Episode 10.03 "On the Road Again"
by wounded and Mrs Dionysius O'Gall


Authors' Note: We hope you enjoy our Gilmore-Danes-Kim take on some very mundane family events, all spiced up with a pinch of real life, and a dash of rock 'n roll. Special thanks to our awesome betas, sosmitten and Jewels

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"And that's your morning news at eight-thirty on a Monday morning. Now for the latest on downtown Hartford traffic, let's hear from..."

Lorelai cautiously opened an eye, then reached out an arm as she attempted to turn off the clock radio. Arm flailing, she finally made contact with the sacred snooze button.

"Ha!" she gloated as she snuggled back under the covers. A few more minutes of sleep couldn't hurt...

"Lorelai!" Luke's voice boomed from somewhere near her suddenly delicate ears. "Way past time to get up!"

Lorelai whimpered a pathetic, "You're so mean, Luke..." just as Ellie decided to chime in, and not in a happy way.

"Sheesh, now both of you are at it..." Luke jokingly complained as he handed the crying baby to her. "Here, take her. She's been fussing since four A.M. She's ready for her breakfast."

"Four A.M.?" Lorelai sat up as she adjusted Ellie in her arms. "Did you check the freezer? There's milk in there."

"Yep. And just to warn you, when she's done nursing, you're gonna have to walk her around... Crying gets worse if you try to put her down or sit down yourself."

Fifteen minutes later, a satisfied Ellie had stopped crying and with her little eyes screwed tightly shut, looked as if she was about to go down for the count. Lorelai smiled wryly at Luke as she swung her legs over the side of the bed. With a hand from Luke, she stood and began gently bouncing Ellie.

The crying resumed.

"Just our luck that we get one who has one of those altitude thingies... you know, like on airplanes... built into her brain," Lorelai said as she swayed back and forth.

"... Eight forty-five and now for the latest traffic news from YOUR NEWS LEADER IN SOUTHERN CONNECTICUT..." The loud and annoying radio announcer was back.

Ellie expressed her discontent by increasing her volume.

"Damn radio..." Luke turned off the clock radio. "Here, let me take her. Your breakfast's ready. You did want to get in by ten, right?" Luke rapidly asked over the still-crying baby.

Lorelai gently tickled Ellie under the chin. "Come on, little girl. It's a big day for Mommy today. Mommy's going back to work."

"Maybe she's having separation anxiety already," Luke supplied.

"Well, look who's been reading his Dr. Brazelton!" Lorelai teased.

"Was Rory like this?" he continued.

Lorelai thought back to her first work day at the Independence Inn, getting Rory ready in the potting shed. She involuntarily shivered. "It was SO cold that morning. But I was so incredibly lucky with Rory..."

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On Monday morning, Rory exited the elevator and entered the busy offices of the Hartford Courant. She loved coming into work after a relaxing weekend; not just for the work itself, but to see her fantastic co-workers, too.

"Hey, Janie!" said Rory to the receptionist at the front desk. "How was your brother's wedding on Saturday?" Rory had quickly bonded with the new girl at the front desk, since Shirley had retired earlier in the summer.

"Ugh, typical family crap," said Janie. "I'll tell you all about it at lunch."

"Looking forward to it, plus pictures!" Rory said and continued on her way to her desk.

She passed a flurry of co-workers, sharing a "hi" and "how was your weekend?" here and there. Rory felt a sense of self-satisfaction and happiness. She genuinely liked her colleagues, and some she even considered friends.

During a quick stop at the coffee machine before heading to her desk, Rory bumped into Mike, who gave her his usual recount of his weekend.

"Gilmore, you missed quite a party on Friday night!" he told her as he poured them both cups of coffee. "Me, John, and a couple of guys from pagination went to Blu and it was just off the hook. Wish you could've made it!"

"Had my weekly family dinner," Rory told him apologetically, although inwardly she was glad she had missed a night of heavy drinking and partying. She'd only done it once or twice in her lifetime, and never really loved the feeling of having her head in the toilet bowl.

"Hardcore!" he teased her.

