Virtual Gilmore Girls

Episode 8.19 "Branching Out, Eh?"
 by OnceUponaWhim and NicoleMack


Authors' Note: In spite of real life continually attempting to rear its ugly head, we managed to produce a story that we're very proud of, and that could not have been possible without the help of Filo and sosmitten, so thanks a million to them. 


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Minty fresh, Lorelai exited the bathroom and smirked. Luke lay exactly where she'd left him five minutes ago, which was exactly where he'd collapsed just five minutes before that. By the time they'd trudged upstairs after finally having gotten rid of her birthday party guests, he'd been completely beat. "Luke," she whispered, not wanting to disturb him if he truly had fallen asleep for good already. "You moving?" 

Luke's eyes opened slowly. "Yeah," he muttered sleepily. With what looked like exaggerated effort, he hauled himself to his feet and shuffled across the room to find something to wear to bed. 

Lorelai yawned as well and absently tugged down her new?ourtesy of Babette—'Birthday Spankings are More Fun When You're 40' t-shirt. Actual birthday friskiness had taken place that morning at Luke's insistence—Lorelai's first clue of the day about the party for her, and the one she'd purposely neglected to mention to Rory that afternoon. She smirked halfheartedly across the room at Luke; only he would rearrange the standard birthday sex schedule at the prospect of being up late for a party. 

Which was more than fine with her, she admitted to herself as she crawled into bed. It had been a good day, she'd hopefully set Rory back on track, and she'd had a wonderful party thrown for her. 

And she had enjoyed the party... But something Sookie had said had been nagging her for the better part of the evening, and she didn't think she could push aside the thoughts she was having much longer. With her brow furrowed slightly, she picked at invisible lint on the bedspread, silently studying Luke. 

Once he'd pulled on a pair of sweatpants and headed for the bathroom to brush his teeth, Lorelai took a deep breath. "So..." she started hesitantly, "I'm forty." 

"You'd better be," Luke grumbled. He poked his head back out of the bathroom, continuing as he squeezed toothpaste on his brush. "Because if this was thirty-nine, the party for forty is going to look pretty sad in comparison—I'm not dealing with your mother again like that." 

Lorelai gave a wan smile, mumbling a bemused response of "Uh huh, right, right..."  She picked at the blankets again for a moment. "So, Luke?" 

With a mouthful of toothpaste foam, Luke's reply was restricted to a muffled "Mmph?" from in the bathroom. 

Lorelai took a deep breath, then stated simply, "I'm forty." She hesitated before continuing, "Does that mean we decided? Because I don't really remember deciding—I didn't think we did," she added hurriedly, "but apparently some people think we already did. And if we don't decide 'yes' at some point soon, then it's gonna be 'no' no matter what." 

Still in the midst of brushing, Luke leaned back into the doorway with a befuddled expression on his face. "Huh?" 

"Kids," Lorelai clarified with a weary shrug as Luke turned back towards the sink. 


Lorelai could see, even from just the thin strip of his back she could make out at the edge of the doorway, that Luke had frozen in place upon hearing her words. Apparently it took him a minute to regroup, but she did eventually see him bend over to spit into the sink. He still didn't seem to have anything more than his initial 'Oh' to offer. 

The fact that she couldn't see him well made it hard to gauge his reaction, but Lorelai took his lack of further words as her cue to expand on the topic. "I mean, it's like a couple weeks ago, that really cute summer-y dress I got, but I needed a little sweater to go over it?" she asked, failing to realize that Luke probably hadn't paid that much attention to her latest clothing purchases. She continued on, beginning to sound more ramble-y than she would have liked. "And I found the perfect one, but of course, it's like 'what color do I get?' And I'm in a hurry anyway and I can't decide, so I figure I'll think about it and come back to get the one I pick. And later, I'm like 'The purple one, definitely the purple one.' But of course by the time I get back there the next week, none of the purples left are my size so I'm stuck with the green I didn't really want just because I waited too long." The words tumbling out of her mouth finally slowed to a halt. She sat quietly, waiting anxiously for Luke's reply. 

A moment later, after what sounded like a quick rinse of his toothbrush, he reappeared in the doorway sporting a befuddled look that was plainly a mix of genuine concern and 'what on earth are you talking about.' "What?" 

Lorelai rolled her eyes and smirked in spite of the weighty subject matter. She should have known a shopping analogy would not necessarily get her point across. Before Luke could ask any questions, she hurried to state her case as simply and honestly as she could, rephrasing, "I just don't want the decision to be made for us just because we didn't want to deal with it, or didn't have time to deal with it and kept putting it off," she explained quietly, still picking at the bedspread. "Sweaters? Fine. But this?" She paused, looking up at Luke earnestly. "I mean, who knows," she snorted in mild self-deprecation, "it might even be too late already. But still, if it's gonna be 'no'," she rationalized, "I'd rather it didn't happen by default." 

It was Luke's turn to take a deep breath. He dropped his chin, ran a hand tiredly over his face, and then looked up to face Lorelai once more. He worked his jaw thoughtfully, as if trying to figure out what he could possibly say. "Okay, yes," he agreed finally, crossing the room to sit beside Lorelai on the bed, "this is something we need to talk about." Hedging, he continued cautiously, "And you might not want to hear this considering what you were just saying—I get that it's a time issue—but can we give it a day or so?" 

Lorelai's immediate attempt at protesting was thwarted before she even got a word out. 

"Lorelai," Luke cut her off, laying a hand gently on her knee. "It's almost 1 a.m.," he pointed out diplomatically, "and we both have to work in the morning. I know you want to talk, I do too, believe me," he insisted fervently, "and we will. It's a big deal, yeah. But I don't think another couple of days is going to make a difference." He eyed Lorelai expectantly, and she could do nothing but nod begrudgingly in agreement. Continuing on, he asserted, "And I don't know about you, but I'd like to be able to think about it a little before we come to any grand conclusions." 

Lorelai sighed yet again and slumped over to lean against Luke. He was completely right. "I know, I know," she acquiesced. "I just wanted to put it out there. I mean I really haven't put any thought into it at all either," she admitted, wondering if perhaps turning forty had gotten to her more than she'd realized.  "It's just..." She faltered in trying to explain as much to Luke. "Today, you know?" she finally said, shrugging apologetically. "Forty." 

Luke wrapped an arm around her shoulders and hugged her to him. "I know," he sympathized. "We'll figure it out. Just not tonight, okay?" 

"Yeah," Lorelai agreed with a sheepish smile. 

Luke switched off the bedside lamp and slid under the covers, pulling Lorelai to him as he lay down. "Goodnight crazy lady," he whispered, dropping a kiss on her head. "Happy birthday." 

Lorelai snuggled even closer to Luke. "Thanks." 

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Later, though Lorelai's breathing had slowed and she slept peacefully, Luke still lay wide awake beside her. 

What Lorelai had brought up had essentially come out of left field, but now that it was staring him in the face, he knew that he wanted to take the time to give it some serious thought. 

They both had a lot to think about. 

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Once her mother and Luke had headed off to work after breakfast, Rory returned to her room, seating herself at the small desk to check her emails and do some more work on her article. After deleting a bunch of spam, a familiar name popped up -, with a subject line that intrigued her: 'Give me a call when you can...'. Ever since meeting Jack Kramer and hanging out in the Grand Rapids Press newsroom, she had stayed in contact with him, seeing him as a great ally in the big bad publishing world. He was a forward thinker, and young enough to get where she was coming from. 

The body of his email was a response to her latest one—with only a handful of words agreeing that her point was a valid and insightful one. Glancing at the subject line again, she narrowed her eyes, trying to figure out why this particular email made her nervous. She stood up, pushing her chair back a little harder than expected, and moved into the kitchen. 

Thankfully, the coffee pot had enough left for one more cup, so she poured herself one, adding cream while holding the refrigerator door open with her hip. Standing by the kitchen sink, Rory idly stared around the empty room as she sipped her drink slowly. She noticed how much it had changed over the past few weeks, particularly since Luke had officially moved in. It was obvious from the utensils and bits and pieces lying around that it was now far more functional than ever before, which gave the room more warmth than Rory had expected. 

She startled when she heard the ding of her computer, and she returned to see what it was signaling.  She saw a calendar alert reminding her about the submission deadlines coming up for a variety of local papers, and clicked it closed quickly, which left her face to face with Jack's email once again.  Picking up her cell phone, she copied the Grand Rapids Press number from her email and paused, her finger hovering over the green talk button for a moment, contemplating whether she really wanted to do this. She hated not knowing what somebody wanted from her; it was unnerving. Biting her bottom lip, she pressed the button, waiting for the phone to ring. It was picked up quickly, catching her unawares, and she stumbled over her words as she asked for Jack. 

"Just a moment," the female voice replied.  She heard a click and then was unwillingly subjected to Rihanna begging to 'please don't stop the music'. 

"This is Jack Kramer." 

"Hi, this is uh, Rory.  Rory Gilmore," she responded hesitantly. 

"Rory, great!  I was hoping you'd call sooner rather than later." 

"Well, I have some free time this morning, and I have to admit I was curious about why you wanted me to call," she replied, trying her best to sound professional. 

"Ah, always a good trait in a reporter," Jack said.  "Listen, I'm not going to beat around the bush here. You and I have been emailing back and forth for a while here, and while I'm happy to offer an opinion when you need it every now and again, I also can't help but wonder what it is you've been working on since you said you've left the campaign trail. I may not know you very well, but I've seen enough to know that you have an idea brewing." 

"Also a good trait in a reporter," she tossed back, finding a little more confidence. 

"Right.  So what is it?  Do you have an article there?" 

"Nothing that's worth showing just yet.  I still need to do some editing and tweak part of it.  I really don't..." 

He cut her off before she continued.  "Send it to me."

"It really needs some finessing before I send it to anyone." 

"That's why they hire people like me, Rory." 

"It's really not ready yet," she said.  I'm not ready yet. 

"I want to see it anyway." 


"I don't care what state it's in.  You've been bouncing around ideas with me for weeks now, alluding to this, suggesting that.  I want to see what you've got, and I want to see it before Obama gets sworn in.  You and I both know it won't be news then." 

Sighing, she clicked onto the article on her computer, staring at it for the umpteenth time, still unsure about whether she should send it to him, or to Salon.  Thinking back to her mother's comments the previous day, she searched for that part of herself that was apparently alive and kicking back in her high school days, and said, "Okay, I'll send it to you later today." 

