Virtual Gilmore Girls

Episode 8.22 "It's All Over But the Crying"
 by Avery

 

Author's Note: I am thrilled to present the season finale of Virtual Season 8.  I would be lying if I said there wasn't some relief attached to the completion of such a huge undertaking, but I'd also be lying if I said I wasn't a little sad to send this off into the great wide internet.  Thank you to everyone who contributed to this project in any way over the past year; thank you to those of you who read and reviewed so enthusiastically; thank you to wounded, lulabo, jenepel, and adina, who helped make every episode as good as it could be; extra thank you to lulabo, for her supreme beta skills; and especially, thanks to sosmitten, the driving force behind it all, without whom you probably wouldn't have seen an episode 2, let alone episode 22. 

 

 

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Lorelai's feet were on the floor almost before she batted at the alarm clock. She had gotten used to frantic mornings, her mind clicking and whirring on the last problem, concern, or to-do list that she had been worrying over right before she fell asleep. But today, a slow smile spread across her face. She settled back under the blankets and tucked her feet, now cold, into the warm space behind Luke's knees.

He groaned and smacked his hand around with his eyes closed, missing her completely. "I don't like that," he mumbled.

"I know," she consoled. "I'm sorry." She wiggled her feet around some more.

He opened his eyes grudgingly and shifted onto his back. "Well, you're extra annoying today."

"An interesting twist on the classic 'Good morning,'" she said.

He reached under the quilt and grabbed her ankles playfully. "Get these away from me."

She giggled and flipped onto her stomach, rested her chin on his shoulder, and smoothed a stray lock of hair from his eyes. "Hello," she said.

"Hi, there." He stretched.

"Do you realize that this is the first time in, like, three kazillion years that I've had the opportunity to not get up the minute my alarm goes off?"

"You don't have to get up?"

"Nope! I can lie here for ten minutes. The spa is wallpapered and furnished, Emily's on party detail—and I do mean detail—and Michel's covering the desk until noon."

"I can't believe the spa is finally done," he mused.

"Almost done," she corrected. "Not done until the aroma therapy candles are burning and people are moaning inappropriately with Enya in the background."

"You should put that in the brochure."

"Hey, are you going to get a massage on opening day?" she teased, kneading the heels of her hands into the small of his back.

"Absolutely not," he said.

She pouted. "After all this work, these months and months of planning and building and listening to my mother expound on the virtues of the acai berry, you're really not going to be our first customer?"

"Tell you what," he said. "I'll moan inappropriately for you, but that's my final offer."

She lowered her voice, realizing something. "Luke. I can stay here for twenty minutes if I want to."

He wrinkled his forehead. "Here's a question. Why didn't you just set your alarm for twenty minutes later?"

She scoffed. "Because. Then I wouldn't have had the chance to bask in the luxury of lounging around."

"You'd be basking unconsciously," he pointed out.

"You can't bask unconsciously. It's not possible. Basking, by definition, requires awareness."

"What time do you have to be in?" she asked, extending one leg in the air and rotating her ankle in examination of a chipped home pedicure.

He looked at the clock. "Half hour," he said. "Zach opened, but he and Caesar get to goofing off if I'm not in before eight."

"Rory and I never should have taught them bagel hockey," said Lorelai, contrite. "They just weren't ready."

"With great power comes great responsibility," he teased.

She shifted to rest on top of him. "God. Such a geek." She dropped a few kisses on his lips, which he returned.

"Have you decided to utilize your extra time this morning by making me late?" he asked, running his hands up and down her arms.

"It's literally my only responsibility. How could I shirk it?"

"You've always been very conscientious."

"Ooh, I love it when you talk report card to me, baby."

He laughed and kissed her again.

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Rory burst into the Dragonfly and hurried to reception. "Mom?" she called, a huge smile on her face. She rounded the corner and saw Michel behind the desk.

"I do not recall giving birth to you," he droned. "But the 80s are something of a blur."

"Do you know where Mom is? She's here, right? I thought she said—wait, Michel! You just cracked a joke!"

"I crack jokes all the time, which people might know if anyone ever listened to a word I said."

"Maybe it's the accent," Rory said sympathetically. "It's not conducive to kidding."

"French people are hilarious!" Michel said defensively. "Just because our comedy doesn't center around reproductive organs and poop..."

"Rory?" Lorelai asked as she came out of her office. "Hey, hon, I forgot you were coming in today."

"Michel just said 'poop,'" Rory giggled.

"Aw, man! I missed it?"

"You are both dead to me."

"Can I get that in writing?" Lorelai quipped as he stalked toward the kitchen.

"So, guess what guess what guess what?" Rory said.

"What what what?"

"Salon pushed up my article! It's running in a special weekend edition, and as of the stroke of midnight on Friday, I'm going to have my name in a major publication above the fold! Well, it's the internet, so there's no physical fold, but, you know."

Lorelai squealed and grabbed Rory's forearms, bouncing up and down. "At the stroke of midnight! Oh, it's like Cinderella, but better!"

"I know!"

"And, it's the night of the spa party, so we can have a joint celebration!"

Rory stopped bouncing. "No way!" she protested. "That's your night! This is your thing!"

"Actually, it's Emily's thing," Lorelai corrected.

"This has been months in the making. I'm not stealing your thunder."

"Of course not! You're... sharing in my success. You can fight me all you want, but there's no way we're letting this go unnoticed."

"Mom."