"Believe me," Rory said with a grin, "you don't know how crazy those dinners can get sometimes."

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"I have confidence in sunshine... I have confidence in confidence alone..."

Lorelai hummed the song from The Sound of Music as she stood in the driveway of the Dragonfly, feeling very Maria "oh help" Von Trapp as she approached the door. Sneaking into the inn to check up on things was one thing; going back to work was another matter entirely.

Entering the inn, she immediately noticed an unnatural state of silence. The reception area without Michel's ennui-filled voice weighing in on some item or another was just... not right! She was half-tempted to shout out, "Yo, Lorelai in the house," when she noticed a very professional-looking sign on the front desk.

Staff Meeting in progress. Will return at eleven o'clock.

"Who has a staff meeting on a Monday morning?" she muttered as she walked towards the conference room. Thankfully, the door was ajar and there was an open chair available near the entrance.

"Today's topic is PUNC-TU-AL-IT-Y," Emily Gilmore's unmistakable voice informed the staff with staccato-like precision.

Emily Gilmore stood at the head of the table, eyes focused on the screen in front of her, and crisply continued: "Horace Mann once said, 'Unfaithfulness in the keeping of an appointment is an act of clear dishonesty. You may as well borrow a person's money as his time.'"

Lorelai tried to make herself as small as possible in her chair, and turned to the employee sitting next to her. "Hi! When did the meeting start?" she hissed.

"Nine. Staff meetings are every Monday at nine," the woman whispered in reply.

THWAP! Emily suddenly rapped the pointer she was using on the table.

"Pardon me, Madame." Michel jolted into action and proceeded to the next PowerPoint slide.

"Being tardy is UNACCEPTABLE," Emily emphasized, and proceeded to spend the next ten minutes extolling the virtues of promptness in business.

When the meeting was over, Lorelai extended a hand to the woman next to her and introduced herself.

"Hi, I'm Lorelai."

"I'm Maria, from Housekeeping." Maria furtively looked around and made sure that she had not caught Emily's eye. "Mrs. Gilmore gets very upset if you miss a meeting, so you really should try to be on time from now on."

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"All right, team, settle down!" said Don, as everyone assembled into the conference room for their weekly editorial meeting.

Rory sat between Jodie and Mick from sports, while the rest of the editorial team got into their seats.

"So, first off, happy Monday, everyone," said Don. "I trust everyone had a good weekend?"

Everyone around the table nodded their heads.

"Okay," Don moved on, peering down at his list. "A few kudos to give out this morning. First, great job Mick on covering the UConn football hazing scandal. His piece even got him interviewed on the local NBC news station, if any of you PVR'd it this weekend."

The staff applauded as Mick stood up and offered a mock-gallant bow.

"Next, is Rory, for her article on the lack of funding for Hartford's homeless soccer team. We're getting lots of buzz on that piece, particularly on our website."

Don looked up at Rory. "Great job, Gilmore," he said with a smile.

Rory blushed and gave an awkward wave as her colleagues hooted and applauded.

"Now, before we get on with actual work, our beloved photographer Mike is inviting everyone to O'Malley's for food and drinks in celebration of his 2.5 years at The Courant."

"Is that even a milestone?" Jodie joked.

"Is Mike paying?" asked the paper's entertainment editor.

"I'm just amazed he's survived this long," Don told them all. "Whoever can make it, the first round's on me. Now, it's been a crazy week in Hartford news, so assignments are as follows..."

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Lane looked at her iPod and checked the time. She still had an hour before the twins' preschool session would be over for the day. Her chores done for the morning, she hummed part of a song she was experimenting with... but after a few tries, decided that she was not in a creative mode.

With the twins out of the house, Lane suddenly remembered that she could tune the radio to one of the edgier local stations and really rock out to some tunes. Gil had recently mentioned Stars Hollow's latest homegrown radio station, WHOL, "The Hollow."

Shrugging, she tuned in to WHOL.

"Welcome to Monday morning with Stars Hollow's finest. You were just listening to the smooth mambo stylings of Patty La Costa. This is Jay-Kirk on WHOL, Stars Hollow Radio."