"Make it this morning, Gilmore," Jack responded, before hanging up the phone. 

After dropping her cell back on the desk, Rory stared at the computer screen again, re-reading the words she'd looked at for weeks now. She hadn't gotten to the point where she was completely satisfied with what she'd written, but she also knew that Jack was giving her a chance, and if she didn't follow through, he probably wouldn't offer one again.  Hitting the save button, Rory quickly opened a new email window and composed a quick message to Jack. After attaching the file, she hit the send button before she had another moment to think about it. 

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At precisely eight minutes after ten that morning, Emily stormed into the lobby of the Dragonfly in search of Lorelai. Catching sight of her daughter in her office, Emily blew past the crowds that for whatever reason had taken it upon themselves to loiter near the front desk. "Lorelai!" she scolded in exasperation. "What are you still doing here? The Spa walk-through was supposed to have started nearly ten minutes ago." 

Flippant as she was about so many things, Lorelai didn't even look up to acknowledge Emily. "Mom, you're going to have to deal with Taylor yourself," she replied absently, apparently unfazed by being late for an appointment. "The vans didn't show up for this group and I have to figure out how to still get them up to that candle place in Springfield in time for their tour," she added. "And then I have to deal with payroll." 

Appalled at Lorelai's unprofessional behavior, Emily narrowed her eyes at her daughter, warning, "Letting that irritating selectman of yours traipse through the unfinished spa was your idea." 

"It wasn't my idea, it was required! Lorelai howled in a manner rather unbecoming of a profitable business owner. "And I can't deal with it right now, so you, as my partner in business, will have to handle it on your own." 

Emily voiced her displeasure at her daughter with a cold "Fine" before marching back out to the Spa site. 

Spying the bothersome Taylor Doose exactly where she'd left him a moment earlier, Emily forced a wide smile. As she approached, she fought to keep the disdain out of her voice as she explained, "Unfortunately Lorelai is indisposed at the moment, but I would be happy to show you some of the delightful features of the new-" 

No sooner had Emily begun to offer to the requisite walk-through did she find herself being interrupted by a disapproving, "Well, well, well, what do we have here?" 

Emily lifted her eyebrows, unimpressed, and retorted haughtily, "Excuse me?" 

"Well, Mrs. Gilmore," Mr. Doose explained with a satisfied grin, "it would appear that I've already found a critical infringement of Stars Hollow bylaws." 

Caught off-guard—as far as she knew, everything concerning legal affairs had been attended to by one of Richard's associates who specialized in such matters—Emily's brow furrowed. In a slightly less confrontational tone than previously, she asked, skeptical, "I'm sorry?" 

Mr. Doose gestured as if dealing with a three year-old.  "These crates here—it clearly says 'Product of Canada.'" 

"I don't see how that would be a problem," Emily replied curtly. "All of our shipments have cleared Customs and duties have been paid." 

"That is all well and good, but what is the 'product' that is a 'Product of Canada'?" he inquired patronizingly. 

Emily crossed her arms in front of her chest. "Mr. Doose," she stated with a withering glare, "I am quite sure that you can read just as well as I." 

"Yes, and so I can," the insufferable man agreed with what Emily could only describe as a horribly cloying grin. "'Canadian dirt, clay, and mud,'" he paraphrased aloud from the crate's label, "all of which are strictly prohibited here in Stars Hollow as per Stars Hollow Import and Export statute 547R, section C, part 2.4a." 

"Well that is simply ridiculous," Emily declared. 

"Oh, I do beg to differ," Mr. Doose scolded, leaving Emily moderately offended. "Our town's forefathers were highly concerned with promoting local products, which, if available, are required to be utilized in any local business before any importation of goods from other states or countries. This," he indicated, pointing at the Canadian label on the crate, "is in direct violation of the explicitly stated hierarchy, which places Canadian goods last amongst North American wares." He finished proudly with a zealous, "I assure you that we have perfectly good dirt and seaweed right here in Connecticut." 

"This is going to be a 4-star facility, and those are the products necessary for the luxury services expected by our clientele," Emily exclaimed.  "I assure you, they will not tolerate wraps and mud baths made from the ground they just walked on to get here.  Nor will I," she assured. 

"Well, then perhaps you should have thought of that before going ahead with this little project of yours," Mr. Doose smugly responded. 

Emily had had enough. "Lorelai!" Ignoring all proper social and business protocol, she spun around and headed straight back to her daughter's office, leaving a gaping Taylor Doose to scurry along behind. 

Once Emily reached the office, Lorelai couldn't even be bothered to address her in an acceptable manner—though at this point, why she would have even expected such a thing, Emily had no idea. Lorelai merely muttered, "Still busy, Mom..." while not even lifting her gaze up from her work in acknowledgment. 

"Lorelai," Emily ordered, "I need you to speak with Mr. Doose. He's being utterly impossible," she stated, exasperated at both parties she was currently dealing with. 

"Mom-" Lorelai began to protest immediately, but she was cut off when a slightly out of breath Selectman burst into the room behind Emily. 

"Ladies, ladies," the vexing man panted patronizingly, "I'm sure your purchases can be refunded." 

Apparently this Taylor person's opinion was worth more to Lorelai than her own mother's, for she immediately snapped her head up at the sound of his voice. "What?" she asked, obviously perplexed. "Why would anything need to be refunded? Taylor, what are you talking about?" 

"Apparently our dirt," Emily informed her coldly, "among other things, is illegal." 

Lorelai's face wrinkled in confusion. "What?" 

"Foreign dirt cannot be imported into Stars Hollow when we have products of a superior quality right here." 

Lorelai dropped her head wearily into her hands and let out an incredulous "Oh my God..." Emily stifled a satisfied smirk upon realizing that Lorelai thought the man and his silly statutes as absurd as she did. 

"Taylor, it's special dirt," Lorelai pointed out impatiently, "it's not the same as Stars Hollow dirt." 

"It's Canadian dirt." 

Lorelai threw up her hands dramatically, "Well we're branching out into the international dirt market, Taylor! What else do you want, a full report on it from some dirt scientist or something?" 

"Well, yes, please, go ahead, Lorelai," Mr. Doose challenged, "enlighten me as to how our dirt is so scientifically inferior." 

"I have no idea! Lorelai cried. "Maybe it's fresher because it's frozen for 10 months of the year?" she asked snidely. "It worked for Anne of Green Gables," she quipped, "so it's good enough for me." She cast an incredulous glance in Emily's direction, asking in exasperation, "Are we done now?" 

Much to her displeasure, in her attempt to get Lorelai to deal with the situation more forcefully, Emily found herself protesting in unison with that infuriating man. "Lorelai-" they began simultaneously. 

Both of Lorelai's hands flew up, pointing in warning. "Mom, just leave it. Taylor, we are not sending the dirt back." 

His eyes darting between Emily and Lorelai, Mr. Doose finally relented. "Fine," he snapped. "I'll see if some sort of compromise can be reached on this matter. But you are advised not to open those crates until you hear back from me," he cautioned, backing out of the office. 

As if she hadn't just turned forty years old, Lorelai mimicked his words silently as soon as he turned his back. "Whatever you say, Taylor," she muttered. 

Casting a sidelong glance at Mr. Doose's retreating figure, Emily turned back to Lorelai with an admonishment about her unprofessional conduct on the tip of her tongue. 

Lorelai beat her to the punch. "Don't look at me," she said, "you're the one who ordered the fancy Canadian dirt. You deal with it." 

Emily pursed her lips and glared at her daughter. Lorelai could be just as difficult as that Taylor person. 

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Lorelai had arrived at the diner for lunch just as it started to get busy, so she hadn't been able to talk to Luke at all, besides the obligatory kiss and 'how was your morning?' inquiry. After ordering and receiving her meal, she sat munching on her fries with her eyes on Luke as he hurried around the diner, and her mind on the topic she'd barely had a chance to consider all day. 

Luke had given her no indication at breakfast as to what his feelings on kids might be, and she really wanted to know. Was he ready for this yet? The last time they'd discussed it, it had been purely hypothetical, and they'd basically left it at a point where they knew it would have to come up again sooner rather than later. What she was now most worried about was if suddenly, along with her fortieth birthday, it had become later already.  Back when they had been engaged the first time, they had both agreed they wanted kids, but a lot had changed—they had changed in the time since then. They were older, hopefully wiser, and another child—a teenager in fact—had been welcomed into the fray. Did they still have that desire to start from scratch? Was a baby part of the vision she now held for her family? 

When Luke returned to the counter in what appeared to be a temporary lull, Lorelai saw it as an opportunity to pick his brain and see where he'd gotten to since she'd initiated the conversation the night before. "So, have you had a chance to think about what we discussed last night?" she asked, her curiosity evident in her tone as well as the way she leaned forward across the counter. 

Luke looked up at her, his mouth opening to respond, when he saw something over Lorelai's shoulder. When she turned to look, she saw Liz leading another woman into the diner, with TJ following closely behind carrying Doula securely in his arms. 

"Hey Big Brother! Liz called to Luke as the group headed towards the counter. You got a spare table for your favorite sister and her wonderful family?" 

"If you can find one that's free, it's yours," he spoke gruffly, but the slight grin on his face was a dead giveaway. Lorelai knew that he loved his sister, and Doula had definitely found a place in his heart, so in spite of TJ, she knew he was always glad to see them. 

"While you're at it, how about a couple of meals on the house? TJ added as he followed Liz to the last free table next to the window looking into the soda shoppe.

"Don't push your luck," Luke grumbled as he moved out from the counter and over to the table. He ran a gentle hand over Doula's head and smiled at the little girl, which only served to make Lorelai's heart melt at the scene before her. 

"I'm so glad you're both here, because I wanted to introduce you to Brunhilde," Liz said, putting her hand on the woman's shoulder and beaming with apparent pride. The woman in question was dressed in baggy, ill-fitting jeans, a sleeveless white undershirt, and apparently a black bra with straps that were physically unable to stay on her shoulders. Her light brown hair was buzz cut short, reminding Lorelai a little of Britney at the height of her psychosis. 

"Uh, hi," Luke said hesitantly, his eyes narrowing at her as he appeared to be figuring out her significance. 

