching a to-go bag.


"Andrew, hey," Rory responded, looking up from a page she had divided in two vertically. One column was headed 'Steve', the other 'Kwan'.

"Sure is crowded today."




Andrew nodded in the direction of her notepad. "Looks like you're working hard. Writing the latest Obama-gram?"

Rory winced. Ever since she'd taken the job, everyone felt compelled to make some sort of Obama-related joke. Kirk had even posted his very own version of Obama-girl on YouTube in homage to her first post-college job.


"Well, I am organizing something..." Rory continued, somewhat embarrassed. Not everyone knew about the disaster her career had become. She straightened up in her chair. "I'm helping Lane with the twins' first birthday."

"Hope the weather holds up for it," Lane interjected as she juggled five huge platters on various parts of her arms.

"Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow the other day, so it's going to be another six weeks of winter," Andrew supplied, none-too-helpful. "Good luck with the weather. Gotta head back to the bookstore."

"Thanks, Andrew," Rory said.

As Andrew left, Rory turned to Lane. "Theme. We need a theme, don't you think?"

"First birthday isn't theme enough?" Lane responded as she acknowledged another customer's waving coffee mug. "One moment, just brewing a fresh pot." She placed the remaining platters in front of the appropriate customers, multi-tasking between customers and her friend.

"Busy, huh?"

"I'm so glad you're helping us with the party. Zach and I have been so busy with the new band stuff. So a theme, huh?" Lane frowned, at a loss for ideas.

"Maybe we could go with chipmunks..." Rory mused, "what with February, and Punxsutawney Phil..."

"Nope. So not rock-n-roll," Lane adamantly interrupted. "Besides, Kwan's scared of Alvin."

"So, no Alvin, no Chip, no Dale, got it," Rory added, ending up talking to Lane's back. Another customer had caught her attention and she was off on a ketchup hunt.

"Be right back," Lane tossed over her shoulder.

A few minutes later, ketchup found and delivered, Lane returned. Wiping her hands on her apron, she pulled out a chair, and exhausted, sat down across from Rory.

"Luke's back from his bank run, so Caesar can relieve me a bit," Lane answered Rory's questioning look. "Whatcha got for the party?" She reached for the notepad.

Rory immediately shifted into presentation mode. "I vote we have the party next Saturday afternoon, because that's when a) you and Zach both are off work and b) Miss Patty's is available."

Lane wearily agreed and went on to the next item: birthday cake. Under 'Steve', Rory had written "carrot cake"; under 'Kwan', a question mark.

Lane smiled. "You do realize that the boys don't really eat cake yet... I'm still nursing part-time and Zach and Mama only let them eat tofu and fruits and veggies."

"Oh, I know," Rory agreed, "Zach's become quite the Mama Kim culinary disciple!" Both girls giggled as Rory continued. "Haven't you ever been to a first birthday? It's like wedding cake: the smushing of the cake, the mess. It's amazing what a toddler can do when a piece of chocolately frosted goodness is placed in front of him. What did your mom do on your first birthday? Did she ever tell you, show you photos or video?"

"Um, well you know my mom. I had the perfect Seventh Day Adventist birthday... probably macrobiotic food garnished with an extra bunch of wheatgrass," Lane reminisced. "And I think she believed that videotaping would steal my soul." Lane sighed. "I bet your first birthday party was fun, for the adults at least. Lorelai's parties are always great!"

"Yeah, well my first birthday was at Grandma and Grandpa's... and mom said they had me in a dress so fancy, I could have doubled as Velázquez' Infanta... but hey, the twins would look so cute with cake all over their little faces!"

"And would be so hard to clean up..." Lane sighed.

"But cake sounds good?"

Lane interrupted with a frown. "Wait a sec... we may have to ixnay the ake-cay." She placed her hands together in a praying gesture.

"Oh, right... Your mom and church."

"I'll see what I can do. It's going to be hard enough convincing Mama that we have to have the party on Saturday when we're supposed to be all church-y. I don't think I can get Mama to agree to a Saturday bash and cake on their cute little faces," Lane added, clearly crestfallen. "Not after skipping church the other day..."

Rory grabbed the list. "So, what else?" She paused. "I assume no rent-a-pony, no petting zoo, and definitely no clowns. Hep Alien for the entertainment?"

"Goes without saying. Definitely Hep Alien, definitely no clowns. This town has enough real clowns in it as it is..."

"Well, I think I've got most of the logistics down, except for the cake. Maybe we could do ice cream cake, or...  Ooh, you know what? I think we can have our cake and eat it too!" Rory was animated. "I'll get Mom to ask Luke to bake some sort of carrot-y cake that will look kind of healthy, but will be full of sugary gooeyness... and he won't be able to say no, because he's their godfather!" She wrote "L&L" in the cake column, planning to get her mom to handle Luke.

Lane broke out in a huge smile. "They're going to look so cute. I knew you were the perfect person to help plan their party!" Lane reached over to squeeze Rory's hand. "I'm so glad you're their Lorelai Gilmore."

Rory smiled. "Sometimes I wonder. You have to admit, you can't beat cake and babies for the cuteness factor."

"I wonder how they'll react to all the people and Hep Alien on a stage?" Lane mused. "Kwan always gets this funny look on his face when I'm drumming, while Steve nods his head to the beat. Maybe Kwan will be a cake man, and Steve... I swear he taps his toes!"

"So, speaking of Hep Alien, Zach told me about the rehearsals."

"They're going really well. Starting to see some real possibility for the future—with the boys along for the ride, kind of like Gwen Stefani! Gotta plan for the future..."

"More like J. Lo and her twins," Rory said.

"Kill me now, if I end up like J. Lo. Speaking of ending up, how are your plans coming along?" Lane emphasized the 'your'. "Anything new now that you're not our woman on the campaign trail?"

"Well, I... I have a few things lined up, some ideas, some proverbial irons in the fire, but I'm not quite sure yet..."

A blast of cold February air swept into the diner, as Rory looked over to see Kirk in the doorway.


"Good afternoon, ladies," Kirk greeted.


"Break's over." Lane rushed to get away from being entrapped in a conversation with Kirk.


"Close the damn door, Kirk," Luke shouted, emerging from the kitchen. "Heating bill doesn't pay itself..."


"I'll get it, boss," Lane offered.


"So did I overhear you talking about the campaign?" Kirk asked Rory. "Because I believe I can offer a service where... are those your notes?" Kirk reached out and tried to grab Rory's notepad.


Rory hugged it to her chest. "It's for the Van Gerbig twins' birthday."


"Ah, the first birthday. A ritual every young man must go through," Kirk mused. "Will Mrs. Gleason and I be receiving an invitation?"


"The whole town is invited, and yes, we're sending out invitations."

"God forbid that anything in this town actually be private," Luke grumbled as he walked by to pick up some plates. "Whatever happened to just the parents and kids in the kitchen with a balloon and a slice of cake?"

Rory gave Luke an indulgent smile.


"Well then, I accept on behalf of Mrs. Lulu Gleason and myself," Kirk seriously advised. "Shall we RSVP in writing?"

"No!" Rory couldn't help but laugh at his demeanor. "No need to."


"I take my responsibilities as a married man very seriously."


"That so? What would those be?" Luke interjected, as he again passed by Rory.


Just as Kirk was about to elaborate, Luke quickly added, "No, forget I asked, Kirk. Rory, can I get you anything?"

"No thanks, Luke, I'm good."


"As I was saying, I take marriage and family very seriously. In fact," his voice dropped to a dramatic whisper, "I've been thinking about kids."


Rory stifled a guffaw. "As in having them... ?" she tentatively asked. Dinner'll be a riot tonight, she thought, wait till I tell Mom about this conversation.

"Yes. I've been thinking about kids. I'm not getting any younger."

He looked at Rory, as if he couldn't remember a question he wanted to ask her.


Rory continued to struggle to keep a straight face. "So what does Lulu think? Does Lulu want kids so soon... you know, after getting married?"