"Rory," Lorelai said, moving her hands up to Rory's shoulders and gripping them firmly. "This? Is a big deal."

Rory felt her face flush and tried to look away, but her mother's blue gaze was intense and unwavering.

"I know," she said, her voice small but excited.

"A huge honkin' deal."

"I'm going to be published in a nationally established publication," Rory marveled. "It hasn't really sunk in yet."

"Oh, it will," Lorelai assured her. "Give it time. And a couple glasses of champagne."

Rory rolled her eyes. "Fine, you've convinced me. Joint party it is."

"Oh, that's cute," Lorelai laughed derisively. "As if you had any say."

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"And this is the kitchen," Lorelai said as she led her newest hire through the Inn. "You can take your lunch back here, and there's always coffee."

"Oh, I try to stay away from caffeine," said Tasha, a doe-eyed, curly-haired waif.

"God bless you," Lorelai quipped. "Sook? Have you met Tasha?" she asked. Sookie looked up from her cutting board and smiled.

"The masseuse! Oh, honey, believe me, it is so nice to meet you."

"It's nice to meet you, too," said Tasha.

"She's going to be managing the spa," Lorelai reminded Sookie. "And helping me with the last of the staff hirings."

"Yeah, yeah, fascinating. Tash? Question. Do you do feet?"

Tasha appeared taken aback. "Do I... do them?"

"Yeah, you know, foot rubs. Because let me tell you, between the standing around here and the chasing and the cleaning and the burping at home—"

"The burping?" Tasha asked.

"Sookie has a six-month-old," Lorelai explained.

"I'm on my feet all day, is what I'm saying."

Lorelai laughed nervously. "Sook, she's a highly trained massage therapist. I don't think she does foot rubs."

"No, I'd be happy to," Tasha said. "Although you'd be surprised at how well meridian work can relieve foot pain. Just a little energy reconcentration around the torso, usually..."

She was interrupted by a crash, as Manny dropped a pan from the stove.

"Oh, don't tell me that was my bernaise sauce! Don't even, Manny! You're killing me, you know that?"

Lorelai led Tasha out of the kitchen. "We're all a little on edge," she apologized. "The expansion has been more stressful than we anticipated."

"Oh, of course."

"Listen, I have to run out in about ten minutes, but I'd love to go over a few resumes with you."

They passed Michel at reception en route to Lorelai's office. He cleared his throat loudly, cutting Tasha off mid-response.

"Oh," said Lorelai. "I'm sorry. This is Michel, our concierge. Michel, this is Tasha. She'll be managing the spa."

Michel took Tasha's hand and kissed it, to Lorelai's extreme delight. "Enchante," he said.

"Likewise," Tasha replied uncertainly, rubbing the back of her hand against her prairie skirt.

"I do hope you'll tell me if there is anything I can do to make your transition as easy as possible?" Michel purred. Lorelai stifled a laugh.

"Sure," said Tasha. "Lorelai, you were saying something about resumes?"

"Yes, right this way," she said, gesturing towards her office door. She stared Michel down, then leaned in and whispered in his ear as they passed. "Congratulations. I'm thoroughly creeped out by you."

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Rory sat at one of the rear tables at Luke's, barricaded by books, clippings, and file folders. Her laptop was open and she typed furiously at the keys, her fingers desperate to keep up with her brain. She couldn't remember the last time she'd thought so fast.

"Can I get you anything?" Luke asked, suddenly at her side. She jumped in the air, clutched her hand over her heart.

"Jeez, Luke, you scared me," she chided.

"I'm sorry," he said, sounding anything but. "So, what are you having? Lunch? Coffee?"

"Nothing now, thanks," she answered distractedly.

He heaved a sigh. "You do realize that this is a restaurant."

She looked around. "I see that, yes."

"A restaurant is a place where people come to eat, drink, pay and leave."

She glared at him. "Okay, I realize that my social life has been a little sad lately, but I know what a restaurant is, Luke."

He clutched at the back of his baseball hat. "You're as bad as your mother," he accused.

"Hey! I'm in the back, out of the way, not bothering anyone. She had blueprints hanging in all the windows. You can hardly compare us."

"I'm coming back in ten minutes, and you better want pie," he warned.

"Hey, Luke, hang on. Let me run something by you?"

He looked at her suspicously. "What?"

"I'm pitching another idea to Salon, and I kind of need a sounding board."

He shifted uncomfortably. "I don't know, Rory. I don't know how much help I'd be."

"Sounding board, Luke. Just pretend you're a brick wall."

He pulled out a chair and sat on it backwards. "I can do that."

"Okay, so here's what I'm thinking. The kids I met last week, the documentary people? They're part of this subsect, a new youth culture that's a product of three things: the tanking economy, private universities, and PTA moms." She watched his brow furrow. "The job market sucks, right? We've got these 22 year olds coming out of college after spending four years in this idealized fantasy world, rolling green quads and brick buildings where everyone works hard and plays hard and feels like they belong. Then they graduate and it's like, wait a minute, you're overqualified for the minimum wage jobs that need filling, and for the other three jobs out there in the world, you're in competition with the very people you just finished hugging goodbye. So there's all this energy, but nothing to put it into. Combine that with an upbringing that is increasingly focused on social, environmental, and political awareness: enter the PTA mom. Time was, parents were either working or keeping house for the family. Now we've got a generation whose parents volunteered at food banks, took in foster kids, raised money for PETA. Public service isn't encouraged, it's expected. Put all this together and you've got people like Jamie and Zodi, who are, like, passionate about passion itself, you know?"