Lorelai stood up and walked over to stand next to Luke, offering her hand to the woman.  "Hi, I'm Lorelai. Don't mind him, he has trouble forming complete sentences sometimes." 

"Brunhilde, this is my brother Luke, and Lorelai is his... well let's just say she's his TJ," Liz completed the introductions, a knowing grin directed at Luke, who groaned at the description. 

"Hi, it's really great to meet you both," Brunhilde responded.  "Liz and TJ have told me so much about you." 

"So are you a friend from the Ren Faire circuit?" Lorelai inquired politely, knowing that Luke must be wondering who this woman was. 

"Oh no, I just met Liz and TJ about six weeks ago." 

"Well, welcome to Stars Hollow.  Right Luke? Lorelai nudged him with her elbow and he startled into action. 

"Uh yeah, yeah, welcome. Do you know what you want, or would you like a minute to look at the menu?" 

"No need. Do you have veggie burgers?" Brunhilde asked quickly, shaking her head. 

"Comes with lettuce, tomato and a side of onion rings.  That okay?" Luke asked, his pen poised to write down the order. 

"Perfect, but make it two.  I've been having these mad cravings for veggies ever since these two got me knocked up," she said, pointing her thumb back and forth between Liz and TJ. 

Lorelai, who had been smiling down at Doula while this exchange took place, suddenly snapped her head back in Brunhilde's direction, catching Luke doing the same out of the corner of her eye.  "I'm sorry, what was that?" she asked quickly. 

"Yeah, you know, all those pregnancy hormones, they make you crave the weirdest things sometimes. Usually, I stick to meats and carbs, but these days, all I can think about is a good fresh salad or a veggie burger washed down with some carrot juice.  Weird, huh?" 

Lorelai saw Luke's head turn to stare directly at Liz, and after a moment, his sister seemed to realize that he was looking for an explanation.  "Oh my God, did I not mention?  I totally spaced. We found a surrogate. I mean you knew that we were already 'reproductively challenged' and had to use IVF for Doula-" Liz paused and stared at her brother. "I told you that, right?" 

"Uh, no," Luke stammered. 

"Well, yeah," Liz continued as if it should have been obvious. "Doula was our little test-tube baby, but we didn't want to deal with all the fertility junk again, so we found Brunhilde to be our surrogate," she beamed, proudly turning toward Brunhilde. 

"And let me tell you, a surrogate isn't what you think it is," TJ jumped in, anxious to share his newly acquired knowledge on the topic.  "Here I am, all excited about getting a free pass to sleep with someone else, but noooo, it's all 'doctor this' and 'doctor that' and 'here's a plastic cup, Gary, have fun with the girly magazines." All they do is take my best swimmers and just implant them into Brunhilde's uterus.  Is that crazy or what?  And don't even get me started on some of that other crap they were talking about when we were still trying to get Lizzy knocked up.  Do you know that they freeze eggs?  I mean, I've never even heard of freezing chicken eggs, you know, for eatin' and stuff, and here they are freezing people eggs to make kids out of!" He stopped to take a breath, and then continued, "But Brunhilde—man is she a baby-making machine. She's been popping them out for the last six years!" 

Luke lifted his hand, desperately waving it back and forth.  "Okay okay okay, we get the picture TJ.  No need to get into specifics here.  This is a diner." 

"Geez, sorry Luke, I thought you'd be more excited for us," TJ replied, looking a little deflated. 

"Congratulations," Luke said automatically to the table in general. 

"Yeah, congratulations, you guys! Lorelai said with a little more enthusiasm. "So, six kids already? Were they all surrogate too?" 

"Oh no, they're all mine. They're at home with my husband," Brunhilde explained. 

At a loss as for what to say next, Luke switched back into diner mode and asked, "Now, do you two want to order something as well, or are you planning to watch Brunhilde here eat for two?" 

"Same order all around Luke. Except Doula, that is.  Can you get her a cheese sandwich? TJ asked. 

"Coming right up," Luke nodded before making a quick exit into the kitchen to pass on the order. 

Lorelai exchanged a few more pleasantries with Liz and Brunhilde before returning to her food, telling them it was getting cold. She sat staring into the half empty plate of fries, her mind taking off faster than she could keep up, arguing points for and against having a kid with Luke. She knew she was interested in having another kid. She couldn't help but be drawn to the newest babies in town, and being so close to Sookie's kids had kept the thought in her mind for longer than she'd care to admit.

Liz and TJ's odd and surprising announcement was more confirmation that she needed to make her decision now. Liz was barely much older than Lorelai, and if it was already too late for Liz, what were her own chances of conceiving a child going to be? 

When she absently turned her head to look at the family and their surrogate, she was surprised to find they were gone. She turned around further, only to discover that the diner was now only half as full as it had been the last time she looked. Still busy, but the lunch rush was definitely beginning to slow down. 

"You okay? Luke asked her, seemingly appearing from nowhere. 

"Um, how long have I been here?" Lorelai asked, confused about what had happened around her while she'd been so caught up in her own world. 

"A couple hours, I think. You've been staring at your chili fries for a good forty-five minutes." 

"I was attempting a Jedi mind trick," she joked, trying to gather herself before tackling the pink elephant in the room.  "So, that was quite an anvil over the head, wasn't it?" 

Luke stopped wiping the counter and stared up at her, pausing while he tried to catch up.  "Did you have any idea that Liz and TJ were looking for a surrogate?" she asked. 

"Not a clue.  Last thing I heard was TJ's less than tactful announcement at the town meeting months ago." 

Lorelai nodded thoughtfully for a moment, then asked, "Hey, how old was Liz when she had Jess?" 

Luke pondered her query then said, "Um, she'd just had her eighteenth birthday.  Why?" 

"So she's what, about forty-two now?" 

Luke paused, and then said, "Yep, she had her forty-second birthday a couple months back." 

"And she can't have kids on her own...." 

Luke's nodding immediately ceased—he'd obviously caught up to her line of thinking, and he tipped his head back, his mouth open slightly in recognition. 

"Do you have any thoughts you want to share with me? Lorelai asked, beyond curious about what was going on in his head at that moment. 

"I haven't really had a chance to figure anything out. I do know that I want you to decide for yourself." He stopped, and waited until she locked her eyes with his, and said with sincerity, "I don't want my feelings on the subject to influence you. I want to make sure that your decision is really your decision, not one that was influenced by my decision." 

"But I thought we'd decide together. I want you to be happy with the decision we make, too." 

"Lorelai, I am happy. I don't need anything else to make me happy right now." 

"So you're saying you're happy without a kid and don't want one?" 

"We are not talking about the... k-word here," he reprimanded her, pressing his fingertips to the counter. 

"So you're saying you're happy without a... jump rope.  And you don't want... a jump rope? Lorelai pressed. 

"A jump ro—What?  That is not what I said." 

Lorelai could tell Luke was getting agitated, but she couldn't help herself. "So you do want one?" 

Shaking his head, he replied, "I didn't say that either." 

She tilted her head slightly and asked finally, "So you're just trying to avoid talking about this right now?" 

"About jump ropes? Yes, maybe a little. I don't want to do this now, not here. Especially not when at least two of the many town gossips are sitting at the table right behind you," he pointed out, gesturing over her shoulder. 

Lorelai turned to see Mrs. Cassini and Patty relaxing with their tea, and offered them a smile in greeting.  Turning back to Luke, she slumped forward over the counter, the weight of the decision obvious upon her shoulders. 

"I just really want to talk to you about this," Lorelai explained, her voice slipping slightly into whine-mode. 

"I do too, but I haven't had a chance to think yet. It's barely been twelve hours—I need to have some time to come to my own conclusions before anything else." Luke's response was shorter and terser than she had expected, and she sat up again, surprised by his tone. 

Annoyed by Luke's brush off, she muttered, "I have to get back to the Inn. All hell has probably broken loose by now." She grabbed her bag and climbed off the stool, glancing up at him momentarily to say, "I'll see you at home." 

She headed for the door, and she knew that Luke was behind her, apparently still with more to say. She escaped just as he called, "Lorelai, I didn't mean it like that," and right before a large group of tourists entered, effectively stopping him from being able to follow her any further. 

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  

Later that afternoon, Lorelai sat at her desk rifling through paperwork, trying in vain to distract herself and push thoughts of Liz—and Luke and whatever he was thinking—from her already overloaded mind. 

A few moments later, Lorelai's phone rang, and, glancing down at the caller ID display, she groaned. Her mother was not the distraction she'd been hoping for. 

Nevertheless, she plucked the phone from the mess on her desk and flipped it open brusquely. "What Mom?" she asked. 

"Why, hello Lorelai, it's lovely to speak to you too," Emily replied, her voice dripping with sweet sarcasm.  "And I'm well, thank you for asking." 

Lorelai rolled her eyes and droned obediently, "Hi Mom, how are you?" 

Emily ignored Lorelai's requisite question and launched into her apparent reason for calling. "I spoke with that maddening Mr. Doose yet again—this time, however, he seems to think there is enough of a loophole that we can use to get around those ridiculous, backwards importation regulations. You simply need to create a petition for an exception to the law," she explained, "with fifty signatures from town residents to be presented to the town council for approval at a town meeting, whatever that involves." 

Lorelai snorted, practically able to hear her mother roll her eyes as she brushed off the town meeting. She couldn't wait to break the news to Emily that she was going to have to take care of all of that, town meeting included. "That's great Mom," she said, trying to conceal her glee, "but I don't need to do that, you do." 

"Lorelai-" Emily started, only for Lorelai to cut her off almost immediately. 

"Mom, it's the dirt you ordered," she pointed out yet again, "and I don't have time. You know I have the actual Inn to run while adding the Spa on to it. If the Inn goes under, there's not much sense in having the Spa, Canadian mud or not," she joked. "You're going to have to handle it." 

"Fine," Emily replied tersely. "I'll see you tomorrow evening." 

Lorelai nearly choked on the coffee she had been sipping. "Excuse me?" 

"Oh," Emily exclaimed brightly, "did I not mention that my presence has been requested at the town meeting on Friday evening? That is in obvious conflict with our dinners," she informed Lorelai, "so you, Rory, and Luke will be expected tomorrow night instead." 

"Oh goody," Lorelai muttered under her breath. 