"Ever since I took on the heavy responsibility of being a role model in 'Fiddler on the Roof', it's been on my mind. I even offered to be a Baby-Daddy before Lulu and I were engaged! Took out an ad in the newspaper with my qualifications..."


Rory knew she had to end the conversation before she burst out laughing. Kirk was a clown, but a lovable one. "So, nice talking with you, Kirk." She started to gather her things. "It's umm... time for me to meet Mom..."

"Well, since you're Stars Hollow's official Chilton and Yale graduate, Rory, I do have a question."


Lane interrupted as she stopped by Rory's table. "She's our ONLY Chilton and Yale grad!"

"So, Kirk, you had a question?" Rory figured she might as well get it over with.

"It's about shopping."

"I'm sure Taylor can help you with that," Lane tried to be helpful.

"Nope. I need someone who's really smart. I know that Rory will know." He looked Rory in the eye. "Do you know where I can buy a biological clock?"


Lane snickered as Rory again tried to contain her laughter.  "Umm, Kirk, I don't think you can buy one."


Rory agreed. "It's just a saying, Kirk... there really is no such thing."


Kirk looked crestfallen. Lane indulgently patted him on the shoulder. "You can have mine. I don't I need it anymore."


Rory laughed. "Ask Lulu. I'm sure she'll know where to get one."

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"So then what happened?"


Rory was sitting at the kitchen table addressing invitations for Steve and Kwan's birthday party.  Lorelai was flitting around, preparing coffee.


"I went over to him and introduced myself," Lorelai said.  "His name is Fred Summers, and it turns out he runs the Independent Inns Division of the Cendant Group, which is one of the largest hotel groups in the world." 


"What did he want?"  Rory asked. 


"He wants to acquire the Dragonfly, and give me a job as a consultant,"  Lorelai answered as she placed two cups of coffee on the table.  She reached into her purse and pulled out the contract, which she placed in front of Rory as she dropped into a chair.


"Didn't you go through this a couple of years ago?" Rory asked as she looked over the contract.


"Yeah," Lorelai confirmed, "But that was with the Durham Group.  These guys are much bigger."  She took a long drink of her coffee.


"So, this guy shows up, contract in hand, asking to buy the Dragonfly?"  Rory summarized.


"Well, Sookie and I would be able to keep partial ownership of the Inn,"  Lorelai clarified.  "Which means the Dragonfly would have the power of a huge international hotel chain behind it for marketing and stuff.  That would free me up to travel to other small inns that have been acquired by the group, advising on the changes they need to make to be more successful.  I would also advise on inns I think the group should acquire.  Sookie would remain on as Executive Chef, of course." 


"Wow," Rory pushed the contract over to her mother and pointed to a particular spot.  "Is that the salary?"


Lorelai leaned over to see what Rory was pointing at.  "Yep."


"That's a pretty big number," noted Rory.


"I know," agreed Lorelai.  "You know, the offer from Durham came three years ago, which made this one seem so out of the blue.  But it turns out that this guy Fred has been keeping a close eye on the Dragonfly ever since he heard about Durham's offer back then.  I asked him why they didn't counter at the time, but he said that I turned down Durham before they had a chance.  So, he sat back and waited.  He said he's impressed with the changes we're making and our steady growth.  He said the spa project was what made him decide that the time was finally right to extend an offer.  He thinks that our profits will skyrocket once the construction is completed and we open.  They really must believe that, because this offer is leaps and bounds ahead of the one Durham made.  I am still a little blown away."


"Why?" asked Rory.  "You've worked hard to get where you are.  The Dragonfly is proof of that.  I think it's great that you've attracted the attention of an international hotel chain.  This is a really amazing offer."


"Yeah, I guess,"  Lorelai sighed.


"What's wrong?"


"Well," Lorelai mused, "the thing is, I'm really happy with where my life is right now—personally and professionally.  I see no need to change anything.  But this offer is so good, I would be nuts not to consider it."


"What did Luke say?"  inquired Rory.


"I haven't told him yet,"  Lorelai said.  "I haven't had a chance.  And he's working late tonight because Lane and Zach both have the night off."  She grabbed the contract back from Rory and looked at it thoughtfully.


"I'll show him when he gets home," she decided.  "So, what are your plans for the evening?"


"Not much.  I have a date,"  Rory said casually.


"What?"  Lorelai sat up with interest.  "You have a date?  With whom?"


"Two guys, actually," Rory shrugged.


"Okay, am I missing something?"  Lorelai looked at her daughter suspiciously.


"Don't get all freaked out," Rory smiled mischievously at her mother.  "I am going to baby-sit Steve and Kwan so Lane and Zach can have some adult time."


"And, Mrs. Kim?" 


"Bible study."


"Are you sure you're ready for this?"  Lorelai asked with more than a tinge of concern in her voice.  "I mean, you're really not a 'baby person', and this isn't just one, it's two of them."


"I think I can handle it," Rory assured her.  "I've been spending a lot more time with Lane and the boys.  And, besides, they should be sleeping anyway.  That's why I am not going over until later.  It should be a pretty quiet evening."


"If you say so," Lorelai seemed less than convinced. "If you need help, just call me."




"So," Lorelai started in her best gossip-girl voice, "did I ever tell you about the time Michel volunteered to watch Davey as a baby and made up this game called Baby Crepe that ended up with Davey trapped under the bed?"


"No!"  Rory practically squealed with delight.  "What happened?"



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Later on that evening, Lorelai was on the couch, flipping channels while Rory was searching for a magazine she wanted to take with her to Lane and Zach's.


"Are you sure you haven't seen my Entertainment Weekly?"  Rory asked as she flipped over the couch cushions.


Lorelai stood up while Rory searched under the cushion her mother had been sitting on.  "I didn't even know you had an Entertainment Weekly here.  Were you hiding it from me?"


"Of course," Rory retorted as Lorelai flopped back down.  "You are a notorious magazine thief."


"I am not!" Lorelai was affronted.  "Besides, you're going to watch two one-year-olds.  There's a really good chance you won't have any time to read."

Ignoring her mother's comment, Rory headed up the stairs.  "I'm going up to check your bedroom."


"Watch out!"  Lorelai called after her.  "You might see Luke's underwear!"


"Who might see my underwear?"  Luke said as he walked in the door.  He took off his jacket, hung it up and walked straight to Lorelai.  He leaned down to give her a lingering kiss.  "Or are you talking to yourself again?"  he teased as he dropped down beside her on the couch.


"I found it!"  Rory waved the magazine triumphantly as she came bounding back down the stairs.  "Hey, Luke!"


"Hey, Rory."


"I can't believe you found that upstairs," Lorelai said with wide-eyed innocence.  "It couldn't possibly have been mixed in with that pile of magazines on my nightstand."

Rory just shook her head at her mother as she stuffed the magazine, along with two books, into her bag.


"I'm off,"  Rory said as she headed out the door.  "'Night!"


"'Night, hon," Lorelai called back.  "Good luck!"


Luke leaned in to Lorelai.  "She's not leaving because I'm home, is she?"


"Nope.  Rory is off to baby-sit Steve and Kwan," she explained.


"Wow," he said in amazement.  "Is she sure she's ready to be alone with those two boys?  They're in the diner quite a bit and they can be a handful."


"Hey, if Rory says she can handle it, she can handle it." Lorelai couldn't stop a bit of skepticism from seeping into her voice.  She stood up.


"You want a beer?"  she offered.




Lorelai walked to the kitchen and grabbed two beers from the fridge.  She stopped at the table and stared down at the contract still lying there from when she and Rory looked it over earlier.  She took a deep breath and picked it up before heading back into the living room. She handed Luke his beer as she sat back down.  He took a long swig of his as Lorelai took a small sip from hers.


"So," Lorelai said slowly before blurting out the Cliff's Notes version of the day's events. "This guy from the Independent Inns Division of the Cendant Group came in today to make me an offer to purchase part of the Inn and hire me on as a consultant."  She handed him the contract and waited for a reaction.