Lane almost choked. Jay-KIRK?

The horror continued. "Have you ever picked up one of the national tabloids kindly stocked for your convenience at Doose's Market? The next time you're there, make two of our sponsors happy at the same time: the 'National Enquirer' and Taylor Doose. Well, let's get back to the music. Next up on 'The Hollow' is 'Enter the Dragonfly' by Hep Alien, out of... wait for it... wait for it... Stars Hollow!"

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Lorelai smiled her thanks at Maria for her advice. Various employees rushed out the door, apparently taking the morning's topic to heart. Lorelai lagged behind for a few moments, hoping to catch Emily and Michel.

However, Michel merely greeted her with a snide, languid "Bizzee" as he strolled past, visibly shrinking away from any contact, and Emily barely acknowledged her with a curt "Nice to have you back, Lorelai" as she brushed by her on her way out the door.

"I guess a busy staff means business is good," Lorelai said to the empty room.

Gathering her tote bag and purse, she made her way to her office and gratefully sank down into the familiar contours of her desk chair. Reaching into her tote, she first pulled out a framed photo of Eleanor. She traced the outline of Ellie's sweet, little Luke-and-Rory face with her index finger, then placed it on her desk, whispering, "Chair still fits, little girl... I guess that means my butt didn't get too much bigger." She continued emptying the tote, which Luke had thoughtfully packed for her. Along with some new office supplies, out came her portable Medela, which she stashed on the shelf behind her.

Settled in, Lorelai looked around her office, finally feeling at home. She reached for her cell, briefly wondering if she should call Luke and check up on how things were going, then started dialing Rory, but disconnected before she was done. She had a nagging feeling that the inn had somehow changed during her absence.

So she turned on her computer. Once it was ready, Lorelai stared at the monitor in consternation. Where was her email icon? The cute little old-fashioned mailbox icon that normally brought up her email was gone!

Lorelai grabbed her cell again, and finger poised over the speed dial for Emily, was ready to call her own very special staff meeting. But the thought of dealing with Emily, and confronting Michel, was overwhelming. So she opted to text Sookie at home.

"Sook. It's me"

"Hey. How's it going?"


"You ok"

"Wherez email"

"Nu system. Tbird"


"1 word: Michel"

Ugh, now she would have to interact with Michel after all.

Her office phone rang.

"Lorelai, it's Sookie. Thought it would be easier to explain over the phone."

"So what's with this T-bird?"

"New email system that Michel had our tech support install." Sookie paused. "It's called Thunderbird. Look for the weird blue bird icon thingie."

"Sheesh. Now I have to deal with a new email?" Lorelai paused for a minute. "Wait... what tech support?"

"Didn't he tell you?"

"Who, Michel?"

"Who else! We now have a contract with the Buy More in Hartford."

"So my email...?"

"... is different. Listen, hon, you're gonna have to ask Michel, because Wanda's being WAY too quiet. Gotta go check on her, 'kay?"



"Thanks, Sookie."

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That evening, April sat at the kitchen table doing her homework, while Luke was cooking dinner.

As Luke stirred his rotini and homemade tomato sauce, he couldn't hear the frantic tapping on the laptop that usually accompanied April's study sessions.

"Since you've given up on homework," he teased her, "can you please bring me the oregano?"

"Sure," April said, getting off her chair and heading towards the kitchen cabinet.

She reached in and grabbed the tin can, then walked towards Luke. "Hey, Dad?" she asked him hesitantly.

"Yeah?" he replied absently. "Just add a pinch to the sauce, please."

April did as told. "That enough?"

"Perfect," Luke complimented her. "So, what's up?"

"I was actually wondering," she began. "Can you teach me how to drive?"

Luke looked up from the stovetop and stared at his daughter. "Drive?" he asked. "You're too young to drive."

"Dad, I'm 16," she reminded him.

Luke certainly felt like he'd been slapped in the face, wondering how time flew by since the then-12-year-old walked into his diner for the first time. Looking closely, sure enough, a 16-year-old high schooler was staring expectantly at him.