She cursed herself when Emily, apparently having heard, asked off-handedly, "What was that Lorel-" 

"Nothing, Mom," Lorelai hurried to say. "I said that sounds swell, see you and Dad tomorrow." She hung up quickly, tossed the phone aside, and ran a hand absently though her hair. Wednesday night dinner, on top of trying to figure things out, was not what she needed. 

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  

Rory was standing behind the counter at the bookstore, handling customer sales while the weekly story hour was taking place in the children's section. Things tended to slow down during that particular hour, as other customers knew to avoid the store until the kids were gone, so she was able to maintain a decent conversation with Lane, who had brought the twins down with Mrs. Kim for their first story hour experience. While Mrs. Kim sat with the children, Lane stood by the counter, seemingly glad to be having an adult conversation. 

"So when you called him, what did he say? Lane asked, already intrigued by Rory's events from earlier that day. 

"He knew I was working on something, even though I'd never actually come out and told him in any of my emails. He pretty much steamrolled me into sending it to him, but I don't know, I didn't feel ready. I still don't think the story is ready," she mused, her brow deeply furrowed. 

"Well, you know what they always say... we are our own worst critics. Maybe it's good that you went out on a limb and just sent it in. Now someone else is going to read it—and he's an editor! That's what they're for, right? Lane encouraged her friend. 

"Yeah, I guess," Rory shrugged, while the little voice in her head reminded her of her mother's words yet again.  'I'd just like to see some of the old Rory back." Taking a deep breath, Rory finally admitted, "I actually submitted it to Salon and a couple of regional papers too. I figured why not, since I was on a roll." 

"That's great, Rory! I mean, you've been working for so long to become a real journalist.  It's kind of hard to be one when you don't actually let anyone read what you write, isn't it?" Lane's voice was gentle, but so full of encouragement. 

"I don't know what it is, Lane. Something has been holding me back for a long time, and it makes me nervous. Mom told me she was worried about me yesterday," she said quietly, hoping no one else in the store would hear her. 

"Lorelai is worried about you? Lane was surprised, to say the least. 

"Yeah, she said that I seemed less gung-ho about stuff than I was at school. Do you think I am?" 

"You know what our parents forgot to teach us?  That being an adult is so much harder than being a kid. You and I have both had some pretty major things happen to us over the last couple of years, and a lot of that was stuff we never expected, good or bad. Maybe it's just that? Maybe you just need to reach out and find that one positive thing to get you back on track," Lane was trying her best to give Rory the confidence she was seeking, and while Rory appreciated her words, she couldn't quite believe them. 

"Yeah, maybe," she mused, her mind taking the thread of an idea and running with it. 

Lane perked up slightly as she reminded Rory, "Well, you know at least the Gazette here will publish it." 

Rory shook her head quickly, telling her it was a bad idea.  "I didn't even give it to them. I need to be validated by someone that didn't know me when I was playing Tree #3 in Stars Hollow Elementary's version of Cosi fan Tutte, you know?"

Lane laughed in understanding, "Okay, you might have a point there." 

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  

The next evening, Lorelai washed and rinsed her face robotically in preparation for dinner. Dinner at her parents' was the last thing she needed. Michel had been impossible all day at work, constantly complaining about some sort of mysterious allergen that he was sure was lurking in one particular woman's perfume; her mother had called no less than six times to find out who in town would be most likely to agree to sign their petition; and Luke was still mum on the kids issue. Not that she'd seen him much, she lamented. He'd worked late the night before, and had been up and out early in the morning in order to be able to take the night off for dinner with the Gilmores. 

She was shaken from her thoughts when, in the foggy mirror in front of her, she caught sight of Luke exiting the shower. She offered him a weak smile before ducking out of the room. In her mind, her excuse was that she needed a mirror that wasn? steamed up to re-apply her makeup, though deep down, she couldn't deny that part of it was because she didn't know how to act around Luke given his reaction in the diner the day before. 

Lorelai knew better than she cared to admit that she couldn't give Luke an indefinite amount of time and space to figure things out; the last time she'd tried that approach, their relationship had spontaneously combusted, and she wasn't looking for a repeat of that. She snorted to herself at that thought as she added a coat of mascara—definitely not looking for a repeat of that. She wanted to know what he was thinking, wanted to know how he saw their life together progressing and if it included any extra branches on the family tree, but she was also wary of pushing too hard. She still wasn't sure where she herself stood on the kid issue, but the last thing she wanted would be to push him too hard, only to have him snap back at her and rule out kids just out of spite for her bugging him so much. Not that she thought he would ever actually do something that irrational, but still...

She sighed dejectedly. 

Her makeup finished, Lorelai headed over to the closet, and was surprised to find Luke already in there, rifling through his own clothes. Preoccupied by her thoughts, she hadn't heard him come out of the bathroom. He nodded an acknowledgment in her direction, but didn't say anything. Afraid another mention of kids might slip from her mouth if she said anything, Lorelai just slipped past him and snatched a dress off its hanger and retreated back in the bedroom to change. 

Pulling her dress over her head and twisting to zip up, Lorelai cast a glance over where Luke stood in the doorway of the closet buttoning up his own shirt. 

This week, she told herself. This week. She'd let him ponder and brush her off to stew in his own juices for the rest of the week, but that was it. 

"You ready?" she heard Luke say a moment later, just as she was slipping on her shoes. 

Not trusting herself to keep quiet, Lorelai simply nodded, and allowed him to guide her out of the room with his hand in the small of her back. 

A few more days, she reminded herself. Then they had to talk. 

♫   ♫   ♫  

Rory avoided her computer like the plague when she got home from her latest job at the library, but while she was getting ready for dinner with her grandparents, her eyes kept drifting towards the laptop on her desk. She was curious to an extent, but she was also afraid of the rejections; afraid enough to have not checked her email since yesterday morning. 

As she headed back to her room from the bathroom, having applied the finishing touches to her makeup, she noticed that her mom and Luke were nowhere in sight yet. She gathered her purse and shoes, and paused, staring at the computer, debating over whether she wanted to check for a response or not. Again, Lorelai's words came back to her, and she decided she had to learn to not be so afraid. 

"Fine," she huffed out loud, dropping her things on the desk before flipping open the screen. She waited a moment for the network to login, then logged into her email account. At the top of the list was a response from The New London Day.  While the subject line gave nothing away, the body of the email quickly sent Rory's mood from average to downright deflated. She read the words over and over, trying to tell herself not to take it personally, but it was difficult even though the email said nothing about her style of writing, simply that the content was not what they chose to publish. 

Snapping her laptop closed, she sat and stared out her window, her mind running off in a thousand different directions, and all of them telling her that she'd never find the right kind of publication for her story. When Lorelai called for her to hurry up, she wished she could just crawl into bed and hide from the world; especially on a night that involved dinner with her grandparents. 

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Later that evening, Lorelai sat poking at her dinner, an internal debate over trying for a kid and wondering if that's what Luke wanted raging in her mind while her mother blathered on about some inane topic. When she did glance up from time to time, Rory generally wasn't eating at all, just staring into space, while Luke and her father seemed inordinately fascinated by their dinner plates. 

"Honestly," Emily spat in disdain, "I don't know what that man thinks gives him the right to run that town of yours like a dictatorship. And those signatures!" she jeered, "From people who couldn't care less, I'm sure. Thank goodness no one from the DAR ever ventures out to Stars Hollow—imagine, them seeing me gallivanting about door to door as if I was a child selling those scouting cookies." 

Only half-listening, Lorelai pushed around her poached quail and murmured a muted "Uh huh." 

"Lorelai," Emily admonished, setting down her fork, "have you heard a word I've said?" 

Lorelai groaned, not at all in the mood for more of her mother's harassment. "Yes, Mom, Taylor's crazy," she agreed dutifully. "Newsflash—I already knew that." 

Emily scoffed and lectured, "If you had just bothered to look into some of the regulations before-" 

"Hey, Rory's writing an article," Lorelai piped up, not even caring that her attempt at deflecting the attention away from her put a possibly unwelcome spotlight on Rory. "Why don't you bug her for a while?" 

"Fine Lorelai," Emily sighed, not bothering to hide her disapproval—as per usual, "ignore the issues of your business on which the fate of your career rests." 

Lorelai rolled her eyes, but was relieved to hear her mother's tone change completely as she addressed Rory instead. "Rory," Emily prattled, "so what is this I hear about a story that you're writing? Have you been hired by someone?" she asked excitedly. 

"Uh, no, Grandma," Rory stammered, all the while shooting daggers at Lorelai—to which Lorelai shrugged in response. "It's nothing, really," Rory insisted as she turned her attention back to Emily. "Just some scribbles." 

Lorelai had gone back to picking at her dinner and stealing furtive glances at Luke, but she was attentive enough to hear the disappointment in her mother's voice as she responded to Rory. "Oh," Emily replied, her voice flat. "Well then. Are you sure you wouldn't like us to speak to some contacts for you?" she pressed. "Try and get you a position somewhere?" 

"Thanks, Grandma," Rory said meekly, "but I have to deal with this for myself. Figure stuff out." 

"Oh," Emily repeated dejectedly. 

An uncomfortable silence fell over the table. Lorelai, for her part, was grateful for the fact that Emily had left her alone, though it meant that much more time for trying to figure out what was going on with Luke. She had to admit that Liz's announcement had upped the anxiety factor and made the decisions they were dealing with seem much more time sensitive, but she was more upset that her minor freak out had led Luke to clam up completely. She just wanted desperately to sit down and talk with him and just figure things out. Except that she wasn't sure where she stood on things, and she'd have no idea what to say if they did talk. Couple that with the fact that he was pretty tied up with work, and they were left with that awkward tension that neither one of them knew how to fix. A few more days, she reminded herself of her earlier vow. Hopefully by then she'd have some things figured out for herself too. 

Unfortunately, the awkward tension between Luke and Lorelai had followed them to Friday—or Wednesday, Lorelai corrected in her head—Night Dinner, and apparently spread to the rest of the family as well, because even Richard made attempts to break the silence. 

Lorelai was surprised to hear him, after at least a full five minutes of silence, clear his throat and ask Luke, "Luke, my boy. How are things with you?" 

Lorelai tensed inadvertently, because she actually didn't know the answer to the question herself. 

"Huh? Luke stammered, seemingly caught off guard by the sudden attention. "Oh, uh," he finally said, "my sister's having a kid." Lorelai figured Luke would leave it at that, but in spite of her unease, she found herself choking back a laugh at her father's expression when Luke added, "Except someone else is having it for her." 