Luke took the contract without a word and began to look it over.


"This is a really good offer,"  he said after a few moments.  "What are you going to do?"


"Well," Lorelai said slowly, "my gut reaction is to turn it down." 


Luke looked at her with an indiscernible expression before turning his attention back to the contract.


"I mean," she rushed on, "it's not like I was out looking to sell or find a different job.  I know this is a great offer, though, so I haven't made a final decision."


"What does Sookie think?"


"I don't know," admitted Lorelai.  "We haven't really talked about it yet."


Luke just nodded silently as he continued to look over the contract.  Lorelai cast a glance at him, trying to figure out what he was thinking.  Giving up, she settled into the couch more comfortably, turned her attention back to the television and took a long swallow of her beer.


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One glance at the Van Gerbig apartment, and one might be concerned that someone had broken in and ransacked the place.  Every single toy owned by Steve and Kwan was strewn haphazardly around the living room floor.  The magazine Rory spent so much time searching for at home was lying open, forgotten, on the floor.  She was standing in the middle of the chaos, attempting to soothe a screaming Kwan by fruitlessly trying to get him to take his bottle.


"Please, Kwan, just take this bottle for Auntie Rory.  I promised Mommy and Daddy I could handle this.  Not to mention that's what I told my mommy.  Please, please, please don't make a liar out of me!"  Rory's pleading fell of deaf ears, as Kwan just continued to scream and push the bottle away.


"You know, with lungs like this you'll make an excellent lead singer," she told him.  She suddenly realized that something—or more appropriately, someone—was missing. She swung around to search the room.


"Where's your brother?"


As if on cue, Rory heard the snare drum from Lane's kit crash to the ground, followed by an ear-splitting scream.  She whirled around to see Steve sitting next to the fallen drum.


"Oh my God!"


Rory leaped to action. She quickly placed Kwan on the floor, still howling, and dropped his bottle next to him amidst the sea of toys.  Rushing as quickly as she could through the obstacle course that was the floor, Rory reached Steve in a panic.  She picked him up and turned him around, checking for damage.


"You don't appear to have any marks or bruises," she said to the still-hysterical infant.  "You were just startled, weren't you?"  She held him close, trying to sooth him—and herself—with an age-old rocking motion.  As she rocked him, she turned back around to find Kwan had stopped crying because he now had a mouthful of her magazine.




She quickly rushed back across the room and grabbed the magazine away, still holding an upset Steve.  Taking away the magazine sent Kwan into a whole new round of fits.


At this point Rory herself looked like she was ready to cry.  She reached into her purse, grabbed her phone and pressed the speed-dial.






"Rory?  Is everything alright?"  


"They were asleep, but Lane said Kwan fell asleep without his nighttime feeding and that he might wake up, which he did, which woke up Steve, but then Kwan wouldn't take the bottle Lane left and he wouldn't stop screaming, and I was trying to get him to take the bottle when Steve decided to pull a Keith Moon and knock over Lane's drums..."


Lorelai cut her off, "Oh, my God, is he okay?"


"He's fine he just scared himself, but now neither of them will stop crying and I don't know what to do. Help me!" Rory cried desperately.


"I'm on my way!"


Rory hung up the phone and threw it back into her bag.  She sank down, still holding Steve, and pulled Kwan onto her lap.  The crying twins continued wailing  as Rory rocked back and forth, willing her mother to get there soon.


"Hurry, hurry, hurry..."


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The Gilmore girls were sitting on the floor in Lane and Zach's apartment, amidst the mess.  There were still toys scattered to all corners of the living room and Lane's snare drum was still lying on the floor where Steve had toppled it earlier.  Lorelai was holding Steve, who was sound asleep, curled up in her arms.  Kwan was nestled in the cradle Rory's Indian-style seating position created.  He was holding his bottle and sucking gently, but fading fast.


"He's almost asleep," Lorelai commented as she jutted her chin in Kwan's direction.


"I know," Rory glanced down at the now-quiet boy, whose eyes were closed.  He gave a few half-hearted sucks on the bottle before going still with a small sigh, the bottle falling out of his mouth and resting on his chest.  Rory picked it up and placed it on the floor next to her before running a gentle hand over his head.


"Thanks for coming and saving me," Rory said to her mother, a dejected note to her voice.


"Aw, hon," Lorelai said sympathetically. "This was your first time babysitting, ever.  And you chose to jump in with year-old twins.  You were bound to need some help."


"Lane never baby-sat, but she doesn't seem to have a problem being the mother of twins."  Rory couldn't stop the derision that crept in.


"Rory," Lorelai said softly, "if you remember correctly, Lane was completely overwhelmed at the beginning.  But they," she gestured to the twins, "didn't move around much, then.  And she had a lot of help.  She had Zach, her mom, even Brian.  Handling these guys didn't come to her in one night."


Rory shrugged.  "But you took care of me without any help.  You were so young, but you worked, took care of me, made a home... all without any help.  I'll never be you."


"What does that mean?" Lorelai asked gently.


"Remember when Lane asked me to be her 'Lorelai Gilmore'?" Rory glanced at her mother for affirmation.  At Lorelai's nod, Rory went on.  "Well, I don't think I'm ever going to be able to do it.  Look at what a disaster tonight turned out to be.  I can't be left alone for a few hours with my best friend's kids without calling my mommy for help!  And look at all the things you accomplished.  You raised me by yourself.  You put yourself and me through school.  You started out as a maid, wound up running the place, and then opened your own inn!  Now, you're receiving unsolicited offers of employment from huge hotel chains!  I get my first job out of college and I can't hack it.  I get offered my dream—to be a journalist, on the road, getting the story—and I'm miserable, I..."


Lorelai stopped her.  "Okay, enough with the self-pity.  You are smart, and strong, and full of potential.  Just because you realized the campaign trail wasn't for you doesn't mean you're not cut out to be a journalist.  You just need to find what it is you're passionate about, and you'll be fine.  Remember that Drew Barrymore movie where she is a reporter that goes back to high school?"


"Mom," Rory looked at her mother as if to say 'duh.'


"Okay," Lorelai allowed, "of course you do.  But, remember what she says at the end?  'In order to be a good reporter, you have to write what you know'?  Think about it," she said pointedly.  "I mean, I think it has to do with writing what's in your heart.  Maybe writing about politics isn't.  And that's okay.  You'll figure it out."


They sat quietly, Rory silently conceding the point to her mother.  But after a few moments, she decided to turn the tables a little.


"So," she asked, "what are you going to do about your offer?"


Lorelai shook her head and raised a shoulder in a half-shrug.  "I don't know."


"Well, did you tell Luke?"  Rory asked.


"Yeah," Lorelai answered.  "But he didn't really say anything except he thought it was a really good offer."


"So, he's not against it?"  Rory inquired.


"He doesn't appear to be," Lorelai replied thoughtfully.


"Will it make a difference in your decision if he is?"


"Yes and no," Lorelai said.  "Luke's opinion matters a lot to me.  And if he were against me taking the job, then I would ask why and see what the reasons are.  Maybe he thought of something I didn't.  That's part of being in a relationship, right?"


"Wow, Mom, you've come a long way," Rory said, only half-joking.


"Ha, ha," Lorelai retorted, dryly, before getting back on subject.  "All I'm saying is that his opinion matters, but it's ultimately my decision whether or not I think this opportunity is right for me.  Which, by the way, I am still not sure."


"So, I guess I'm not the only one with some big decisions to make." Rory observed.


"I guess not," Lorelai concurred. "We'd better get these two into their cribs." Lorelai gestured to the sleeping babies.


"Yeah," agreed Rory.  She gingerly picked up Kwan, who didn't even stir, and stood up.  Lorelai pushed up into a kneeling position before straightening up and shaking out her legs as they headed to the cribs.


They each placed their sleeping bundle in a crib, lingering for a moment over the sleeping babies.  Lorelai took notice of the ease at which Rory handled getting Kwan up from the floor and into his crib without waking him.