"I don't know," he told her, all the while feeling as if blood were draining from his body. "Have you done basic driver's ed? I don't want to take you on the road blindly."

"At school. Of course, Dad," she assured him. "I know my stuff."

That eased Luke's worries, albeit just a little bit. "Um, sure. How does tomorrow morning sound?"

"Yay!" April squealed and wrapped her arms around him tightly. All Luke could do was hug her back.

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After work, Rory and a few of her co-workers decided to hit the pub down the street for a few drinks before heading home. She was too lazy to cook, and grabbing a burger and fries sounded all right with her.

A few hours later, food was consumed and the drinking was still ongoing. Rory and her colleagues were discussing—of all things—the ongoing saga of Jon and Kate Gosselin.

"I swear, I felt for the dude when he was married to Kate," Janie insisted, pouring a glass of sangria from the large—and near-empty—pitcher. "But the more I see him now, the more he's like my douche of an ex-boyfriend, Ed Hardy shirts and all."

The crowd laughed, while some of the guys took the male Gosselin's side of the story. "After eight kids and ten years with that shrew, I don't blame the guy for leaving," Mick said, high-fiving a few of the other men at their table.

As the dozen or so people at the table chatted and laughed, Rory chuckled as she observed them all. She chimed in here and there, thinking about how much she was looking forward to discussing the Gosselin gaffes with her mother sometime soon. Mom would be amused by this, she thought.

When her phone rang, Rory fished into her purse to see who was calling: it was Kevin.

"Is it the boyfriend?" Mike asked, and at her nod, he wailed in jest. "You're breaking my heart, Gilmore!"

They all laughed—including Rory—as she answered the phone.

"Hey!" she said into the phone.

"Hi," he said. "What's so funny?"

"Nothing," she assured him. "Just that you may have to fight Mike here for my heart."

"I'm sure I'll win," he joked. "So, where are you? I just ordered a pizza and it's a bit much for one. Want to come over?"

"I can't, Kevin," she said apologetically, trying to hear her boyfriend from the "chug, chug, chug" chanting going on at her table. "Already ate, and a bunch of us are just drinking and shooting the breeze."

"Oh," was all Kevin said, and Rory was sure she heard a bit of disappointment in his voice.

"Do you want to come by?" she asked him. "We're at O'Malley's, and I'm sure the gang would like to meet you."

"Nah," he said. "I have a whole pizza to conquer. You do your thing. I'll see you tomorrow."

"Okay," she said. "I'll see you tomorrow, then. Goodnight."

"G'night," he said and hung up. Rory quickly put her phone away and turned back to the crowd, which included Mike making kissing noises at Rory.

"Oh, Mick," she teased. "When was the last time a girl wished you good night that wasn't your mommy?"

The group good-naturedly oooohed at her comment and they all laughed.

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Rory had woken up the next morning, a bit of a buzz going on in her head.

She hadn't drunk too much the night before, but she did partake in more than she normally did, requiring her to pop a couple of Tylenol for the headache.

Once she was showered and dressed, Rory decided to swing by Kevin's apartment for a bit before they both respectively left for work. Rory had felt bad for not spending the previous evening with him. Kevin had sounded bummed when she told him she was out with her colleagues, yet Rory also enjoyed having good camaraderie with the people she spent her days with.

Rory brewed a pot of coffee, pouring a mug for Kevin, and toasted a strawberry Toaster Strudel for him. She always kept a box in her apartment for him, even though she herself was forever a Pop Tart girl.

She exited her apartment slowly, careful not to spill the full mug of coffee she held in one hand.

"I really should have left more room for the milk and sugar," she said aloud as she walked down to Kevin's apartment.

She bit her lip as the hot liquid splashed on her fingers, and breathed a sigh of relief as she made it to his door. As Rory was about to knock with her foot, the door swung open and she and Kevin nearly collided.

"Whoa!" he said, backing up. "What're you doing down here?" he asked.

"I brought you breakfast," she said lamely as she noticed his jacket was on, his messenger bag was on his back, and he had a Toaster Strudel in his own hand.