Bemused, Richard uttered a simple "Ah," and lapsed back into silence. 

His second futile attempt at spurring some sort of conversation came a few moments later, when he apparently deemed school an interesting topic. "Did I ever tell you what a macroeconomics student of mine did last week?" He chortled as he continued, "It was quite amusing, actually, he-" 

"Oh spare us Richard," Emily snapped, annoyed. "They're all comatose as it is. We hardly need one of your mundane stories about your dim-witted students to turn them into completely lifeless corpses." 

Her mother's harsh—though admittedly not untrue—words snapped Lorelai back to some semblance of life. "Sorry, Mom," she apologized weakly. "We're just... preoccupied," she finished, failing to find any other word to more appropriately describe their mood. 

"And with what I dare not imagine, I'm sure," Emily shot back haughtily. "But Lorelai, now that I have your attention, I'll remind you of what you agreed to earlier." 

Lorelai's gaze shot up from her quail, drawing a blank when it came to anything she would have agreed to where her mother was concerned. "Huh?" she spluttered. 

"To be my sponsor," Emily clarified, incredulous over Lorelai's lack of recollection. "The notion is absolutely preposterous," she continued, "but Mr. Doose is insisting that I am not a resident of Stars Hollow, and as such am in no position to be petitioning the town for anything." 

"So put my name on it," Lorelai tried reasoning. 

"Yes, Lorelai, I tried that," Emily replied, patronizing. "He is also insisting that as I was the one to do all of the signature collecting this morning, it must be me who presents to the town board." 

Flustered, Lorelai couldn't figure out what her mother was getting at. "But you can't because you're not-" she tried to protest. 

"I know that," cried her mother, obviously exasperated. "Which is precisely why I asked you earlier if you, as a citizen of Stars Hollow, would be my sponsor at Friday's meeting for what will apparently be my naturalization as an honorary citizen of Stars Hollow." 

Lorelai's jaw dropped; she was flummoxed. "Your what?" 

"Apparently I will become a citizen of Stars Hollow on Friday," Emily informed the group. 

With a healthy dose of sarcasm and a sour expression, Lorelai muttered, "Oh goody." 

"And you will be my sponsor," her mother declared resolutely. 

"Uh..." Lorelai stammered, trying in vain to figure some way out of it. 

Not that an excuse would have made a difference; Emily narrowed her eyes at Lorelai. "If you won't," she informed her, "I'm sure Luke or Rory would be glad to offer their services." 

Out of the corner of her eye, Lorelai saw both Luke and Rory jerk their heads up at the sound of their names. Emily, however, was still glaring at Lorelai, so they apparently felt they were off the hook and went back to staring at their plates. 

"No, Mom," Lorelai sighed. "It's fine, I'll do it." 

Emily smirked triumphantly, "Thank you." 

Silence closed in on the group once again. 

"Hey Dad," Lorelai finally said in a hollow voice, "any good stories from your classes this week?" 

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  

Rory entered the diner, frazzled and red-cheeked as she struggled to detangle the silver plastic crown from her hair. "Caesar, can I get a large coffee to go?" she said as soon as she spotted Luke's employee hovering at the door of the kitchen. 

"Coming right up.  You want a donut with that?" He asked, his tone expecting the answer to be yes. 

"Bring it on," Rory said, gesturing for him to hurry.  She paused to catch her breath, and sat down on the nearest stool, flicking her long dark green cloak out of the way. 

Sighing, she glanced around the diner, finding it to be in its usual 2 p.m. lull. Aside from Kirk, there was only one other table occupied, and those customers appeared to be getting ready to leave. After checking her watch for the umpteenth time, she realized that she was going to be late for her shift at the Beauty Supply store, and grumbled loudly.  "Ugh, this is ridiculous!" she exclaimed to the room in general. Caesar jumped, almost spilling coffee on his hand, and looked at Rory over his shoulder. 

"Are you Okay?" he asked. 

"I'm tired of this! Am I crazy, Caesar?  What am I really doing here?" 

"Uhh..." he started, clearly unsure how to respond. 

"I mean, I quit a perfectly good full time journalism job, and come back here to work my butt off doing almost as many jobs as Kirk, and for what!? This is never going to get me anywhere.  Especially not volunteering as Taylor's stupid Ice Cream Queen!" She ranted, gesturing to her strange attire. "I want to get a real job. I want to write, and I want to put my fancy Yale degree to some sort of use before I die of exhaustion!" 

"Okay, I... um... here's your coffee," the poor man stuttered, sliding the cup towards her as if afraid she would attack him like a caged lion. 

"I don't want to do this, but if I don't get some positive news from a newspaper soon, I'm going to be stuck here competing for town jobs with Kirk for the rest of my life!" 

Instantly, she heard the scraping of a chair as it was quickly pushed back, the condiments and cutlery on the table rattling from the force. Rory turned to see what the commotion was about, and her eyes practically bugged out of her head when she saw Kirk practically fuming, just a few feet away. Lifting his fist, he shook it in the air at her and exclaimed, "Damn you, Gilmore!" before storming out of the diner. 

Turning back to Caesar, she grinned and shrugged her shoulders innocently.  "You know, that actually made me feel a lot better." 

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With Luke working the dinner shift through closing, and Rory working until nine at one of her five hundred jobs, after Lorelai finished up at the Inn on Thursday, she headed across town to Sookie's, both for dinner and a little perspective, if she could get it. 

Upon reaching the house, and fully expecting mass chaos at the hands of small children, she let herself in the front door. She frowned in confusion when she was greeted by near silence, so closing the door behind her, she called out, "Knock knock! Sookie!" Still hearing nothing, she crept farther into the house. "Sook?" 

"In the kitchen!" came Sookie's bubbly reply. 

Lorelai headed across the living room, deftly skirting the array of toys scattered on the floor. "Uh, it's abnormally quiet here," she pointed out as she made her way to the next room, "you didn't by any chance finally lose it did you?" she quizzed Sookie jokingly. "Go a little Ginsu on Jackson and the crew?" 

"No!" Sookie giggled in response. "Jackson's out back helping the kids with their first vegetable garden," she explained as Lorelai entered the kitchen, "and Wanda's in here with me." 

Lorelai grinned knowingly, with a roll of her eyes as she plopped down on a kitchen chair. "So she is," she acknowledged. She reached across the table to where Wanda lay in her bouncy recliner. "Hey there you," she teased, tickling the little girl's stomach. 

Wanda gurgled her happy reply. 

After letting her gaze linger on the baby for a moment, Lorelai turned her attention to Sookie. "So what's for dinner?" she asked eagerly. "What can I do?" 

Sookie whirled around wielding her spatula ominously. "You can stay far, far away from my cooking is what you can do," she warned, sounding as if she was only half joking. 

"Well fine then," Lorelai pouted facetiously. She still, however, rose from her chair to deftly reach around Sookie and snatch a small handful of grated cheese to nibble on. 

Temporarily pacified by the snack, Lorelai was content to get lost in her thoughts as she gazed out the window. She could see Jackson trying patiently to show the older kids something about gardening. Unfortunately for him, Davey looked perfectly content playing in the dirt with a couple of toy trucks while Martha kept wandering off after a soccer ball that she insisted on kicking around. Her thoughts, of their own volition, led Lorelai to absently wonder how Luke would be in a similar situation, trying to teach his own kid something. 

She didn't get to ponder that topic very long, as Sookie soon piped up with a question about the Spa situation. "How are things with Emily and Taylor?" she asked with a knowing giggle. 

"Oh God," Lorelai moaned as she turned away from the window. "I'm not sure if I'm dreading this town meeting or really looking forward to it my mother, officially part of the town?" Her face twisted in mock horror at the thought. 

"I know! Sookie agreed emphatically. In whirling around, however, she managed hit a pan handle, knocking it off the burner, spilling some contents onto the flame. "Oh, oh, the-" she spluttered. "Hang on!" 

Lorelai winced and peered over Sookie's shoulder in concern as she wondered how on earth Sookie had managed to not burn down her house yet. 

A few seconds later, Sookie appeared to have things under control, flame-wise, anyway. As soon as one thing was taken care of, she began muttering about something else sticking to its pan because she hadn't been able to keep stirring. 

Not wanting to get in the way and cause any more trouble, Lorelai crossed back over to her chair at the table. Sitting down, she pulled Wanda's seat closer to her and tickled the baby's foot. That earned her another cheerful gurgle, and Lorelai couldn't help but feel a little tug in her chest. On one hand, having a sweet little kid like Wanda with Luke would probably be the most amazing experience. On the other hand, she admitted to herself, it would be hard; a few days with Martha and Davy had told her as much. Parenting at forty was not at all the same as at sixteen, or twenty-six, or hell, even thirty-six, and she wasn't sure she'd have the energy to keep up. And truth be told, being back on track with Luke, just the two of them, was pretty damn enjoyable in itself. 

Absently letting Wanda get her finger in her little baby death grip, Lorelai honestly didn't know where she stood on the pros and cons of a kid. Then again, what she also didn't know was if she was building up the cons because it might make it easier on the psyche if it was too late and it was all moot anyway. 

She frowned and focused on Wanda once again. 

Noting that the muttering in the general direction of the stove had ceased, Lorelai asked quietly, "Hey Sook?" 

"Yeah?" Sookie chirped. 

Lorelai just sat watching as Wanda made an attempt to convert her borrowed finger from just a play toy into a chew toy. She sighed, not sure she actually wanted to voice her thoughts to Sookie before speaking more with Luke. 

Apparently finding Lorelai's silence disconcerting, Sookie blurted out worriedly, "Honey, what is it?" 

"Never mind," Lorelai said, trying to brush aside the question. 

"No, no, no," Sookie squealed in protest as she abandoned her cooking again, "you can't do that and not say anything, it's mean!" 

In response, Lorelai let her head loll forward and she rubbed her neck tiredly with her free hand. When she finally brought her head back up and faced Sookie, she squinted at her friend warily. "Do I want another kid?" 

Sookie's shriek was one Lorelai would classify as moderately deafening. "Oh my God!" she cried. "Oh my God! Are you-? You're thinking about-! Oh my God!" 