"See," she said to her daughter in a voice tinged with love and pride.  "You're getting better at this already."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  


The next morning, Lorelai found herself busily accommodating an unusually high number of early check-ins. Lorelai had assembled a small group of guests whose rooms were not quite ready for check-in, and was taking them on a mini-tour of the inn's grounds to pass the time. Surprisingly though, the inn's staff was unusually quiet—Michel had not wandered from his post to bother anyone, Sookie was holed up in the kitchen, and various other workers were nowhere to be seen. The last time the inn was this quiet in the middle of a deluge of guests, Sookie had been very upset with Lorelai, and Michel on the outs with his dogs.

"Something is definitely wrong..." Lorelai muttered, suspicious. She decided that now was as good a time as any for a snack—so a visit to the kitchen was in order. She steered the small group to the dining area and promised to send out some cookies.

After getting the early check-ins seated, she rounded the corner into the kitchen. The first thing Lorelai noticed was that the big door to Sookie's Sanctum Sanctorum was closed. Sookie always has an open kitchen, Lorelai silently mused as she opened the door.

Sookie's normally pleasantly-abuzz and hectic kitchen was quiet. Except for the clangs and chopping motions of various kitchen implements, not a sound could be heard. Manny was at a corner station, arranging platters of some sort of fowl for the oven. And Sookie was kitchen central, methodically chopping, her mezzaluna chop-chop-chopping, accompanied by her chef's rocking motion as she then swept the chopped veggies into a huge stock pot. Her usually neat workstation was in a state of disarray—Lorelai could not help notice the piles of veggies randomly stacked on a platter, and the overflowing trash bin next to Sookie.

Lorelai nevertheless watched for a beat, noticing that Sookie had quickly looked up at her, and was purposely ignoring her.

"What, is Anthony Bourdain scheduling an execution here today?" Lorelai quipped.

Sookie paused a second, ignoring her.

Lorelai cleared her throat. "Well, let me go check the leftovers, see if there's cupcakes leftover from yesterday afternoon's tea party..." She forced a smile. "Got a handful of early check-ins I need to pacify."

Sookie dropped the mezzaluna on the counter. "My kitchen is closed right now." She looked Lorelai in the eye for a moment longer than necessary, emphasizing the possessive "my."

"Just getting some snacks..." Lorelai lightly countered. "Leftovers, at that..."

"Leftovers is right," Sookie announced. Then her voice dropped. "That's all I—all we—are to you."

Lorelai, concerned, closed the cooler door and turned to Sookie. "Is something wrong?"

"Oh, no, everything's OK," Sookie blithely stated. "It's standard operating procedure, I guess, to sell a business without consulting your partner."

"I'm not selling..." Lorelai began, realizing that Sookie was referring to Fred and the Cendant Group.

"Well that's not what it looks like from here. I heard you, on the phone, with Luke, talking about this guy's offer. Yep, instead of talking to your partner, you talked to Luke. And it's not even his investment anymore... you paid him back a long time ago, and it's not like he's married to you..." Sookie trailed off, realizing she had hit a raw nerve.

Lorelai was silent for a long, painful minute. When it became too awkward, she held out an olive branch. "Aw, I'm sorry, Sookie. Listen, why don't you take a quick break and we'll talk? Fred did give you a copy of your offer, right?"

Sookie shook her head, refusing the offer. "I'm surprised, really surprised. And mad. Madder than smad. Remember when we were all worried about Mia selling the Independence Inn? It was you who said it would be taken over by some big chain, that would bring in their business models and corporate stuff..." Sookie stopped to inhale. "It's why we bought this place, made it what it is..." she softly finished.

Lorelai reached out to squeeze her friend's arm.

"You're gonna take them up on their offer, aren't you?" Sookie sadly added.

"I'm considering it." She hastened to reassure Sookie, "But that doesn't mean you have to sell your part of the Inn."

"At least last time, you mulled it over. Lots and lots of mulling..."

"But if I do accept, Sookie, I'll still be around. They'd hire me back as a consultant... hire you back if you take your offer... I would never leave you to deal with this alone. We're partners... and friends?"

"Excuse me," Michel's drawl suddenly interrupted. "Am I not part of this business as well?"

"Umm yes, you are a valued part of the staff."

"The soap and towel man is here for you," Michel informed her.

"The linen delivery guy?" Lorelai asked, frowning.

"No, the gift basket man is here. I sent him to your office. He is waiting."

Lorelai, hands outstretched in helplessness, turned to Sookie. "Gotta go... we'll talk later." Lorelai assured her. "I promise."

♫   ♫   ♫  


Lorelai sat at her desk, across from Mike Armstrong. After apologizing for arriving at the inn unannounced, he booted up his laptop and went straight into his pitch. Lorelai listened carefully as he described his proposal.

"As this chart shows, the Durham Group is prepared to offer you these new terms, along with topping, by a dollar a share, the bid from Cendant." Mike pointed at a graph on his laptop screen. "I'll email the details to you, and please keep this hard-copy." He handed a brightly-colored bound presentation to her.

"Wow..." Lorelai murmured as she looked over the hard-copy. "Six weeks vacation? And that's a week more than Cendant's offer?" She frowned. "Hey, how is it you know about Cendant?" she candidly asked.

Mike chuckled. "Let's face it, after that article appeared a few years ago and all the guidebooks and travel sites began featuring the Dragonfly, it pretty much became impossible for you to fly under the radar. And since then, you've kept the profit margin, even increased it; really, you've done a remarkable job. I'm not surprised that there are other offers."

"Yep, that's me, Miss Congeniality," Lorelai quipped. "But this isn't the only well-run inn in the area."

"Then there's the matter of the expansion." He gave her a knowing look. "We're prepared to assume the capital risk for you for the spa."

"And that means?"

"You can continue with the spa without financial worry. You'll be able to tap into the bigger resources of the Durham Group. Look, Lorelai, I know you don't like to be pressured." He smiled. "Believe me, I tried last time, wooing you to join Durham."  He pointed to more numbers on the chart. "I don't want to pressure you—no need to make a hasty decision. Kind of like they say about marriage—marry in haste and repent in leisure..."

"So I can take my time, think about it..."

"Take all the time you need. Really think about it, Lorelai. I want you to be 100 percent comfortable with this decision. What I can assure you though, is that Durham's offer is not only more generous than Cendant's, but you'll fit right into our corporate culture."

"But why now?" Lorelai pressed for more details.

Mike Armstrong leaned back in his chair. "Well this was a classic case of networking," he chuckled. "I have to say I was surprised to hear that you were considering another offer." He toyed with his pen. "It's a small, small, incestuous little world, this business of ours. So, I figured that since you were entertaining Cendant's offer, you might be ready to make a change."

Lorelai nodded.

"I've got to tell you, we rarely encounter an opportunity like this. The Inn's bottom line is healthy and you're not in any hurry to sell. But look, I said I wouldn't pressure you, and I'll stay true to my word. Whatever happens, we'll stay in touch."

He stood, and extended his hand to Lorelai. "Give me a call or shoot me an email once you've decided."

"It'll take me a few days. I need to go over this with my partner."

"I'll be talking to her as well about her contract. But like I said, take your time. Have your attorney look it over."

Mike picked up his coat. As he made his way to Lorelai's office door, he stated, "No need to see me out. Have a nice day, Lorelai."

"Goodbye then," Lorelai said, as she sank back down into her desk chair, and began mulling.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  


"Why is there a clock on my counter?" Luke gruffly asked Kirk, who was tinkering with a new clock and no less than three screwdrivers.


"I'm trying to get my clock going."

"Take it somewhere else; this is a diner, not a repair shop."

"But you work on your toaster here, all the time," Kirk whined in return.

"And this is Luke's. Therefore, my appliances, all of them, can be repaired on my, on Luke's counter." Luke punctuated his rant by pointing repeatedly at the center of his chest. "If there ever again is a Kirk's—something I hope never to see again in this or any lifetime—then you can fix your clock on your counter."