"Thanks, but I'm going to be late for work," he told her. He leaned in and kissed her cheek quickly before walking away backwards. "I'll call you later!" he promised and turned and disappeared down the stairs.

Rory watched him walk away, a bit hurt at his abruptness and the fact that he couldn't even give her the time for a decent kiss.

She bit into the Toaster Strudel and sipped the cooling mug of coffee in her hands. Someone has to drink the coffee, she thought to herself and walked back up the stairs.

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Luke and April exited the front door that morning, walking towards the driveway. "You have your permit with you?" he asked her.

"In my wallet," April assured him as she excitedly pulled her backpack strap on her shoulder as Luke pulled out his keys.

"So, which car do you want to drive?" he asked her.

"The Jeep!" April exclaimed, and ran towards her vehicle of choice.

"Lorelai's very possessive of her car, you know that," he told her. "I had to sign a form the last time my truck was in the shop and I needed to head to Hartford."

"OK, " April said, resigned and disappointed. "The truck, then!"

Luke shook his head. "I'd rather you stick with automatic."

April frowned. "So you're saying I have to drive the Highlander."

Luke nodded. "Pretty much. Besides, it's the one closest to the end of the driveway. Easiest to drive out."

"But, Dad!" April whined. "It has a car seat and a ‘Baby on Board' sign on it. I can't drive to school like that!"

"It's this or nothing, sweetie."

"Fine!" she said with a huff, and stomped over to the car. April waited in front of the driver's side and tapped her foot impatiently.

Luke sighed and joined her. He unlocked her door and dropped the keys in her waiting hand.

Luke walked over to the passenger side, entering the car. They both buckled their seat belts and April put the keys in the ignition.

"Okay, first and foremost, check your mirrors," he advised April, who did as told.

"Good," he continued. "Now, put your foot on the brake. No, the other one," he said when he saw his daughter put her foot on the gas. "All right, now release the parking brake and put the car on the 'R.'"

"Okay..." April said nervously, putting the car in reverse.

"Now, we need to back out of the driveway, so let go of the brake pedal and gently press on the gas pedal, keeping your wheel still."

April pressed her foot on the gas pedal a bit too hard, which caused the car to zoom down the driveway and onto the street.

"Gentlyyyy!" cried Luke as he gripped the dashboard and April pressed on the brake.

They both breathed heavily as the car sat in the middle of the street, and Babette and Morey ran out of their tiny house.

"You okay, shugahs?" she cried to the pair.

"We're fine!" he told her. He turned to April. "You okay?"

April nodded. "Foot must've slipped," she said sheepishly. "Let's go to school!"

April put the car in drive while Luke just stared ahead in horror.

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Lorelai reached for another cup of decaf and nodded her head in Sookie's direction.

"Hey, Sookie, can I ask you a question?"

"Sure, Hon. Want a pastry to go with that?"

"Um, hm... as long as there's chocolate involved."

Lorelai took a deep gulp of coffee, and continued, "How do you do it, Sookie?"

"Do what?" Sookie responded, handing her a chocolate croissant.

"The kids..." Lorelai took a bite of croissant, "three of them, and working here..."

Sookie pointed to the corner of her mouth, and Lorelai dabbed at the bit of chocolate that had escaped.

"Don't you feel, well... guilty, leaving them?"

Sookie stared back at her friend, surprised. "Aw, hon, are you having the working mom blues?"

"It gets easier. It's just your first day back, and you miss her..." she advised. "Didn't it get better when you had to return to work after having Rory?"

"That's just it, Sookie. With Rory, I HAD to work. I didn't have a choice. It was a matter of survival: either make beds at the Independence and keep a roof over our heads, or... well... you know... Plus Rory was a little older..." Lorelai sighed. "But with Ellie, it's not like I have to work now. It's more like I'm making a choice."

"Hon, you need to let go of the guilt. Trust in yourself—you're making this choice for a reason!"

Lorelai continued, "But life was so much easier when there was no choice!"

Sookie laughed. "Isn't that true!" She affectionately squeezed Lorelai's arm. "All I can tell you is what works for me. Try not to think about work when you're home with Ellie. And you KNOW you can trust Luke to keep her safe while you're here."