In spite of herself, Lorelai let out a muted chuckle at her friend's response. She let Sookie calm down for a moment before pointing out, "I don't even know if I can." 

Sookie shook her head, unfazed. "Oh but you have to at least try!" 

"But that's the thing," was Lorelai's objection, "I'm not sure if I want to." 

"What does Luke want?" Sookie inquired gravely, her brow furrowed. 

"Not sure," Lorelai admitted. "We're-" 

She was interrupted by a yelp from Sookie, who must have caught sight of the rest of her family out of the corner of her eye. "Jackson! Stay away from where I have my spices!" She quickly focused back on Lorelai, urging her to expand with an inquisitive "Uh huh?" 

Lorelai shrugged, also finally extracting her finger from Wanda's grasp. "We're supposed to talk about it at some point. Soon, I guess." 

"Oh, but-" Sookie began again before switching into hushed, secretive tones. "Did he propose?" She asked, wide-eyed. "Are you getting married?" 

"Nah," Lorelai dismissed quickly, not even really concerned with that issue anymore, "just the birthday thing. Got me thinking." 

"Got you thinking..." Sookie coaxed with a mischievous grin. 

Lorelai winced before moaning melodramatically, "That, oh my God, however bizarre his approach, Kirk was actually right." 

"About?" Sookie asked. 

"Biological clocks," Lorelai replied dully. 

Sookie's wide grin faded. "Oh yeah." She looked pensive for a moment, the perked back up. "But what are you thinking right now?" she quizzed. 

"Now?" Lorelai asked, standing up to gaze out the window at the rest of the family running wild in the yard. "Now I'm thinking that when we had your crew with us, I wanted to die every night, I was so tired. Guar-" 

Lorelai was cut off by Sookie's sudden outburst when Jackson apparently ventured too close to the fresh spices again. "Jackson! Davey, tell Daddy to use the other side!" After yelling out the window, Sookie turned back to Lorelai with a calmer disposition and indicated for her to continue. 

Lorelai rolled her eyes, as Martha, Davey, and Jackson had effectively proved her point. "Guaranteed if we do have one," she assured, only half-joking, "it'll only be one because all my free time will then be spent sleeping and Luke and I will never get to have sex again." 

"But..." Sookie led her on, her eyebrows raised knowingly. 

Fighting the urge to get too mushy about the topic, Lorelai told herself to not admit the other side of the coin to Sookie. But she couldn't hold back. "But this," she eventually blurted out, waving her hands in the general direction of Wanda as well as the other two outside. "Look at this," she reiterated in a softer voice as she reached for Wanda, exclaiming once again as she scooped up the little girl, "Look at you!" Cradling the baby, Lorelai angled her towards Sookie. "One of these?" she sighed helplessly, a wistful smile creeping onto her face. "With Luke?" 

Sookie clasped her hands in front of her chest and hopped up and down a few times. "Oooh, you do want one! You will have to deal with pregnancy weight gain!" she exclaimed. 

Lorelai shook her head dejectedly. "I don't know," she admitted, "I really don't...." 

She was expecting Sookie to have some sort of comeback about how of course she wanted a baby, but the next thing Lorelai knew, Sookie was screaming out the window again, and a split second after that, when the yelling apparently hadn't worked, she was off and running out the back door, the words still spilling out of her mouth, "Oh, oh, hold that thought! Davey! One second... Oh, no, no. Oh man, oh man... Jackson!" 

Lorelai just stood there in the kitchen, first looking warily over to where something still bubbled and steamed, unsupervised, on the stove, then down at Wanda in her arms. "I think your mommy did lose it, huh?" she teased, giving Wanda another tickle. "Better watch out for those Ginsus after all, huh?" Wanda wriggled happily at Lorelai's goofy tone, though that tone was fading. Answering her own silly question with a feeble sigh of a "Yeah," Lorelai maneuvered Wanda in her arms until they were facing each other as she held the baby away from her. "What do you think kiddo?" Lorelai wondered aloud. "Do I want one of you? Does Luke want one of you?" And, reverting to her playful 'baby' voice, she asked, "Would one of you even want a mommy and daddy who are old farts already?" 

With impeccable timing, a dribble of spit-up burbled out of Wanda's mouth. 

Lorelai chuckled weakly. "Thanks for the insight, kid." 

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  

After knocking on his sister's door, Luke stood nervously clenching his hands by his sides. He'd tried to think of a bunch of excuses on the drive over from the diner, ranging from bringing over a pot pie for dinner, to a new toy for Doula, but in the end, he'd decided he would just tell her he wanted to catch up on all the news. 

Liz opened the door, letting a wave of unidentifiable noise rush out, and smiled broadly when she saw him. "Hey bro, what brings you here?" she asked, stepping aside to allow him in. 

"Well, after that bombshell you dropped the other day, I figured it was about time I came to get the full story." 

"Come on in!" she said, leading him further into the house. "TJ! Get your smushy tushie out here!" 

"Aw geez, Liz.  Do you really have to say that stuff in front of me?" Luke groaned, trying his best not to let a disturbing image of TJ enter his mind. 

Ignoring his complaint, Liz noted, "It's late, you had any dinner yet?  And why aren't you home with Lorelai?" 

"Yeah, I grabbed something as soon as the dinner rush died down. I had to work the night shift, so Lorelai's having dinner with Sookie. So um, where's..." he began, but stopped the moment he turned the corner into the living room. He gaped at the sight before him—the furniture had been pushed against a wall, and two small camping tents had been erected. Surrounding the tents were Brunhilde and her brood of six children, all apparently under the age of six. Brunhilde appeared to be meditating, while four of the six children ran screaming around her, the two youngest somehow managing to sleep amidst the commotion. 

"Oh, don't mind the noise," Liz waved her hand, "you won't notice it after a while. Me and TJ were kept awake for the first three days, but once we passed the point of exhaustion, we've been sleeping like babies." 

Luke stared in amazement, his eyes flickering across the scene as his mind tried to puzzle the pieces together. "So, what do you think of our baby-maker?  We got us a fertile one!" TJ announced as he entered the room. 

"Apparently," Luke mumbled absentmindedly. "So what exactly is the deal here?" Luke asked in a hushed voice, concerned about what his sister had agreed to exactly. 

"We put an ad in the local papers, looking for a surrogate, and Brunhilde was just so great! We asked her to do it after like, ten minutes, because I just felt this great vibe in her, you know?" 

"Right, you gotta have the right vibe," Luke mumbled sarcastically. 

"And then, as soon as we had gone through all the procedures, Brunhilde's husband kicked her and the kids out of the house, so we offered for them to stay here while she's pregnant." 

"What?  He kicked her out?" Luke asked, shocked. 

"He doesn't believe her that she's being our surrogate. He thinks she had an affair, and is using us as a cover," TJ explained. 

Liz jumped in quickly, not wanting Luke to get the wrong idea, "Apparently he's just a little impulsive.  He's a good guy and a great dad—he still spends time with the kids; that's why we couldn't introduce you to them all on Tuesday." 

"Are you sure this is wise?" Luke couldn't help but be concerned over the situation Liz and TJ had put themselves in. 

"It's cool, Luke!  Everything will work out fine.  Trust me," Liz promised him. "Now, how about some tea? I just got a new stash of leaves from my friend Susannah, totally herbal, and full of antioxidants." 

"Sounds great," Luke replied, somewhat unenthused as he followed her to the kitchen. 

♫   ♫   ♫  

Once they were all sitting around the table in the dining room, Luke quietly stared into his teacup. He wanted to ask his sister a few questions to help him figure out the answer to Lorelai's question, but he was having trouble finding the right words. Especially with TJ right there to provide unedited commentary. 

"How was Lorelai's party the other night?  I wish we could have been there, but Brunhilde had to go back to her house to get the kids' clothes, so we had to babysit.  Was it a fun party?" Liz asked, seeming to feel it necessary to fill the silence. 

"She loved it. Especially the crazy chocolate fountain that her mother insisted on having." 

"And did you have fun?" Liz asked more specifically. 

"I enjoyed seeing how much Lorelai enjoyed it. As long as Lorelai was happy, that's all that I cared about." 

Liz watched him for a moment, her eyes looking deep beneath the surface. She'd always been able to do that with him, and more often than not, it unnerved him. "You and Lorelai are really doing the forever thing now, aren? you?  You're like two trees growing side by side, with your roots getting all tangled up and your branches growing closer together." 

"That sounds... weird," Luke commented, furrowing his eyebrows. 

"But true," Liz nodded definitively. 

Luke took a sip of his tea, preparing himself to broach the topic with Liz. "Hey Liz?" 

"What's up, Luke?" she asked, looking at him knowingly. 

"What made you decide to use a surrogate?" he asked quickly, getting it out in the open before he had a chance to change his mind. 

"Why do you want to know?" she probed. 

"Oh, you know, I remember TJ saying something a while back about you guys trying to get pregnant again, so I was just curious how you ended up with a surrogate." 

"When we first wanted to get pregnant with Doula, we weren't having any luck," she explained. 

"But boy did we try!" TJ piped up from across the table. 

Liz continued as if TJ had said nothing, "So after a few months, we went to see a doctor, and we had a bunch of tests done...." 

"Let me tell you, those tests ain't pretty," TJ interrupted. "They give you this tiny cup, and the girly magazines and send you off to a room that's supposed to make you comfortable. You can call me a pansy if you want, but I'm not into all that abjectifying women stuff. Give me a good woman, a candlelight dinner and some soft music, and I'm more randy than a rabbit in heat." 

Luke groaned loudly, wishing he could pull a van Gogh just so he wouldn't have to listen to his brother-in-law ever again, but he didn't think the guy was worth the self-mutilation. 

"TJ hon, it's objectifying," Liz corrected him, patting his hand gently. 

"Oh, well anyway, then the doctor wanted to give Lizzy a bunch of tests, which are ten times worse than what us menfolk have to deal with. She had to get stuck with a bunch of needles right into her ovaries, and then when we found out she was going through 'the change', the doctor started talkin' about hormone injections and egg harvesting.  I don't think I need to draw you a picture of that one, right Luke?" 

Luke closed his eyes tightly against the images TJ was crudely painting for him, and tried to stop the verbal diarrhea before it got any worse.  "Okay TJ, I think I got it.  Thank you for the vivid picture you've managed to shove into my brain." 