She finally stopped to breathe and raised her eyebrows at Luke, who was taking his brick wall role a bit too literally.


"Luke? Response?"

"You think a lot, huh?

She giggled. "A lot, a lot," she confirmed. "Did that make any sense?"

He shrugged. "It sounded good to me," he said. "But I'd read a grocery list off a napkin if you were the one writing it."

"Aw, Luke," she said, punching his shoulder good-naturedly. "My one-man fan club."

He stood up. "Now. Order, or you're out on your smart little butt."

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Lorelai flipped through the reservation book, looking for an open weekend in September for a wedding party. When she was unable to find sufficient space until Thanksgiving, she didn't know whether to be frustrated or elated.

Her cell phone vibrated at her hip and she answered absently, still puzzling over a way to fit six bridesmaids into two rooms.

"Lorelai?"

"Hey, Mom."

"Oh, thank God. I just got off the phone with Ginny Weaver, and her mother-in-law is in town."

"Okay..."

"I need to know if Sookie can add a head for the party. I know it's dreadfully last minute, but the woman simply cannot be left alone without supervision. She's downright senile. And I wouldn't even be asking if I didn't want Ginny to be there so much. Out of everyone, her envy is the most important to me."
"Well, that's... real sweet, Mom. I'm sure it's fine."

"Sure?" Emily shrieked. "You are not sure, Lorelai, until you clear it with Sookie! Promise me you won't forget, or get distracted by something shiny!"

"All right, all right, I promise," Lorelai said. "God, Mom, it's a piece of salmon, not a WMD. Relax."

Emily sighed, an unwelcome whoosh of static in Lorelai's ear. "Okay, I have to go now, I'll be in touch."

"I'll be looking forward to it."

She hung up the phone and gave the reservation book one last defeated glance before picking it up and walked out to reception.

"Michel?" she called, just as the desk phone began to ring.

He held up one finger. "Dragonfly Inn, this is Michel. Hello! Oh, I am well, and you?" He drew lazy circles on a Post-It and chuckled. "Mm-hmmm. Mm-hmmmm. Oh, you are terrible!"

Lorelai rolled her eyes.

"Yes, yes, she's right here, one minute." He held the phone out to her. "It's your mother."

She gaped at him in confusion. "But I just..."

"Don't keep her waiting!" Michel admonished. "She's right, your manners do leave much to be desired."

Lorelai grabbed the phone and narrowed her eyes at Michel. "Hello?"

"Lorelai? Oh, thank God," Emily began.

"Mom, we just did this thirty seconds ago. On my cell phone. Remember?"

"Of course I remember," Emily scoffed. "But immediately after hanging up, it occurred to me that we never decided about the gift bags."

"I thought we were pro-gift bags."

"We never decided on the products, Lorelai, my goodness, please stay with me," Emily implored. "Which lotions, which template for the gift certificates?"

"Mom," Lorelai said, pinching the bridge of her nose and summoning every last bit of patience, "I am leaving those decisions completely and entirely up to you. By decree, you are the sole, official lotion decider. Okay?"

"Well... all right," Emily said uncertainly. "If that's what you want."

"That is what I want. Now, I am hanging up, unless there's something else. By which I mean: I'm hanging up."

She placed handed Michel the cordless phone and released a strangled groan. "I'm taking a coffee break," she said. "If my mother calls again, tell her I joined a passing caravan of gypsies and will try to make it back in time for the party. Oh, and see if you can do anything about this Rubic's cube of a wedding conundrum, will you?

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Rory sat Indian style on the living room floor as she finished her pitch to Dylan, one of the junior editors at Salon. The frayed hem of her jeans was bearing the brunt of her anxiety. She was talking fast, both because she was nervous and because she was already five minutes late for her bookstore shift, in addition to the fact that she was a fast talker, in general.

"So, that's the general idea. I think these contacts, the documentary filmmakers, they'd be more than happy to have me tagging along for a little while, and I figure that would be my set piece. I'd probably need most of the summer for that, and then the rest of the research I could do from anywhere."


Dylan hemmed and hawed. "Look, I love the idea. I think it's fresh and apt. But I want to be straight with you, Ms. Gilmore. We really aren't in the business of unsolicited pitches."

Rory's heart sank. "Oh, of course. Listen, it was just an idea. I figured I might as well give it a shot, right?"

"You didn't let me say 'but.'"

"There's a but?" she asked hopefully.

"Your timing just happens to be rather fortuitous," Dylan continued. "In addition to the fact that several of our editors were quite impressed with your political piece, one of our regular columnists just went on maternity leave, and the freelancer we had slated to cover her inches screwed us over for a fact-checking job at the Times."

"What a jerk!" Rory said emphatically. "Let me assure you, sir, I would never do that. I take my commitments very, very seriously, ask anyone. I have about six bosses right now who would be happy to vouch for me."

"That won't be necessary," Dylan said, chuckling. "I still have to run it by a couple of people, but I'd say the outlook is optimistic."

"Thank you! Run it by your people, and let me know. I'll get Jamie and Zodi's itinerary, just in case."

"All right, Ms. Gilmore. You'll be hearing from us soon."

Rory hung up the phone and threw her arms around Paul Anka's neck. "Your big sis knows how to get it done, buddy," she said, nuzzling her face in his shaggy fur.