Lorelai rolled her eyes and both women laughed.

"Everything will work out, you'll see!" Sookie reassured her.

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Mrs. Kim looked out her front window, surveying the yard. The surplus antiques that sometimes cluttered the lawn had all been moved to the side, and she had even spruced up the "Kim's Antiques" sign with a fresh coat of paint.

Promptly at eleven, a bespectacled Korean gentleman walked up to her door. Mrs. Kim nodded her approval; he was properly attired in conservative business-wear, not too young, not too old.

She opened the door, and was pleased when he immediately bowed.

"Mrs. Kim, I presume?"

Mrs. Kim inclined her head slightly in lieu of a bow. "You are Steven Jeong. Accountant. Son of Jeong Tae-Hyun?" she crisply asked.

"Yes. May I come in?"

"Certainly." Mrs. Kim stepped aside to allow Steven Jeong to enter.

"You are C-P-A?" she continued.

"Yes... my card." Steven handed her his business card, printed in Korean on one side and English on the other.

They stood awkwardly for a moment before Steven asked, "Shall we sit down? I'd like to go over the ledger with you."

"Certainly. This way, please."

Mrs. Kim led the accountant to her kitchen table, and he proceeded to unpack his briefcase.

"It's not often these days that we get... umm... paper like this," Steven continued as he stacked ledger upon ledger onto the table. "First, let me go over the numbers for Kim's Antiques. I must say, I am very impressed by your meticulous record-keeping. There are over twenty years' worth of ledgers here!"

Mrs. Kim proudly let just a hint of a smile cross her face.

Steven then spent the next ten minutes providing an overview of the antique shop's fiscal situation.

When he was done, Mrs. Kim cut straight to the point. "So, Mr. Jeong, bottom line is?"

"Bottom line is, you're in a very good financial position. Totally in the black. However..."

Mrs. Kim interrupted, "There is bad news?"

"Well, yes and no." Steven cleared his throat. "Let me be honest with you. The business is on solid financial footing, but your sales over the last year have declined each month."

"Recession hit small business hard," Mrs. Kim supplied.

Steven continued, "This is true. And you're very lucky."

"Always frugal and careful."

"Yes, I can see that." Steven thumbed through the two decades' worth of ledgers. "My recommendation, however, is that you consider selling."

"Sell? Never!" Mrs. Kim gasped.

Steven took a deep breath, then reached up and removed his glasses, placing them on the table. "Mrs. Kim, I'm simply suggesting that now might be a good time to cash out. Find a buyer. If you wait, you may never get what you could get right now..."

Mrs. Kim immediately shot back, "But where would I live, and how?"

Steven smoothly segued to the topic of her retirement savings. "If you'll give me a minute," he reached into his briefcase and retrieved a statement, "let's look at your retirement savings."

He carefully highlighted a few numbers, then slid the statement across the table and gave her a minute to peruse it.

"As you can see, you're in a very favorable position. And any money that you lost during the recession is starting to come back, thanks to the conservative investments you made."

Mrs. Kim was fixated by the number at the bottom of the statement. "This is what I have?"

"Yes, the bottom line is... is that you could sell the business, invest the proceeds, and live quite well on your retirement income." He smiled at his client. "Look, Mrs. Kim, I tell all my clients this. At this stage of your life, perhaps you'd like to spend more time with your family. Start a new hobby...? Something you wanted to do when you were young, but then life got in the way? You have grandchildren, right?"

She nodded. "Yes. Boy twins." Mrs. Kim reached behind her and placed a small "brag book" photo album on the table.

Stephen politely flipped through the first few pages. "Lovely boys."

"You have children?" she asked.

"Yes, two teenagers: a girl and boy."

Mrs. Kim nodded. "Very good."

"Well, Mrs. Kim, think about selling the shop. My firm can take care of everything for you." Steven gathered up the papers and set aside the ones he was leaving with Mrs. Kim.

"Thank you, Mr. Jeong."

"Mrs. Kim, it was a pleasure. My father often spoke about you and your store. Say, isn't your daughter part of that new local band—Hepa—Hipa?"