"So yeah," TJ continued, "we ended up forking over some major cash to the fertility clinic to get Doula, and this time we decided to go the easy route with Brunhilde here. You know Luke, since Doula cost us an arm and a leg, it wouldn't hurt matters if you were willing to contribute to the costs for this kid. Help out your sister a little, since you and Lorelai don't have kids of your own and all." 

Liz jumped in quickly and asked, "TJ, why don't you go check on Doula, make sure she's sleeping through all the noise out there." She gestured to the living room, where Brunhilde's brood was still wreaking havoc. 

"Sure thing, babe," he said as he stood and left the room. 

Once he was gone, Liz turned back to Luke and asked, "Is there something I should know?" 

Luke balked, and immediately denied that he had a reason for asking. "No, no.  I was just curious, because you hadn't mentioned any of this, and then suddenly, you showed up at the diner with this woman who's now carrying your kid." 

"Okay, I just thought you might be asking for personal reasons. You know, with Lorelai turning 40, I'm sure it must be bringing up the question of kids for the both of you." 

Luke shifted uncomfortably under her gaze, still unable to comprehend how she managed to hit the nail on the head every time, especially after all these years. At the look on his face, she laughed, and stood up, patting him gently on the shoulder.  "It's not rocket science, bro. You've never been good at hiding the truth from me.  I'm going to get some more tea.  You want some?" 

Standing up, Luke took the opportunity to make a hasty exit, noting that it was getting late.  "No thanks, I'm good.  I should get going though.  You know, early shift tomorrow." 

"Okay, well let me know if you want to talk about anything. I'm always here," she offered as they headed towards the front door. 

"Thanks Liz, but I'm good," he admitted, ducking his head in embarrassment before disappearing through the door. 

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  

"Rory!" Rory could hear Lorelai calling out as she pounded down the stairs. "Hurry up! This is one meeting you could not pay me to be late for! Because either my mother or Taylor will kill me for being late and I'm really not feeling up to dying today." 

With just a mumbled "Uh huh..." in response, Rory essentially ignored her mother, focusing far more intently on the mini fashion crisis at hand. 

"Rory?" Lorelai called again a moment later, the curiosity evident in her voice enough to get Rory to speak up a little louder. 

"One second," Rory muttered, cursing her sudden inability to locate her left shoe. 

Lorelai huffed melodramatically out in the kitchen, obviously trying hard to ensure it was loud enough for Rory to hear. Rory just rolled her eyes and pawed once more through the pile of clothes and shoes that had collected in front of her wardrobe. 

Finally finding the offending sneaker holed up in the sleeve of one of her jackets, Rory let out a triumphant "Ha!" In a less than graceful fashion, she then attempted to slip the shoe on while also making her way to the kitchen to meet Lorelai. She hopped awkwardly around the door into the next room, but stopped short when she noticed her mother positively beaming at her. 

Rory's eyebrows flew up in mild concern as she was not at all sure what would have brought such an expression on. 

"Your submission?" Lorelai finally asked, gesturing proudly to where Rory's laptop sat on the table. 

"Oh," Rory said nervously, tucking her hair behind her ear. She'd meant to have all that put away before either Luke or Lorelai made an appearance in the kitchen. "Uh, yeah," she finally admitted. 

"The article you told my mother was nothing?" Lorelai asked, still looking creepily proud.  "The article that wasn't ready and that no one was going to like anyway?" 

Rory shrugged. "Well, I didn't want to get anyone's hopes up," she said, somewhat defensive, and caught off guard by what appeared to be the beginnings of tears in her mother's eyes. "I still don't-" 

The next thing she knew, she was being pulled into a tight hug. In spite of herself, she blushed. "I thought you'd be mad at me for not telling you," she said sheepishly over Lorelai's shoulder. 

Lorelai pushed her back out to arms length. "Babe, tell whoever you want," she declared with a wide grin. "I'm just glad you're doing what you want again. Rory's back," she added excitedly. 

Rory wished she could agree, but she shook her head and scrolled through her email account for proof. "I already got some rejections," she said, staring at the screen glumly while mentally cursing The Rutland Herald, Slate, The Poughkeepsie Journal, and The Worcester Telegram and Gazette

Lorelai, apparently, would have none of it. She gave Rory's shoulder a squeeze, assuring her, "You'll get published." 

"But-" Rory spluttered in vain, trying to impress upon her mother that there's no way she could guarantee that when it came to the world of journalism. 

"You will," Lorelai insisted, cutting her off. "And then I'll have to buy every copy of the-" She squinted at the screen. "Grand Rapids Press and have you autograph them all so when you win the Pulitzer I can sell them on e-Bay and not have to work with my mother at the Inn anymore." 

Rory let out a snort of laughter as she shut down her laptop. "The spa isn't even open yet," she giggled. 

Backing away towards the front door, Lorelai groaned and wrinkled her face in disgust. "Please don't remind me." 

"And Grandma has to become a citizen first," Rory added, having fun torturing her mother. 

"Don't remind me of that either," Lorelai glowered in return as she headed out on to the porch. "It's like it gives her license to hang around here and harass me even more." She shuddered at the thought. 

Behind her, Rory grabbed a jacket and slipped out the door. "And since I'm not getting published anywhere," she said wickedly, "I'll be right here to watch you suffer." 

Rory was expecting some sort of retort or threat of reciprocal suffering on her part. Instead, Lorelai just threw her arm around her shoulders and declared yet again, "You'll get published."

♫   ♫   ♫  

They were nearly halfway to Miss Patty's when Lorelai, busy weighing her thoughts, felt Rory nudge her side. 

"Mom?" Rory asked timidly, poking Lorelai lightly in the ribs. "You okay?" 

"I'm forty," Lorelai replied frankly with a sigh. 

Rory nodded, obviously not catching on. "Thus the party...." 

"Yeah, but I'm talking fertility forty," Lorelai corrected, cracking a wistful smile, half jealous of her daughter for being an age when fertility issues weren't even on the radar.  "Not party forty." 

Lorelai smirked again when Rory actually stopped walking for a split second, uttering, "Oh. Wow." To her credit, she caught up to Lorelai a moment later, though she still wasn't able to spit out a complete sentence. "Are you-?" she stammered. "Are you and Luke—" 

"I don't know," Lorelai admitted. "We're not anything right now," she clarified for Rory's sake, before elaborating, "Just trying to figure out if we can be anything anymore. Or if we even want to," she added. 

Rory seemed to accept that, and kept silent as they walked another block. She piped up later, however, with her brow furrowed in confusion. "So you are figuring?" she asked, "Or you did already?" 

"Both?" Lorelai shrugged. Between talking with Sookie, doing a little soul-searching, and now with Rory on the brink of setting the journalism world on fire, she was pretty sure she knew where she'd landed on the subject. Luke was still the question mark, and she let on as much to Rory. "I think I've finally got me covered, but we haven't really discussed it together. And it takes two to tango, you know? I'm planning the ambush for sometime this weekend." 

Again Rory seemed satisfied with Lorelai's explanation, and she, like Lorelai, lapsed into pensive silence for the rest of the walk. Though just before they reached the dance studio, Lorelai felt a tug on her arm. "Hey," Rory offered bashfully, "if you do need help on the figuring, I'm known to be a good figure-er." 

Lorelai practically melted, touched by her daughter's unfailing support. "Thanks kid," she said, throwing her arm back around Rory's shoulders and leading her into the meeting. 

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  

"People, people, people!  Can I get some quiet here?" Mr. Doose droned on, banging his gavel repeatedly on the lectern. The crowd had been talking loudly since entering the meeting hall, and seemed to continue on without any concern for his request.

"Are these meetings always like this?" Emily asked Lorelai, leaning closer to her so she could be heard above the din. 

"Pretty much," Lorelai grinned, her eyes alight with excitement. 

"It always takes Taylor ten minutes to get everybody quiet, and the best part is waiting to see what he uses to threaten us into doing it," Rory added, leaning across Lorelai. 

"Is that appropriate?" Emily asked in shock. 

"What?  Taylor threatening the town?  Probably not, but it just wouldn't be the same if he didn't," Lorelai replied. 

He banged his gavel several more times, and then grabbed for his megaphone. "If you don't all be quiet, I'm going to start issuing permits to speak!  None of you will be permitted to open your mouths unless your permit states that you may!" 

Immediately, the town members went quiet, and Emily gasped in horror. 

"You can't do that Taylor!" Yelled somebody from the back of the room. 

"He wouldn't really do that would he?" Emily whispered to Lorelai. 

"He would definitely try if he thought he could get away with it," Lorelai confirmed. 

Clearing his throat, Mr. Doose announced, "I call this meeting to order. And yes Andrew, I most certainly will do that if you all don't learn to come in and be quiet." He seemed to speak as though dealing with a large group of children.  "Now, tonight's meeting is going to be significantly longer," the entire room groaned in disappointment, "due to the request for citizenship to Stars Hollow by one Emily Gilmore." 

Every single head turned in her direction, while whispering ran rampant among the crowd.  "How come you're making Lorelai's mother become a resident? She doesn't even live here!" Babette asked. 

"Because, Babette, she holds a significant interest in one of our local businesses, and if she is to continue conducting herself in that manner, she is required, by law, to at the very least be sworn in as an honorary citizen," he replied. 

"Mrs. Gilmore, please step forward," he directed her, his hand pointing towards the floor in front of his lectern. 

Emily moved from her seat, straightening her suit and smoothing out the wrinkles. 

"Lorelai, I'll need you to come forward also." He continued speaking while Lorelai dutifully, but apparently unhappily, came to stand beside Emily.  "Now, many of you know Lorelai Gilmore.  She owns the Dragonfly Inn, one of Stars Hollow's most significant tourism businesses." 

"Isn't it the most important?  Without the Dragonfly, the only way we'd get tourists is if they stopped for lunch on their way to Woodbury," Miss Patty spoke from her seat beside Mr. Doose. 

"Whatever," Mr. Doose brushed off her query, waving his hand. "Now, Lorelai has been working on a new project for the inn for the past several months, and I have been overseeing the changes and approving their requests as mandated in the Stars Hollow bylaws." 

"This man really enjoys the sound of his own voice, doesn't he?" Emily whispered to Lorelai. Lorelai burst into delighted giggles. 