Kirk ignored his food purveyor.

"Besides," Luke continued, squinting at Kirk's clock. "It's an electronic clock, and you shouldn't try to repair it yourself."

"Not trying to repair it. Trying to set it." He smiled and hopefully added, "It's my biological clock!"

Luke had had enough. "Aw geez."

Just as Kirk was going to point out some other arcane detail about his clock, the diner doorbells chimed and to Luke's relief, a customer entered.

"Be right there!" Luke called out, then whispered, "Get rid of it!" sotto voce to Kirk.

The customer walked up to the counter and grabbed a stool. "Nice little town you've got here," he said to no one in particular.

"Lunch or early dinner?" Luke asked. "Start off with coffee?"

The new customer nodded no to the first question, and yes to the coffee.  "I see you've got pie today."

"Peach, apple or boysenberry?"


"You just passing through?" Luke asked.

"Hopefully not," the customer replied. "Here on business."


Luke placed the pie next to the coffee cup. "Oh yeah?"


"Yeah. I'm trying to close a deal. Lovely town, very charming, even in winter."

"Depends," Luke replied with a wry smile. "Not so charming when it's overrun with thousands of crazy antiquing and leaf-watching tourists."

"I can see how you'd feel that way. I'm in the hospitality industry myself."

"That so?"


The customer had a few bites of pie as Luke rummaged through the receipts near the register, shooting occasional warning glances towards Kirk at the other end of the counter.

After a few moments, the customer renewed his conversation. "You know the Dragonfly?"

Luke's interest was piqued. "The Inn? Sure do."

"That's why I'm in town."



Luke pressed on, leaning on his elbows. "You one of the inn's suppliers?"

"Nope. I'm in the people business," he chuckled. "Trying to nab some of the local management for my company. You know Lorelai Gilmore and her partner?"

Warily, Luke responded. "Can't help knowing Lorelai and Sookie in a town this small."

"Well, they're quite talented. Frankly, I'm surprised that they're satisfied with staying at such a small inn. Now the chef, I can see—married to a local, kids, roots. But Ms. Gilmore, I understand she's done raising her family. And not only does she have a lot of business savvy, but her background—her connections—well let's just say I'm surprised she's settling for managing a small little inn."

Luke picked up a rag and began wiping the already-clean counter in circles.

"Fill 'er up again, excellent coffee."

Cup full, he added, "Name's Armstrong, by the way. Mike Armstrong. And you're Luke?" He jerked his chin in the direction of the diner window.

"You betcha."


"Well," he lifted his cup in a toast-like move, "here's to closing the deal. If there's one thing I hate, it's having to compete against another company. Let's hope the fine people at the Dragonfly take me up on my offer!"

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  


Lorelai and Rory stood on the steps of the Gilmore Mansion having just arrived for Friday Night Dinner.  Just as Rory reached for the bell, Lorelai grabbed her hand to stop her.


"Let's not mention the offers on the Inn tonight, okay?" she asked her daughter.


"Why not?"  Rory wanted to know.


"I just," Lorelai paused as she searched for the right words to explain.  "I just don't want their opinions to influence me one way or the other.  I don't want to make my decision based on what my parents want.  I might end up making my choice based on exactly the opposite of what they want me to do, and I don't want that to happen.  I just want to do what is best for me based on my own wants and needs.  You understand?"


"Of course.  I am fluent in 'crazy talk,'"  Rory snarked. 


Lorelai ignored her and went on.  "Look, as much as I would like to think that I am beyond that type of behavior, subconsciously, who knows?  I don't want to take a chance, okay?"


"Whatever you say," Rory said as she rang the bell, the tone of her voice suggesting she thought her mother was a candidate for the psych ward.


Yet another new maid answered the door.  She stepped aside and gestured for Lorelai and Rory to enter.


"Come on in, y'all!"  she said brightly in a very heavy Southern accent.  "Let me get your coats.  Your mama and daddy are waitin' in the other room."


Lorelai turned wide eyes at Rory and pressed her lips together as she suppressed the urge to giggle.  They handed over their coats to the maid and watched as she sauntered away.


"I think Miss Melanie has been reincarnated," Lorelai whispered.  "No one else could have that strong of an accent and still be in that good of a mood in this house."


"Why, Scarlet," Rory said in her best Gone With the Wind voice, "You're positively wicked!"


They stepped into the parlor where Richard was preparing a drink by the bar and Emily was perched primly on the edge of a chair.


"Well, hey there, Mama and Daddy," Lorelai greeted her parents with a mock-Southern accent.


"Lorelai, please," Emily admonished.  "Hello, Rory."


"Hi, Grandma."


"Rory, you're looking well," commented Richard.


"Thanks, Grandpa, so do you."


"Drink, Lorelai?"  Richard addressed his daughter cordially.


"Martini, please."


"Coming up."  He reached for a martini glass.  "Rory?"


"Just a soda."


Lorelai and Rory made themselves comfortable on the sofa.  After a moment Richard turned to hand the girls their drinks, picked his up from the bar and took his place on the couch across from them.


"Thanks, Dad."


"Thanks, Grandpa." 


"So, Mom," Lorelai said, "I never realized you were into Southern hospitality."


"Excuse me?"


"The new maid,"  Lorelai clarified.


"She's only been here since this afternoon.  She was highly recommended by the agency as an excellent maid and cook."


"And the whole Elly Mae Clampett thing was just a bonus?"


"I am ignoring you now,"  Emily said to Lorelai before turning her full attention to Rory.  "So Rory, how is your job search going?" 


"Um, fine, Grandma," Rory answered, avoiding her grandmother's probing eyes.


"Have you had any interviews?"


"Not yet."


"You don't want to wait too long," Emily said authoritatively.  "You'll be out of school almost a year, and you certainly can't use this last experience on your resume'..." she was cut off by her husband.


"Emily, Rory is a bright, resourceful girl that just needs some time to weigh her options.  Let's give her some time and space to do that."


Emily looked chagrined.  "I was just inquiring about her future.  Forgive me for caring."


Rory and Lorelai exchanged 'what was that all about' looks as Richard changed the subject—and target.


"Lorelai, tell me, have you made a decision about the offers you've received?"


"What?"  Lorelai was caught completely off guard.  She turned to stare at him in disbelief.  "How did you know about the offers?"


"What offers?" Emily wanted to know.


"It seems that The Dragonfly has attracted the attention of the Cendant Group.  They are one of the largest hotel groups in the world.  They would like to add Lorelai's inn to their stable of independent inns and hire Lorelai on as a consultant."  Richard was obviously pleased by the news.  "From what I understand, it's a very attractive offer.  Of course, when the Durham Group heard about Cendant's offer, they countered with an even more attractive offer."


"And again, I ask, how do you know about these offers?"  Lorelai demanded.


"The Durham Group is one of my clients," Richard explained simply.  "Lorelai, I hope you are seriously considering these offers.  The benefits of being part of either of these groups are endless.  Small inns go in and out of fashion, but having the power of a larger group could keep you from becoming a casualty of a fickle public. You're also being offered a very generous career opportunity.  Having two major groups fighting over you is a coveted position to be in."


"I know, Dad, but..."


"Lorelai, that's wonderful!" Emily chimed in, obviously delighted.  "You see!  I told you that the spa would make The Dragonfly more attractive.  Of course, I never dreamed you would have offers pouring in before we were even finished!  How exciting, to see all our hard work become part of an international chain!"


"Whoa, slow down there, Danica!  Let's not go racing off to any conclusions.  I haven't decided on anything."


"But, Lorelai, this would give you the chance to travel, and not be tied to one Inn in one place,"  Emily reasoned.  "Broaden your horizons..."


"Mom, I spent a summer traveling around Europe with my daughter.  I own my own inn—which means I am my own boss, so I don't feel 'tied to one place' because I run the show.  I even let you talk me into adding a spa on.  I think my horizons are pretty broad."  Lorelai's irritation was starting to show.