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Lorelai walked into the diner on her cell phone, shooting Luke a look that begged him to give her a hard time. She pointed to the phone, mouthed "Emily," and pouted furiously when he held up his hands and shook his head, refusing to enforce his own rules.

"No, I'm with you, Mom. Four songs max for the quartet, I'm fine with it. Just tell Dad we want less entertainment and more mingling. I promise you, he'll live."

"Good, and one more thing --"

"Mom, I'm walking into Luke's, and, you know, no cell phones."

"He told me he waived that rule for family."

"Family emergencies," she corrected.

"This is an emergency!"

Lorelai groaned. "Champagne labels, thoughts on your party outfit, Dad's repertoire of quartet songs, these are not emergencies, Mother. They're not even quandaries."

Emily sniffed. "Excuse me for trying to keep you involved."

"I gotta go, Mom," Lorelai said, trying to keep her patience. "I'll call you in the morning, okay?"

"Goodnight," Emily said stiffly.

Lorelai snapped her phone shut and let out a low, gutteral moan. "You are of absolutely no use to me," she said to Luke, who was leaning against the counter with a sympathetic expression.

"I'm not getting in her way," he said. "This ain't my first time at the rodeo."

"Right, I forgot, you're a regular cowboy," she deadpanned. "God, it's like the past nine months never even happened! All I do is say yes to whatever she suggests, and she still manages to get mad at me! She's back to being totally inflexible, uncompromising, irrational. And shrill. Let's not forget shrill."


"Burger?"

"With tons of cheese. A vat of cheese, Luke."

"You got it."

She crossed her arms on the counter and dropped her head on top of them.

"It's supposed to be over," she whimpered. "It's supposed to be done."

He patted her head gently, stroked her ponytail.

"Maybe that's what's setting her off."

She looked up glumly, her chin still on her forearms. "What do you mean?"

"Well, her part in all of this is coming to an end, like you said. Maybe she's not ready to let it go."

She narrowed her eyes. "You've been having an awful lot of psychological insight about my mother, lately."

He shrugged. "Don't get me wrong, I still think she's a nutjob, but her motivations are usually not as complex as you seem to think."

"She's nagging to the point of making me want to decapitate her because she liked working with me?"

Luke nodded, turned over her coffee cup and filled it from a fresh pot. "See what I mean? Nutjob."

She took a sip from her coffee cup, considering his theory. "You kind of have a knack for this mediation thing," she said.

He grinned. "I'm a man of many talents."

"Don't be too happy with yourself. I'm still waiting on that cheese vat."

"Coming right up."

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The next morning, Lorelai sat in the library with Tasha, reviewing the newly printed spa treatment brochure.

"Remember, this is just a prototype. I wanted to go over it with you one more time before I give the printer the green light."

Tasha nodded, scanning the list. "The font is pretty."

Lorelai laughed. "Uh, yeah. It is. Mainly, though, I'm looking for your input on content, not presentation."

"Oh! Good, I can be a lot more helpful, then," Tasha said, relieved. "One of my specialty areas is prenatal massage, so it might be nice to include that on the list."

"Prenatal! Yes!" Lorelai said, making a note with her pen. "Great. I'll need you to write up a short treatment description, two or three sentences."

"No problem. It really is so amazing how tending to the muscles most taxed by pregnancy can make the experience so much more enjoyable. You said you have a daughter, didn't you? Did you find yourself with a lot of concentrated lower back pain, or was it less centralized?"

Lorelai laughed, one hand migrating to her lower back subconsciously. "I really don't remember. It's been a couple of decades."

Tasha looked at her, surprised. "What is your skin care regimen?" she asked.

"Oh, you know. Water. Soap. Moisturizer."

"So, you only have the one child?" asked Tasha.

"Yes, just Rory. But my..." she searches for the right term to describe Luke, but came up with nothing. "Luke and I are kinda testing those waters right now."

Tasha's eyes lit up. "You're trying for a baby? With the guy I met after my interview, the baseball cap guy who was fixing the doorknob?"

"That's the one."

"Oh, that's wonderful! The two of you have such a positive energy together, and I liked him a lot. His outlook on life seems humorous, but not brittle," Tasha mused.

"Well, you caught him on a good day. Michel was home with strep throat."

"You know, fertility massage is one of the most successful conception aids," Tasha said. "Just normal therapeutic massage for relaxation has been shown to help—takes the edge off the ovulation frenzy, you know? But there are also abdominal accupressure/massage treatments that have really high success rates among women in their late thirties and early forties. Plus, I'm a big believer in crystals. We could schedule it now! My treat!"

Lorelai shifted in discomfort. "That's so nice of you. I'm really busy, this week, what with all the... stuff, so how about I get back to you on that?"

"All right," Tasha said. "But don't wait too long! The sooner my healing hands come in contact with your pelvic area, the sooner you might have a little life growing inside you!"

Lorelai grimaced and tried not to say what she was thinking, which was: gross.

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Luke was waiting for her on the porch when she pulled the Jeep into the driveway that afternoon, five minutes later than she said she'd be. He had Paul Anka's leash wrapped around his wrist, and the dog was sitting at his feet with his trademark blank expression.

"Sorry!" she called. "Lost track of time. Ready for our rigorous afternoon expedition?"

"You mean our stroll around the lake?" Luke said dryly.

She took the leash out of his hands. "I don't stroll," she scoffed, then looked him up and down teasingly. "You strut."