"Lorelai, really.  A little decorum would be appreciated.  After all, this does concern you.  And Mrs. Gilmore, it would benefit you to pay attention.  After all, I am doing you a favor," he reprimanded them both. 

"Goodness, he acts as though I'm being imported from Canada," she remarked to her daughter. 

Lorelai instantly quieted, issuing a perfunctory, "Sorry, Taylor." 

"However, during my last inspection of the property in question, I discovered that they have been importing Canadian products without authorization. Rather than demanding that they return said products and adhere to the laws of Stars Hollow, I generously suggested that they submit a petition to the town in order to receive approval to continue purchasing and using Canadian dirt. 

"Mrs. Gilmore has already filed a petition and collected signatures, but in order for me to accept this petition, she must be sworn in. Does anybody object to the town's acceptance of another citizen?" He looked around the room, waiting significantly longer than necessary, since clearly no one was speaking up. 

"All right then, let's begin.  Lorelai, do you submit to sponsor Emily Gilmore's request for citizenship, and agree to take action should any personal circumstances prevent her from abiding by the rules set forth in the Stars Hollow Citizens Handbook?" 

"I do," Lorelai said quickly, trying to keep her smile from breaking out. 

"Emily Gilmore, please raise your right hand, and repeat after me.  I, Emily Gilmore do solemnly swear..." 

" I, Emily Gilmore do solemnly swear..." she repeated dutifully. 

"...that I will faithfully abide by the laws of Stars Hollow..." 

"...that I will faithfully abide by the laws of Stars Hollow..." 

"...and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." He finished with a flourish. 

"...and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." Leaning towards Lorelai, she asked in a hushed voice, "Does this sound familiar to you?" 

Lorelai snorted, and replied, "I think it's the presidential oath." 

Emily narrowed her eyes at her daughter, to which Lorelai replied by nodding her head exaggeratedly. 

"Emily Gilmore, I hereby issue you with Honorary Citizenship to the town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut. Would you like to say a few words of thanks?" He suggested in a tone that told her she had better not refuse. 

"Yes, of course," she replied to him, then turned back to the town. "Thank you for welcoming me into your community. I do believe the Dragonfly Spa is going to be an excellent addition to the town, and I hope that you all will visit and take advantage of the wonderful services we're planning to offer." 

"Yes, well, a plug for the business is not what I was suggesting there, Mrs. Gilmore," he said in annoyance.  Mr. Doose turned and picked something up, handing it down to her as he said, "Emily Gilmore, please accept this olive branch as a symbol of your welcoming into our community." 

"Thank you, Mr. Doose," Emily accepted the branch, looking at it in curiosity.  When he waved them off, they returned to their seats.  "Does this look like an olive tree branch?" 

"It's probably just from a random tree in Taylor's backyard.  He must have been pruning his trees today," Lorelai explained with a laugh. 

"Lucky me," Emily said sarcastically. 

♫   ♫   ♫  

Once all the fuss over her grandmother's 'naturalization,' as it were, was over, Rory began to lose interest in the meeting. Try as she might, Taylor and Patty fighting over the name of the town's newest festival wasn't doing the trick, not when she still had requests for submissions still floating out there unanswered. 

She shifted in her seat restlessly, and was just about to duck out to run home and check her email when she felt her purse vibrate against her foot. Yanking the buzzing phone from her bag, she glanced at the display and sucked in a quick breath. 'Jack Kramer' was flashing on the screen. 

Rory immediately turned the phone off and threw it back into her purse—she'd been wanting to see if anyone had replied to her submissions, but seeing Jack's name there meant that the prospect of having a real person with a real voice, and not just words on a screen, do the rejecting, was suddenly very real. Not to mention very scary. She shoved her bag roughly beneath her chair, earning a curious look from Lorelai next to her. 

Rory just shook her head, trying to get her mother to drop it. 

No such luck; Lorelai leaned over, whispering, "Who was that? Why the violence against the poor little phone?" 

"No one," Rory hissed back, shaking her head more fervently. She froze a moment later when Emily caught her eye, glaring at both Rory and Lorelai. 

"Sorry," Rory apologized guiltily. She slumped in her seat and willed Taylor to shut up already so she could get out of there. 

Finally Taylor was satisfied enough with town goings-on to adjourn the meeting, and feeling only slightly bad about abandoning her mother with her grandmother, Rory dashed out of Miss Patty's. Rounding the corner into the shadows next to the studio, she flipped open her phone, turned it on, and waited anxiously for it to go to her voicemail. 

"Rory, Jack Kramer from Grand Rapids." she heard Jack's voice say. "I knew you had something going. It's definitely decent." Rory frowned, not sure if 'decent' was meant to be a good thing or a bad thing. "You were right," Jack had continued, "it needs more work. But there's definitely something there. I'm sending you some comments to your email, because you are going to need to polish it up before it makes it to print.  Once you do though, I think The Press can probably find a spot for it. Call me." 

Rory's hand flew to her mouth as she fought to suppress a squeal. She wasn't getting published quite yet, but she was a hell of a lot better off than she was that afternoon. A wide grin spreading across her face, she put her phone away and darted back out in front of Miss Patty's in search of her mother. 

Her face fell slightly when she saw Lorelai walking towards Luke, who was standing in front of the dance studio steps. 

"You wanna talk?" Rory heard Luke ask. 

She watched as her mother smiled and nodded, tucking herself under his arm as they turned and headed in the direction of the house.  As much as she wanted to share the news with her mom, she didn't want to interrupt, given what would apparently be the likely subject matter. 

Rory's mood brightened, however, when she saw Lane, also having just left the meeting, crossing the square. "Lane!" she shouted to her friend. "Wait up!"

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫  

When Lorelai made it into their room, she heaved a sigh of relief that the week was finally over. Now, all she could think about was getting everything out in the open with Luke, and then curling up beside him to sleep for the rest of the weekend. She had attempted to begin the discussion on the walk home, but he had staunchly remained quiet, requesting that they wait until they were behind closed doors.  Realizing the ears of the town were surrounding them, she had agreed quickly, and maintained the status quo. 

Flopping onto the bed, she waited for him to return from the kitchen with their water glasses.  As soon as she heard him approach, she turned her head to watch him walk through the door, and spoke immediately. "I know we agreed that we wanted kids when we got engaged, and I know we kind of discussed it a few months ago.  I also know a lot has changed since then—actually both of those thens, but I think I might still want one.  Maybe.  With You," she blurted out. 

Luke was startled by her bluntness and paused momentarily on his path to the bedside table. A smile tugged at his lips as he teased, "Way to jump right on in." 

"Sorry, it's just ever since Liz made her surrogate announcement, I've become a little antsy with the time issue." 

"I think under the circumstances, that's understandable," he supplied, dropping himself onto the mattress beside her. They lay quietly for a moment, each searching for what they wanted to say next. Glancing over at Lorelai, Luke admitted, "I asked Liz why she decided to use a surrogate." 

"You did?" Lorelai asked in surprise. 

"Yeah, I mean, I know nothing about all those options, you know?  I wanted to find out more about it so that we could both make an informed decision." 

"I don't want to do it if the only way I can is with artificial help," she told him quickly, shaking her head. 

"Oh," Luke said, surprised, "um, Okay." 

"I just don't think it's right for me, you know?" Lorelai mused, rolling onto her side to face him fully. "I'd rather not have to force it and deal with any more of the clinical doctor-y stuff than usual." 

"So what is it exactly that you do want?" 

"I think...," she began slowly, locking her eyes with his before continuing, "that part of the reason I do want a kid is because I want to have it with you. In my little fantasy world up here," she tapped the side of her head with her finger, "I love the idea of a little person that's part you and part me." 

"So you're saying you only want a kid that's ours?" he asked for clarification. 


"But you don't want a kid if you can't do it naturally?  No donor eggs, no IVF, no surrogate?" 

"Right," she nodded. 

"And if it turns out that you can't get pregnant anymore, than you'd be okay with that?" 

"I really think I would. I want it to happen if it's meant to be, not because we forced it to be," she tried to explain. 

Luke turned his head back to stare at the ceiling and let out a deep sigh. "I gotta tell you, I'm actually relieved you said that." 

"You are? Why?" Lorelai asked in curiosity. 

"After everything Liz and TJ told me yesterday about how they harvest eggs and make the guy... you know... into a cup, and put you through all these tests to determine the cause of the problem, and then the hormone treatments and the injections, it just doesn't sound very... I don't know... natural." 

"Is anything that involves a Petri dish natural?" Lorelai grinned, rubbing her hand over his arms affectionately. 

Luke huffed a short laugh, and agreed, "No, I guess it's not." 

Lorelai let his words sink in, lying quietly next to him for a few moments. She sucked in a quick breath when she realized that even though he'd agreed with her about the clinical fertility stuff, she still wasn't quite sure what he wanted.  "Luke?" Lorelai asked anxiously, "What do you want?" 

He glanced over at her, and then turned onto his side, tucking his arm under his head. "My debate was less about whether I'd be happy if we were to have a kid.  I was just trying to figure out if I'm ready if it were to happen now, or sometime in the immediate future. I decided a long time ago that I only wanted to have a kid if it was with you." 

Surprised by his admission, Lorelai asked, "April didn't change that?" 

Shaking his head slightly, he said, "I love April. I wouldn't change a thing about her for anything. But when I think about a baby, the only person I can picture having that baby with is you." 

A grin broke out on her face, and she leaned in, pressing a soft kiss against his lips.  When she pulled back, she continued her questioning.  "And what if it can't happen?  What if it's too late already?" 

"Then we stick with four branches on our family tree." He stated it so simply, so matter-of-fact, that she had no choice but to believe his words. Lorelai moved closer, snuggling her body tightly against his. 

"So if I said I wanted to stop all the preventing of the procreating now, what would you say?" she asked softly. 

He was quiet for a long time, and she lay still, letting the rise and fall of his chest lull her into a relaxed state. 

"I think I'd say that that's what we should do, and then whatever happens, happens," he told her, his tone conveying his certainty. 

Lorelai looked at him for a long time, her expression serious, her eyes lit with love.  "Okay then." 

Luke simply nodded silently, a smile playing on his lips.  He leaned in to kiss her, his arms pulling her tighter against his body, his hands seeking the warmth of her skin beneath her shirt. She responded quickly, closing her eyes and letting herself melt into his touch. They were both on the same page, and for that, she was grateful.







To be continued...  





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