"Hep Alien," she proudly answered.

"You must be very proud of her. My kids are constantly playing their songs, especially that new one... about the Dragonflies..."

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Rory was eating lunch at her desk, doing her usual lunchtime Sporcle quiz, when she looked at her watch and realized Kevin might be having his lunch break as well.

She reached for her desk phone and dialed his cell phone number. It rang three times before reaching his voicemail.

Rory frowned, hung up, and tried again. This time, it went to voicemail on the first ring.

"Hey, Kev. It's me. Just calling to see how you're doing, I guess. Call me when you get the chance."

Rory hung up, stared at her phone for a second, and went back to Sporcling.

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Finally done learning the new email program, Lorelai noticed that 1 P.M. was approaching and it was time to leave work. She had resisted the urge to call Luke, because she was afraid of waking Ellie.

"Hey." Lorelai laughed nervously.

"Hey. How's work today?"

"Better. Only took two days to figure out the email. Did Ellie miss me?"

Luke cleared his throat. "Well, she was sleeping, so she had no time to miss you."

Lorelai was crestfallen, but tried not to let her voice show it. "Well, give Ellie a kiss for me if she wakes up and tell her I'll be back soon."

"Bye... and take your time, Lorelai."

"Bye, Hon."

Lorelai shut down her computer and walked out towards the front door. Maria passed her and looked at her strangely.

"I'm not sneaking out early, I swear!" Lorelai muttered as she quickly exited the front door.

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Afternoons in Stars Hollow were Lane's favorite time with the boys.

She bent over the double stroller in the Town Square. "Preschool sure does wear you little guys out," she chuckled, seating herself on the bench opposite the diner.

Suddenly, a car zoomed by, blasting music for all to hear.

Lane instinctively rose up to admonish the offender. "Hey... some people have sleeping toddlers..." she began yelling after the car, but stopped. The song sounded more than familiar—it was one of hers!

She smiled to herself, even though the boys were waking up in the double stroller.

Resuming their walk, she passed by the high school. School had just let out, and kids were hanging outside, waiting for their buses and other rides home. A radio blared on the front step, and kids were clearly grooving to the music, enjoying themselves. She drew closer, recognizing yet another Hep Alien tune. As she smiled and made a note to tell the guys about all the places she'd heard their songs today, one of the kids recognized Lane.

Before she could brace herself, a whole group crossed the street and streamed around her, each begging for an autograph.

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Lorelai arrived home to find Luke intently watching a re-run of a Celtics game. He was sprawled out on the couch, Ellie prone on his chest, fast asleep. She quietly tiptoed over to Luke, and planted a soft kiss on his cheek.

"Hey," he responded, placing the game on pause.

"Whatcha watching?"

"Celtics. Gotta say, Lorelai, I know I wanted us to get rid of the satellite so we could save some money, but this DVR thing is great for catching up on games I miss."

Lorelai walked into the kitchen. It was spotless. She sighed—Luke certainly had this parenting thing under control. Not only was the kitchen tidied up, but Ellie was happily snoozing and Luke even had time to relax.

Returning to Luke, she reached for Ellie.

"So you'll be late tonight?" she asked Luke.

"Not tonight. Going to pick up April this afternoon, maybe get in some more driving, then go check on the dinner prep at the diner."

"Speaking of dinner?" Lorelai asked hopefully.

"I'll be back to fix my girls their supper." Luke grinned. "Except for this one." He gently stroked Ellie's hair, then placed a kiss on Lorelai's head and headed out the door.

"Well, it's just you and me for now. Not that you'd notice," Lorelai told Ellie.

In response, Ellie quietly opened her eyes and smiled at her mother. Lorelai, instantly feeling better about her place in Ellie's life, began playing peekaboo with her daughter.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Luke rolled up to the high school in the Highlander, looking through the throng of teenagers for April.

He quickly saw her running towards his car, the excitement evident on her face.

April made it to the driver's side of the Highlander, shooing Luke out of his seat.