"I do not strut," he said. They headed down the driveway.

The afternoon walk with Paul Anka was something they'd been doing a lot over the past couple of weeks, since the weather turned gorgeous and spending the entire day inside their respective businesses began to feel like a crime against nature. Only a half hour, and only once or twice a week, but it was becoming habitual, and Lorelai loved it. More often than not, it was the calmest, most normal part of her day.

"How's work?" she asked.

"I broke the deep fryer."

"Accidentally or on purpose?"

"Why would I purposely break my own deep fryer?"

"To get me to stop eating deep fried food," she said. "In which case, I want you out of the house by the end of the week."

"You'd just get your fix elsewhere," he said. "I'm not that naive."

"Hey! You'll notice that since we put babies back on the table, I've made a concerted effort to eat a little healthier."

"First of all, you should never put babies on a table. I'm starting to rethink this whole thing," he teased. "And second of all, you still smother all things green with a wide variety of cheese. More green, more cheese. That's not progress."

"Hush, you," she said. They passed the new floating dock, and Paul Anka tugged at his leash. Lorelai stopped short. "I think Paul Anka wants to go on the floating dock," she said, amazed.

"No," Luke said. He bent down and grabbed a rock from the end of the dock, then put it down in front of Paul Anka, who picked it up with his teeth. "He just wanted to see what that rock tastes like."

"Hey, speaking of baby tables," Lorelai said. "You should have heard Tasha today. She's apparently way into prenatal, and pre-pre-natal, massages."

"Tasha's the new spa manager?"

"Yeah. She's very nice. Kind of cliche, but very nice."

"What's a pre-pre-natal massage?" Luke asked, wrinkling his brow.

"Oh, some kind of fertility thing. I kinda freaked out and stopped listening once she started throwing around the words 'abdomen' and 'accupressure.'"

Luke looked at her out of the corner of his eye. "You stopped listening?"

"Also, 'pelvic area.'"

"Maybe you should have heard her out," he said.

She stopped in her tracks and Paul Anka pulled against the leash.

"Am I hearing you right? You believe in this energy-restoring, rub-the-abdomen, stick-pins-in-the-pelvis-and-congratulations-it's-a-boy stuff?"

He shrugged. "I wouldn't say I believe in it, like it's a voodoo thing. It's a real thing, right, a medical thing?"

"I guess so," she said warily.

"I don't know. It might not be the worst idea in the world. Some couples do much more aggressive treatments, really invasive, expensive stuff. If you—if we did this pre-pre-natal thing, and it helped speed up the process..." he trailed off.

"That would be good," she finished.

"Yeah," he said, and gave her a smile. "It would be good."

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Later, at the Inn, Lorelai went about tying up the loose ends of her day. She was plucking Post-It notes off her computer screen as she completed each task, and was down to only two. She remembered writing the second to last one, this morning, but couldn't for the life of her read her own handwriting. It looked like "Arty Dud Well."

"Arty Dud Well," she said out loud, rolling the words around in her mouth. "Art Tea Dud Well. Artie Did Well. Artie Dudwell."

She closed her eyes and retraced her morning. Staff meeting. Cranberry scone. Coffee. Phone call from Emily. Coffee. Rory—that was it. "Artie Dudwell" was "Article Dad Wall." She picked up the phone and dialed her father's cell phone, not willing to risk the house line and another party conversation with her mother.

"Hello?" boomed her father's familiar voice.

"Hey, Dad. I have a question for ya."

"Yes?" There was still a tinge of suspicion in his voice whenever she asked for something; ah, nostalgia.

"Rory's article is going to go live on the Salon website—that means, like, when the web people activate the links so that people can --"

"I know what it means for an article to go live, Lorelai. I'm not living in the dark ages."

"Sorry. So, the article's going up at midnight on Friday, and I was thinking it would be really cool if we could all watch it happen at the party. You know, transition from 11:59 Rory Gilmore Classic to 12:00 Rory Gilmore, Salon contributor."

"Ah, that sounds quite exciting," he said.

"Yes, I thought so. But the thing is, thirty-plus people crowded around the Inn's reservation computer..."

"Lacks a certain amount of fanfare, doesn't it?" Richard mused.

"Exactly. Any ideas?"

"Perhaps," he said thoughtfully. "At Yale, they've got this... thing... installed in my classroom. A Smartboard, I believe it's called. It projects media onto a screen, and you can write on it and sync it with your computer."

"It's called a Smartboard?"

"Yes."

"So, it's a robot?"

Richard sighed. "No, Lorelai. It's not a robot."

"It sounds kind of like a robot."

"I can try to procure a Smartboard for the party," Richard said, ignoring her robot fixation.

"They let you just take the robots?" she asked.

"Not exactly. But I don't think anyone would miss it for one weekend," he said conspiratorially.

Lorelai gasped. "Dad! You're going to steal a Yale robot?"

"No, Lorelai, I'm simply going to borrow the robot—the Smartboard— for one evening."

"And you can get it rigged up and working here at the Dragonfly?" she asked dubiously.

"Lorelai, you called to ask me a favor, and I am here telling you that I would be more than happy to assist. A modicum of confidence in my abilities would be much appreciated."

"Modicum granted," she replied. "I'll see you tomorrow, Dad. Any chance you might serve me up a glittery surprise?"


He chuckled. "Enrage your mother and risk dismemberment? Not even for you, my dear."