Emily was undeterred.  "Lorelai, traveling for one summer and opening up a business are fine achievements, but there is so much more out there if only you would look beyond that little town of yours."


"I see," Lorelai jumped in.  "Get Lorelai out of town so she can't spend as much time with Luke, right?  I mean, you've been working really hard on this spa project to all of a sudden be so cavalier about throwing it off to some conglomerate to manage.  Or, was this your M.O. the whole time?  Help Lorelai so maybe her Inn will be more appealing and someone will buy it and send her packing around the country consulting on other inns.  You'll do anything to keep us apart, won't you?"


Emily was taken aback.  "Lorelai, I didn't mean that at all.  This has nothing to do with Luke.  I just think it's wonderful that you are being offered such a generous opportunity."


"Lorelai," Richard calmly intervened, "Your mother knew nothing of the offers.  She is just excited for you.  This has nothing to do with either of us bearing any ill will toward Luke."


"Oh, yeah," Lorelai spat.  "Just like all the times she interfered in the past..."


"Hey, y'all," the maid interrupted.  "I'm fixin' to put dinner out.  Y'all better come 'n get it." 


It wasn't obvious which had shocked Emily into silence, Lorelai's sudden accusations or the complete unconventionality of the maid.  Either way, she glanced briefly around but said nothing as she stood to lead everyone into the dining room.


"Well," said Rory sarcastically, "so much for not telling Grandma and Grandpa about the offers."


Lorelai shot her a look but remained quiet as she got up and headed into the dining room.


♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  

Lorelai and Rory stumbled into Luke's, ready for the comfort only his coffee could bring.


"I swear," Lorelai said as they walked through the door.  "I sometimes feel like I've run the Boston Marathon after I leave that place." 


"You did get a little upset with them,"  Rory commented.


"I know," Lorelai sighed heavily.  "I don't know what it is.  Ever since I got these offers I've been on edge, you know?"


"At least you didn't have to keep talking about it once that maid announced dinner,"  Rory pointed out.


"I know," Lorelai smiled at the memory.  "Remind me to send her a nice fruit basket!"


"Hey, I'm just surprised she didn't ring a triangle to announce the meal!"  Rory joked.  "The look on Grandma's face when she served 'her mama's famous fried chicken' was priceless!"


"I know!"  Lorelai grinned with delight as she and Rory seated themselves at their favorite table. "That was one of the best meals we've ever had there."


"Hey!" Luke greeted them.  Ever the Boy Scout, he had two mugs and a pot of coffee with him.  He placed the mugs down and began to fill them.


"Bless you!"  Lorelai purred. She took a quick sip before turning her head up toward Luke, clearly waiting for a kiss.  He obliged by leaning down and placing a quick peck against her lips.


"How was dinner?"  he asked as he straightened back up.


"Never mind 'Tea with Mussolini', how about dinner with Hitler and Stalin?"  Lorelai lamented.


Luke just nodded before switching gears.  "So, I met one of your suitors today."  At Lorelai's questioning look, he expounded.  "I didn't know you had gotten a second offer on the Inn."


Lorelai dropped her head dramatically onto the table.  "Can't anyone talk about anything else?"


"This guy seemed pretty desperate to get you on board," Luke explained.  "If his offer is as good as the other one, then maybe you should take it; or the first one.  Whichever.  I mean, maybe getting all these offers is a sign."


Lorelai lifted her head off the table to study him for a minute.  "So, you're telling me that you're totally okay with the idea of me giving up partial ownership in the Inn that you initially invested in, and traveling three, four, sometimes five days or more at a time on a regular basis?"


"All I'm saying is that I don't want you to pass up a great opportunity because you're concerned I'm not going to be okay with it—because I am.  Okay with it, I mean.  I think it's great that you got these offers.  You deserve it.  Those companies will be lucky to have you."


"So, you think I should take one of the offers?"


"I think they can offer you more than just having the Dragonfly alone can.  You deserve that." 


Lorelai opened her mouth to respond, but was interrupted by the jingling of the bells above the door as it swung open.  Kirk stepped inside triumphantly, holding his clock over his head.


"It's finally ticking!" he announced, turning around so everyone in the diner could see the clock and hear his proud proclamation.


Kirk's appearance distracted Luke from his conversation with Lorelai, and he didn't seem to notice her troubled expression.


"Kirk, get that thing the hell out of my diner!"  He approached Kirk with a menacing look on his face.


"Luke, you can't touch my biological clock!"  Kirk croaked, pulling the clock up against him to cradle it protectively.


"Believe me, Kirk, I want nothing to do with your biological clock!"


"Rory, I'm going home."  Lorelai sighed as she stood up and grabbed her purse.  "Are you coming?"


At this point, Luke was telling Kirk some choice places he could keep his clock.


Rory tore her attention away from the floor show to answer her mother.  "I told Lane I would stop by, so I'll be home a little later.  Are you alright?"


"Yeah, just over the 'Lorelai should take the offer' bandwagon rolling through town."  She walked to the door.  As she opened it, she caught Luke's attention.


"I'll see you at home," she said as she gave him a slight wave.  Before he could respond, she was gone.


Luke watched her go with a frown, momentarily forgetting about Kirk, who took the opportunity to slip out of the diner with his clock still intact.  Realizing Kirk had fled, Luke made quick work of checking out the last customers before turning toward Rory.


"Is your mom okay?"  Luke asked.


"I don't know," Rory shrugged, contemplating him for a moment.  "Why are you so 'on board' with Mom taking one of those offers?"


Luke sat down and folded his hands in front of him on the table.  "I'm not 'on board', I just want her to know that I'm okay with it if she does decide to take one of the offers.  I'm happy when your mother's happy."


"It's not that Mom wouldn't take your opinion into account, but she would never let someone else make her decision for her.  Not if it's something she really wants."  Rory looked pointedly at Luke.  "You do know that you don't have to prove anything to her, don't you?"  Luke nodded and looked down at his hands.


"Mom's dream," Rory went on, "was always to open her own inn.  She did that.  Now there are these people waving these fancy jobs and ridiculous numbers in her face to get her to abandon that dream.  I don't know for sure, but I don't think that it's what she wants.  She's happy with her life.  She loves running the Dragonfly with Sookie, she loves living here in this crazy town," she paused for a moment, "and she loves you."


"I love her, too," Luke said softly.


"I know," she said as she stood up, grabbed her purse and headed toward the door.  "I'm off to Lane's.  See you at home." And with that, she was gone.


Luke stared after her for a few moments with a bemused look before pushing up from the table, walking to the door, turning the 'closed' sign around and shutting off the lights.


♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  


Lorelai was lying on her bed in her pajamas, flipping through Rory's Entertainment Weekly when Luke walked in.  She wasted no time jumping right back into the conversation they had started at the diner.


"So, are you done making assumptions about what I want to do with my life and ready to listen to me?"  She tossed the magazine onto the nightstand and crossed her arms in front of her chest.


Luke had barely gotten into the room when he was stopped short by Lorelai's abrupt opening.  He recovered quickly, though.


"I wasn't making assumptions!"  he said defensively.  "I was trying to be supportive, dammit!"


"Well," Lorelai pointed out, "you could try being supportive without telling me what to do."


"I know," Luke conceded. "I was afraid you wouldn't consider the offers if you thought I didn't want you to, so I guess I went a little too far trying to prove that I would be okay with it."


Lorelai nodded, "All you needed was a pleated skirt and a tight sweater and you could have been the 'take the offer' cheerleader." 


Luke shot her a 'was that really necessary?' look. 


"I had to sit there tonight and listen to my parents go on and on about what a great opportunity this is and how I shouldn't let it pass me by," Lorelai explained.


"And then you show up at the diner and I'm practically giving you the same speech. I'm sorry."


Lorelai shook her head and offered him half a smile.  "You didn't know."


"Yeah, but I should have known your parents would be all over this type of thing,"  Luke chastised himself.  "I could've been... I don't know, a little more subtle I guess."