She hung up smiling, and grabbed the last Post-It from the computer. This one was clearly legible: "Finalize spa offerings." She looked at the printout on her desk, the margins covered with Tasha's suggestions and corrections. Squeezed in toward the bottom was a write-up of the fertility massage. She read the description through once, thoughtfully, and then skimmed it again.

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Friday morning, in her mother's bedroom, Rory held a dress up to herself and sashayed in the mirror.

"How about this one?" she asked. She directed the question to Lorelai's rear end, because the rest of her was halfway in the closet, foraging for a missing kitten heel.

"I don't like that pink on you," Lorelai said without turning around.

"How do you know?" Rory demanded. "You can't even see it. And how do you even know it's the pink one?"

"I just know," Lorelai said. "You're too fair for that salmony color. Try the green chiffon, with the beaded neckline." A seafoam colored garment came flying over Lorelai's shoulder and landed near the bed, ten feet from Rory.

"Your fashion ESP is good, but your aim could use a little work," Rory said. She picked up the green dress and rubbed the soft, filmy material between her thumb and forefinger. "This is beautiful."

Lorelai finally extracted herself from the closet, triumphantly clutching her prize shoe. "Success! Ooh, that's gonna be magic on you," she gushed. "With your—"

"Pearl chandelier earrings and—"

"The necklace Luke gave you for your birthday," Lorelai finished. "Which shoes?"

"Ballet flats, I think. What about you?"

Lorelai waved the kitten heels in the air. "I'm working backwards. Starting with shoes."

"Try this," Rory suggested, throwing the pink dress back across the room.

"Nah, I wore this to Friday night dinner recently. That'd be suicide, with my mother around."

Rory sat on the bed and watched her mother slip a black cocktail dress over her head. "Not black," she admonished. "This is a celebration!"

"I like celebrating in black," Lorelai pouted.

"How about the blue one?"

"Gonna have to be more specific."

"Woman, you have entirely too many clothes."

"I know," Lorelai agreed, chagrined. "I have a shopping problem. When Luke moved in, I had to tell him that that half of it's yours."

Rory laughed. "I have a feeling many more dresses are in your future, if business keeps going the way it has."

"It's insane! The spa isn't even open yet and we're already booked through the leaf season." She pulled on a lemon colored jacquard shift.

"I love that on you," Rory declared. "That's a winner."

"Really?" her mother asked, rotating in the mirror. "Okay, then. We are officially styled for this event."

"Rough morning," Rory joked.

"Such difficult lives we lead. Speaking of leads, any news from Salon about masterpiece number two?"

"Nice segue," said Rory. "The junior editor is talking it over with some higher-ups, but he emailed me last night and said it looks good." She tried, and failed, to keep the grin from her face.

"Looks good!" Lorelai squealed, leaping onto the bed and settling beside Rory. "You're going to be a freelancer! Freely lancing --"

"Ew."

"Your own ideas, your own subject, whatever you want to write about," Lorelai finished, seemingly unfazed by the interruption. "It's kinda like you're back to features, babe. That's really always been your passion, whether it was secret societies or repaving parking lots."

Rory turned on her side and chewed her lip thoughtfully. "Yeah," she said. "I guess it has been."

"I can't wait to see your article up there."

"Up where?" Rory asked suspiciously.

Lorelai hopped off the bed and headed toward the bathroom. "Up... there. You know. In the world. Of the internet. I have to take a shower," she said hurriedly.

"I do not like the sound of this. Don't blow this into a huge thing! This is your night! Your celebration of being the world's greatest most fabulous success!" she called.

Her mother ducked her head back around the doorframe and smiled. "I'm more than willing to share the title."


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"You look beautiful!" Lorelai exclaimed, holding Sookie at arms length and surveying her outfit.

"So do you! I had to get out of the house before somebody got slimy handprints on me."

"I had to get out of the house before I got slimy handprints on myself," Lorelai admitted. "Rory brought home cinnamon rolls from Weston's."

They were sitting in the library of the Dragonfly, having a private toast to their expansion before the craziness began.

"Can you believe us?" Sookie asked. "We're, like, bigtime serious businesswomen."

"I know!"

"Should I get a briefcase?" she wondered.

Lorelai wrinkled her forehead. "What for? Whisks and spatulas?"

Sookie giggled. "I guess that would be kind of eccentric."

"Lorelai?" her father's voice called from the lobby. Lorelai checked her watch.

"My dad was not kidding around when he said he'd be here early." She stood up and put down her champagne glass before heading to greet him.

"Hey Dad!" she said. "Ooh, is that the robot?"

"This," Richard said, shifting the bulky equipment in his arms, "is the Smartboard. Where would you like me to set it up?"

"In the library," she said, leading him to the back corner. She watched as he set it down and stood back with his arms crossed. He picked up one wire, then another; exchanged both for a thick black cable, and grunted.

"Gonna be okay, Dad?"

"Well, it seems that the instruction manual was not right on top of the machine, as one would expect," he began. "So I'm at a bit of a loss."

"Should I take back my modicum?"

"Just... maybe you could help me?" he asked hopefully. Lorelai laughed in spite of herself.

"Dad, I can barely work the toaster."

"I see."

"But hang on, I might have someone who can help," she said, leaving her father tangled in red, yellow, and white wires and heading back to reception, steeling herself for a fight.

"Michel," she said, in her best no-nonsense voice, "I need you to do something, and you're not going to like it, but I need you to do it anyway, because it's not for me, it's for Rory, and I would really, really appreciate it if, on this one night, you could refrain from giving me a hard time and just do what I say, which is: can you please go help my father wrangle the Yale robot into working order?"

"But of course," Michel simpered. Lorelai literally took a step backwards.

"Seriously?"

"Your wish is my command."

"Are you... feeling all right? And by all right, I mean substance-free?"

"I will go offer your father the benefit of my technological skills," Michel said, all smiles.

After he walked away, Lorelai spotted Tasha through the half-open door to her office, finishing up some paperwork.

"Oh, boy," she muttered. But at least there was now a 30% chance that the Smartboard would be working by midnight. "One thing at a time," she reminded herself.

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The party was in full swing by eight and Lorelai's crack staff was doing its best to keep it that way, with drinks being refreshed and canapÚs being passed around. She watched her mother flit from group to group, adapting her personality to converse with the diverse guests. Emily touched her pearls and chuckled primly to something Ginny Weaver's husband said, and threw her head back and laughed freely with Sookie's culinary school friend. Lorelai felt a twinge of something like pride that had nothing to do with how beautiful the inn and the new spa looked that night.

She snuck up behind Luke, who was talking to Jackson about his newest vegetable hybrid. She placed a heavy hand on each of his shoulders.

"Everyone's here except Liz and TJ," she said. "Do you think they forgot?"

He rolled his eyes. "Possibly. It's also possible that they got distracted watching dandelion spores scatter, or that they decided to become circus carnies and are in the middle of their first performance."

At that moment, TJ's voice carried from the lobby. "We're here, we've got beer, get used to it!"

"Or they stopped at the packy," Lorelai said. Luke let out a heavy sigh.

"How are we going to keep him away from your mother's friends?"

"Very carefully."

"Hey Luke!" Liz screeched. "Lorelai! We have a surprise for you!"

"TJ already announced the beer," Luke said.

"Ta-da!" Liz sang, with some improvised soft-shoe. She reached behind her and yanked April out of the shadows.

"Surprise!" April shouted, holding her arms straight above her head and waving her hands around in the air.

Luke laughed, Lorelai squealed, and across the room, Rory let out a yelp of surprise.

"What the..." Luke said, as his daughter flew against his chest. She hugged Lorelai next, who wrapped her arms around the girl tightly and swayed from side to side.

"How'd you talk your mother into this one?" Luke asked, grinning from ear to ear.

"I saved up for the plane ticket myself," April said. "With babysitting money. So she couldn't really say no. I've been planning this, since, like Halloween!"

"April!" Rory cried, giving the girl a hug. "What a great surprise!"

"Well, I couldn't miss this momentous occasion," April said, waving her hand around to indicate the spa. "And then when I found out that my big sister is about to have her name above a brilliant article on a big deal news site, it sealed the deal."

Lorelai watched her daughter blush demurely. "Come say hi to Lane and Zach," Rory said, grabbing April by the arm. "And I want more info on you-know-who," she said, casting a teasing look in Luke's direction.

"Who-know-who?" he asked in panic, but the girls were already threading their way through the crowd. He turned to Lorelai. "Do you know about you-know-who?"

She held up her hands. "I'm a vault."

"April said 'sister,'" he mused.

"I heard," Lorelai replied, all smiles.

"Lorelai!" Emily called, appearing at her side. "Now that everyone has arrived, I think it's time for the toast."

She nodded. "Duty calls," she said over her shoulder to Luke, as her mother led her briskly away.

Lorelai tapped on a water glass until everyone quieted down.

"Hi everyone, sorry to interrupt your conversations," she began. "I just wanted to thank you all for coming tonight to celebrate the completion of the Dragonfly's spa expansion. It took a lot of people working a lot of extra overtime to get us here tonight, and I'd like to raise my glass in a toast to everyone who supported this project over the past several months." Glasses clinked and "hear, hears" echoed across the room. "I want to thank my partner, Sookie St. James, for her unfailing commitment to the Dragonfly, and our concierge and manager extraordinaire, Michel Girard, whose attention to detail has never been more annoying or more crucial than during the construction process." Lorelai smiled and everyone laughed. Rory patted Michel on the shoulder consolingly. "But most of all, I want to thank the woman who made it possible. Emily Gilmore, your vision, attention to detail, and enthusiasm were the driving force behind all of this, and I never could have done it without you," Lorelai said sincerely. She maintained eye contact with her mother, whose face was opening up like a flower. "Any success the spa brings to the Dragonfly is a testament to your talent for this business. It has never been clearer to me that I truly did learn from the best. Now, without further ado, I would like to introduce the entertainment for the evening: my father, Richard Gilmore, and his barbershop quartet!"

Emily mouthed the words "thank you" to Lorelai as she stepped back into the crowd, and if she didn't know better, she might have thought that those were tears glinting in the corner of her mother's eyes.

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The older, Hartford side of the crowd started to filter out after ten, leaving only Lorelai's and Rory's close family and friends to usher in phase two. The Smartboard was up and ready to go, displaying Salon's homepage on the back wall. Rory and April sat at one of the dining tables, chatting about both girls' tentative summer plans.

"Salon said they'd get back to me with a better idea of what the contract would look like on Monday," Rory said. "But all I really care about is that travel expenses are covered. I've squirreled away enough money the past few months to get by other than that. Living at home rent-free was a definite advantage."