"It's not your fault," she assured him.  "And, I've decided," she took a deep breath, "I'm turning them both down."


"Really?"  Luke was genuinely surprised.


"Yeah,"  she confirmed.


"Thank God!"  Luke's relief was obvious.


"So, you're happy that I'm not taking either offer?" she asked with a slight grin.


He walked closer to the bed and looked down at her.  "Do you really think I wanted you selling your inn to some big corporation that would ultimately bring other big businesses here, screwing up this town more than it already is, while in the meantime you're traipsing around the world trying to talk other inns into selling out the same way?"


Her grin became brighter as she tilted her head back to look at him.  "No."


Luke sat down on the edge of the bed facing her.  "I just want you to be happy.  You gave up so much for Rory.  I don't want you to feel like you have to give anything up for me."


"Oh, Luke," she grabbed one of his hands in hers.  "I am happy.  The life I have is the life I want.  I never felt deprived because of Rory, and I certainly don't feel that way with you.  God, if I wanted the life these companies are trying to offer me, I never would have run away from my parents all those years ago.  The grass isn't always greener; it's just the fertilizer that makes it look that way.  And we all know what fertilizer is made of."


The corners of Luke's mouth twitched a little as he shook his head at her particular way of getting a point across.  "Yeah, we do."


"Good.  Now the only thing I feel like I'm being deprived of is some good lovin'.  Think you can help me with that?" she asked flirtatiously.


Luke leaned in and pressed a kiss to her lips before he pulled back slightly, favored her with a smile full of promise and answered in the deep bedroom voice he used only when he was alone with Lorelai.


"Let me see what I can do."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  

Saturday afternoon had come sooner than expected.  Rory thought she'd never get done decorating in time, even with all the party material her mother had dragged out from some obscure nook of the hall closet. But now, the party was in full swing, and Rory couldn't help but think that this was one kick-ass, or in the case of the twins, kick-tushie party. She giggled to herself as she brushed remnants of cake from her arms. The twins were still in their cake-covered high chairs, banging spoons and fists as Hep Alien played on stage.

"You two are such lucky little boys," Rory cooed to the twins. "Yes you are, yes you are. Not a whole lot of babies have a rock 'n roll Mama and a rock 'n roll Papa."

"Ma-ma-ma-ma-ma," Steve squealed, picking up on Rory's cue.

"Eeee! Eeee!" Kwan tried to rock to the Hep Alien selection being played on stage.

"Maybe they want the Wiggles."

Rory turn in the direction of the voice to find Kirk at her elbow.

"What happened here?" Kirk recoiled from the devastation spread out across the two high chairs.

"You just missed the official first birthday cake smushing ceremony."

"But they're not eating, they're just..."

"Smushing. Look at Kwan go..." Rory nudged her shoulder in Kwan's direction, as the baby licked his lips and dug his chubby little fists around in the gooey mess. "Uh, a little help here, Kirk?" Rory requested, as she tried to keep both boys from dumping yet more gooey stickiness onto Miss Patty's floor.

"Sorry, no can do, hands are full," Kirk replied, as he lifted the bag he was carrying into view.

"Oh, is that a present? Those go up front on the gift table. Lane's gonna open presents after all the other kids have left. Sookie's gang has already staged a couple of preschool commando raids on the loot!"

"Nope, no loot here." Kirk smiled broadly. "It's my clock. My biological clock is finally ticking!"

"I know, Kirk. You told us in the diner last night."

"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages, Hep Alien's taking a short break," a microphone-voiced Lane announced. "We'll be back in a few. Hope you're enjoying our new sound."

The hall erupted in appreciative applause.

"I like it!" a feminine voice chimed in.

"Lulu!" Rory greeted. "Can you pick up Steve's bottle? It somehow landed on the floor."

"Kirk, honey." Lulu smiled indulgently at her husband, then patiently switched to her 'teacher' voice. "Put your clock back in the bag. Watching your clock won't make it tick any slower."

Kirk obeyed his wife. "I've been showing everyone."

"Why don't you take a break, Rory? Kirk and I will watch the boys."

"A break would be good."

Lulu turned to Kirk. "Kirk! Eyes!"


"Why don't you play peekaboo with the boys while I clean up some of this cake?"

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  


Luke's Diner was exceptionally busy for a Saturday afternoon.  What was normally a mid-afternoon lull was turning out to be a second lunch-rush.  With both Lane and Zach off for their sons' first birthday party, Luke was handling the floor by himself. 


The jingling of the bells above the door hailed Lorelai's entrance. 


"Hey, Babe!"  she greeted Luke as she walked in.  "Wow!  What is going on here?"  she asked as she looked around at the crowd of diners.


"A tour bus of antique collectors managed to get here right before Mrs. Kim closed down for the party, and now that they've ransacked her store, they're eating their way through my diner!"  Luke growled as he went from table to table, taking orders.


"But, you're supposed to be slow right now!"  Lorelai protested.  "You're supposed to be able to close up early so you and Caesar can come to the party!"


Luke stopped in front of her.  "I know," he said in a much softer voice.  "I'm sorry.  You'll have to go without me.  I'll get there as soon as I can."  He reached up and rubbed her arm lightly.


"You'd better," Lorelai pouted.  She lifted up her face for a quick kiss, which Luke dutifully obliged her with.  "See you there," she called over her shoulder as she headed back out the door.


She stepped off the curb in front of Luke's and headed toward Patty's when her phone began to sing Blondie's "Hangin' on the Telephone" at her.  She pulled it out of her pocket and answered it.






"Hey, Mom," Lorelai said with a sigh of resignation.


"I need to talk to you about the linens," Emily said.


"The linens?"  Lorelai was at a loss.


"Yes, the linens,"  Emily said.  "I have found the most wonderful linens for the spa.  Thick, thirsty towels; Egyptian cotton sheets for the treatment beds..."


"Okay, first of all, please do not refer to the towels as 'thirsty'.  It makes the term 'towel bar' take on a whole new meaning."  Lorelai cut her mother off.  "Second, we are not getting special linens for the spa.  We're using the same linen company we use for the guest linens."


"Lorelai!  We can't possibly use the same linens that are used for the regular guests!"  Emily was scandalized.  "People come to the spa to relax and have a day of pampering, and better sheets and towels help us to achieve that."


Lorelai shook her head and called upon every ounce of patience she could muster.  "Mom, we can't buy special linens for the spa.  We don't have the laundry facilities to support it.  That's the reason the Inn uses a service."


"We could always add in a laundry room,"  Emily said in the same manner as one would if they changed their mind about where they wanted to eat dinner.


"We are not altering the plans any more!" 


"It amazes me how little thought you give to such important issues." 


"You know what, Mom?  Let's talk about this tomorrow.  I'm on my way into a birthday party."  Lorelai had arrived in front of Patty's studio.


"Oh, of course," Emily condescended.  "Far be it from me to interrupt such an important event.  Honestly, Lorelai.  I don't know how you're going to function as part of a large corporation."


"Well, you don't have to worry about it, Mom, because I've turned both of the offers down."  


"You did?"  Emily asked in disbelief.


"I did."  


"Well, good,"  Emily said primly.


"What?"  Lorelai scoffed.  "You practically begged me to take one of the offers!"


When there was no response, Lorelai had to wonder if her mother had hung up on her.


"Mom?  Are you there?"


"I didn't want to seem selfish," Emily finally admitted.  "I've enjoyed being a part of this spa project.  I was afraid that if I told you as much, it might influence you to pass up the opportunity for me.  I didn't want to be the reason you turned it down, especially after your father said what a great opportunity it was.  So, I tried to be excited for you."


"Wow!"  Lorelai laughed out loud.


"And just what is so funny?"  Emily asked imperiously.


"It's just ironic," Lorelai said.  "You and Luke did exactly the same thing.  Neither of you wanted me to take the offers, yet you both wanted to be supportive.  So, basically you both tried to force them on me. I think it's kind of nice, how alike the both of you acted."


"Really, Lorelai, you find the most mundane things amusing!"  Emily completely ignored Lorelai's comparison between her and Luke.


Lorelai smiled to herself, but decided not to tease her mother any further.


"I really have to go, Mom, but I promise, I will give you my full attention tomorrow and you can tell me all about the linens,"  Lorelai said, sincerely.  "Maybe I can check to see if my linen company has laundering services for linens they don't supply."


"Fine, Lorelai," Emily said with satisfaction.  "I'll call you tomorrow."


"Bye, Mom."


Lorelai snapped shut her phone and climbed the stairs of the studio, a small smile playing about her lips.  She slid open the doors and joined the party.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  


After a short break, Rory returned to keep Kirk and Lulu company with the twins just as she saw her mother enter Miss Patty's. She quickly waved as Lorelai made her way to the adults at the front of the hall.

"Kuh kuh kuh." Kirk was making 'K' sounds and trying to get Kwan to say his name.


"Ma ma ma ma," Kwan cooed back, kicking his chubby legs.

"Kuh. Kiii-iiirk. Not Mama," Kirk tried again.


"Yes, Mama. Stop it, Kirk!" Lane had made her way to the twins and gave Lulu a quick squeeze on the arm. "Thanks for cleaning up their trays."


Lulu laughed. "Sometimes I think fifty percent of a teacher's job is cleaning up after the kids."

"Zach says that about being a parent too. And with twins, it never ends. Here, have a wipe." Lane handed a packet of wipes to Lulu.

"Kirk honey, why don't you go drop your clock off at the apartment?" Lulu requested.

"Ok, but remember, it's finally ticking!"


Rory, Lulu and Lane all laughed as they turned their attention to the twins. "Your boys are so lucky," Lulu stated the obvious.


"Stars Hollow is the perfect place to grow up," Rory agreed. "It really does take a village, as they say."


"Who wants Steve?" Lane asked, as she lifted a cleaned-up Steve towards her friends. "Auntie Lulu? Auntie Rory? What a lucky Stevie!"

"I'll take the little angel," Lulu offered. "You know, even in Stars Hollow, some families are experiencing hard times. There are more kids than ever in the free lunch program."

"Doesn't surprise me," Rory said. "When I was on the Obama trail, I saw some things I certainly didn't expect to see."

All three women nodded sagely.

"These little guys are very lucky to have such a quirky, wonderful place to grow up in." Rory looked around the hall and savored the weirdness of life in her small hometown.

"So, Rory," Lulu began, "I haven't seen much of you since you got back. Do you miss being on the campaign trail? Especially with the way the race is going these days... it's pretty historic, no matter what the outcome."

"Actually, there are some things I do miss... and a lot I don't—especially life on a bus." Rory rolled her eyes. "But seeing and meeting so many people made me appreciate Stars Hollow even more!"

Lane handed Kwan to Rory. "So flyover country's not all frozen white middle-class people, huh?"

"C'mere, little man!" Rory settled the boy against her hip. "Definitely not. And then there's what a politician says and what they have to say to play the game."

"But Obama's not like that, right?"

"What have you been feeding this boy? It's like he grew overnight!" Rory shifted Kwan. "Anyway, it's kinda ironic. Someone like Obama's all for changing the system, then has to play along in the same tired, corrupt, repetitive campaigning system."

"Sounds like there might be a story to tell there."

"You might have a point," Rory acknowledged Lulu's suggestion.

♫   ♫   ♫  

"You must be very proud of Lane," Lorelai smiled warmly at Lane's mother.

Mrs. Kim let the barest of smiles curl the corner of her lips. "Lane is a good wife. A good mother too."

"And a great rock 'n roll mama. Right up there with the best. Lane and Zach. Gwen and Gavin. Christina and..." Lorelai dialed down her enthusiasm a notch as her voice softened. "They really do grow up so fast."

"Our daughters? Or my grandchildren?"

"All of them," Lorelai sighed. "For years, you work towards getting them on the right path, and then they're off in their new world, but then you want them back, and then... then they do come back, but..."

"Rory will find a job, Lorelai," Mrs. Kim stated point-blank. "It is good that she is back home with her mother."

"Look at them." Lorelai tugged on Mrs. Kim's sleeve, pulling her up into a standing position. "Our girls. I'd say we did a good job!"

Mrs. Kim nodded in agreement. "Perhaps you will become a grandmother one day."

Lorelai grimaced. "I think I can wait."

At the other end of the hall, Rory was still holding one boy, as Lulu was in the process of handing the other to Lane, who was engrossed in a diaper bag-waving conversation with another adult party guest.

"Lane's really changed over this past year. I know how hard it is to go it alone, and even with help, it couldn't have been easy for Lane to be without Zach for so long and with two babies. You must be so proud of her."

"Lane is a very brave woman to let her husband follow his dream," Mrs. Kim countered. "Just like Rory?"



"You must be happy to have your daughter back home with you," she said in her trademark clipped tone. "Takes courage to quit job that is not right for you."

"You've got a point there, my friend," Lorelai acknowledged. "I just hope that her being at home for a while helps her finds some direction, some happiness."

"Got room for one more?" a masculine voice interrupted.

"Luke! Finally out of the clutches of ravenous tourists!" Lorelai planted a kiss on Luke's cheek before turning to Mrs. Kim. "Apparently shopping at Kim's Antiques causes the munchies!" As Luke pulled out a chair next to her, she whispered, "I'm glad you came."


♫   ♫   ♫  


"Well that was almost as good as a town festival!" Lorelai expressed her approval as crossed the town square with Luke and Rory. They had just finished helping Lane and Mrs. Kim get the twins back home after the party ended.

"Better!" Rory sided with Lorelai as Luke rolled his eyes when she added, "Cake!"


"It's too bad Doula couldn't be there," Lorelai continued. "I wonder which one she'll end up with? Steve?"

"Or Kwan?" Rory countered.

"Aw, geez," Luke complained.

"Who knew that two little babies had so much stuff?" Rory whined. "My arms hurt."

"Lifting babies is a workout. And the stuff? That only gets worse," Lorelai sagely pointed out, as she walked between Luke and Rory.

"Are you implying that I'm a pack rat?" Rory countered.

Lorelai smirked.

"Ok ok, I will admit to owning all those books."

"It always amazes me how much stuff April brings when she visits," Luke interjected. "Don't know how she packs it all into her suitcase, but she does."

"Tetris," Rory cryptically explained as they reached the edge of the square.

"Huh?" her mother and Luke simultaneously asked.

"Excellent practice for arranging stuff." Rory turned to Luke. "It's a computer and a video game. April's really good at it."

The trilling of Rory's cell phone interrupted her.

Paris, Rory mouthed, glancing at caller ID. She gestured to Luke and Lorelai to go on ahead, as she answered, "Hey Dr. Gellar, Medicine Woman."

"Gilmore. Where are you?"

"Stars Hollow."

"Still? Now there's progress."

"And you?" Rory ignored her friend's sarcasm. "What's up?"

"Cadaver lab. Just got done putting in some extra time there. I was telling Doyle, there's nothing like the smell of chemical preservatives to separate the women from the girls."

"Eww..." Rory quickly changed the subject, filling Paris in on her activities since Paris and Doyle had stayed at the inn.

"Wow, Gilmore. So what's next on your agenda? Gonna star in your own version of the Supernanny? At the rate you're going, you might as well just go ahead and audition to be her next incarnation. Supernanny: Stars Hollow. Supernanny: Special Kiddie Unit. Supernanny..."

Rory stood at the edge of the town square, looking back at the gazebo as her friend continued mocking her. Just a few months before, the entire town had gathered in the rain to send her off into the great unknown. And now, she was literally back to square one, with just the memory of her campaign experiences, life on the road and all the people she'd encountered. She smiled to herself, and cut off Paris's rant with a "Later, Paris, gotta go," as she made her way home.







To be continued...  





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