"Getting by with just the bare essentials, out on assignment," Richard said approvingly. "Very Hunter Thompson."

"Grandpa! You've read Hunter Thompson?" Rory couldn't imagine her grandfather settling down with a copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

"When you get to be my age, you'll find that there is little else worth doing except for reading, and that there are few books worth reading that you haven't already read. So yes, I'm branching out a bit."

"I'm impressed," said Rory.

"And you, April? Will we be seeing you in Connecticut for any length of time this summer?"

"Definitely for the month of August," April said. "I'm going to try to convince Lorelai to let me work here part-time. Dad said he'd give me a job at the diner, but my skin is just too sensitive for that right now. Did you know that a girl's prime breakout years are between the ages of fifteen and eighteen? And did you know that the primary cause for skin blemishes is grease, consumption or exposure?"

"I did not," Richard mused. "I imagine Luke's has a great deal of grease wafting around."

"A great deal," April agreed. "I'd rather make beds all summer than risk acne."

"Spoken like a true teenager," Lorelai teased, having just arrived at the table. She placed her hands on Rory's back.

"T minus five minutes, love," she said. "Want to address your adoring public?"

"Oh, how could I refuse?" Rory said, rolling her eyes. Her mother knew how much she disliked speeches, especially when she was her own main subject.

"Just a quick thank you," Lorelai suggested. "For all the nice people waiting to see around to see if you'll turn back into a pumpkin."

Rory read the confusion on her grandfather's face and filled him in as she stood up. "Cinderella reference. Midnight, pumpkins."

"Ah."

She followed her mother to the center of the room and didn't even need to use the wine glass tapping trick; all eyes were on her before she even addressed them. Such singular focus from this group was familiar and comforting, but she no longer took it for granted. Somewhere between having her ass handed to her in Iowa and having sacks of flour handed to her at Weston's Bakery, she had learned that being at the center of more than one person's life was a gift that she had never worked very hard to deserve. She looked around at the smiling faces, her grandparents, Lane and Zach and April and Sookie and Jackson, Liz, TJ, Luke. And Lorelai, always, hovering just around the edge of everything that Rory thought or did.

"Hey, everyone," she started self-consciously. "Toast number two, but it will be quicker and undoubtedly less eloquent than the first, I promise. I just want to thank you for sticking around so late. My mother is known for making the smallest occasions ceremonial, and your patience in this case is very much appreciated," she teased. "But in all seriousness, I want to thank my mother, my grandmother, and Sookie, for sharing the spotlight with me tonight. In a few minutes, something that I worked very hard on is going to be read by a lot of people, and that's exciting, but the reactions that I place the most stock in are right here in this room. Thanks for a great party. I love you all," she said, her cheeks feeling hot. The applause made her feel even more exposed, despite the fact that the hardest part was over, so relief was short-lived.

They started to countdown at the thirty second mark, and Michel took his position beside the Smartboard. At "one," he hit the refresh button, and there it was. Rory's title and her byline were magnified 1,000 % or something close to it, but she still couldn't quite believe what she was seeing. A year's worth of struggle and triumph and failure, boiled down to 3,000 words and projected on a wall. She grinned and thanked everyone who offered their congratulations, unable to peel her eyes away from the Salon logo and the nice, clean sans serif font of her own words.

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Lorelai checked her watch in amused disbelief; it was closing in on one AM, and her parents were still here. It had taken them a couple of rounds to adjust to the rules of Celebrity, but now they were competing with their usual level of intensity. Lorelai had excused herself several minutes ago to help Sookie clear the last remaining coffee cups.

Emily was up, flailing her arms desperately and making ferocious facial expressions. "Dinosaur!" everyone kept shouting.

"T-rex! Steg! Pteradactlyl!" April suggested.

Lorelai doubled over in laughter as her mother's face turned from ferocious to flabbergasted by the inept guesswork of her team. "Spiderman!" she cried when the timer ran out.

"How was that Spiderman?" TJ demanded. "Spiderman is this!" He got up and mimed shooting webs from his wrists.

"I'm sorry, Mrs. G, but that was beyond weak," Zach agreed.

They continued to squabble amongst themselves as Lorelai watched from a safe distance. Soon, she felt Luke's arms wrap around her from behind, and she leaned her head back against his shoulder.

"Party animals, these people," she remarked.

"They're insane."

"That they are."

"But," he continued reluctantly, "they're our family."

She tightened her grip on his arms and nodded. "I'm starting to think we lucked out in that department, despite evidence to the contrary."

"Yeah," he laughed. "Me too."

"It's kinda nice. No matter what happens or doesn't happen with the baby thing, we've done pretty well for ourselves. Not everyone can say that."

"Yeah," he agreed. "We're pretty lucky."

She twisted out of his grip. "Sap," she teased.

"It's way past my bedtime," he offered by way of explanation.

They rejoined the group and watched Rory and April tag team their way through the next round. She threaded her fingers through Luke's and surveyed them up close, Luke's family and hers, the quirky friends that had engrained themselves in the fabric of their daily lives. She had never expected a time when she would look at these people and not have a Highlights magazine flashback ("One of these things is not like the other..."), but it had happened. They had happened, for her and to her, even though it might not have been what she'd imagined a family to look like when she was thirty and full of specific ideals -- dangerous ideals that had led her straight into the dead-ends of funhouse mirrors, again and again. What she had in front of her was not like anything she'd ever thought she wanted, and everything she now knew she couldn't live without.

 

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