Luke sighed, inwardly telling himself that this lesson would go better than that morning's. He got out of the car and let April take his place.

"Can I drive around town a bit?" she asked as she settled into her seat and buckled her seatbelt.

"I think we better just drive home, honey," he told her. "So, what do you do first?"

"Check the mirrors," she said in a less-than-excited tone, and proceeded with that step. Once she seemed satisfied, she was about ready to put the car in drive.

"April," Luke warned, "fix your seat."

"Seat's fine, Dad," she assured him.

"April, fix the seat," he said again in an even tone, noticing the significant distance between his daughter and the steering wheel. "I am taller than you, so you need to bring the seat forward."

"Fiiiiine," she let out, adjusting her seat until it satisfied Luke. "Happy?" she asked sarcastically.

"Very," he said. "Now go."

April put the car in drive and began to roll out of the school's parking lot.

Once on the street, Luke's eyes jumped from April to the street ahead, to her foot on the pedal and back. His eyes eventually caught the speedometer.

"No speeding, sweetie."

"Dad, I'm doing, like, 12 in a school zone. I think I'm fine," she said, all the while continuing to drive.

"I was just warning you," he said. "Keep on driving, you're doing great."

April made it to Oak, signaling right to turn onto the street, and Luke made an audible tsk sound when she didn't check her blind spot before turning. He told her as such.

"Sorry, I forgot," said April. "I'll do it next time."

"When driving, there is never a "next time." Always get it right the first time," he said sternly.

"Gimme a break, Dad. I'm just learning to drive here," she cried, exasperated, turning her head to stare at him.

"One, look at the road, not at me. And two, there is no getting angry when driving. If you can't contain your emotions, don't drive at all."

"Fine!" said April, steering the car to the side of the road and hopping out. "Car's all yours, Dad!" She slammed the door shut and jumped to sit in the back seat of the car.

Luke sighed, knowing that talking to his daughter at that moment wouldn't do either of them any good, so he just got out of the passenger's side and took over driving duties.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Rory walked up to her apartment building, exhausted and hungry after a long day at work. She quickly grabbed the day's mail and stomped up the stairs.

Once at her door, she fiddled in her purse for her keys and opened her door, only to have the aroma of garlic, lemon, and chicken welcome her home.

"Hello?" she asked cautiously, wondering who would break into her apartment and cook dinner. Sookie? Luke? Her mom? She laughed at the thought.

Rory walked towards her kitchen and peered inside , noticing Kevin standing above her stove. "Kevin?" she asked, surprised.

Kevin turned around to see her at the kitchen's doorway. "Oh, hey!" he said with a smile. "Dinner'll be ready in 30 minutes."

Walking towards him, she put her hand on his shoulder and leaned in for a kiss. "I can't believe you're doing this."

Kevin's forehead furrowed. "Is that good or bad?" he asked.

"It's great," she assured him. "I just feel as if we've been missing each other lately."

Kevin nodded his head and removed the chicken from the stovetop. "I agree. And since it seems it'll be a lot harder to find more and more time together given our respective busy schedules, I figure we make do with the time we have."

Rory smiled. "Like dinnertime."

"Like dinnertime," he agreed.

"And dessert?" she teased, leaning in to kiss his ear.

He groaned. "Dessert... totally. We can even start with that, if you want."

Rory smiled and walked towards the cupboard to reach for a couple of plates. "As much as I'd love to take you up on that, I actually really am hungry."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"So did you update our Myspace?" Lane asked Brian.

He nodded in affirmation. "And our new Facebook page, too. We've got over 1000 fans now!"

Zach impatiently tapped his fingers on the table. "Are we ready to start practicing?"

Mrs. Kim, who was watching the twins so that Lane and Zach could focus on band issues, spoke up, "Better practice now while boys still awake."

Lane anxiously looked over at her mother and sons. "Mama, they had a good nap after preschool, even slept through most of our afternoon walk! They'll probably be up later than usual."

She then turned to her band-mates. "Let's finish the business part of the evening. I think we need to do some more promotion, make some more appearances. I heard two of our songs today on two different radio stations."

"And Mr. Jeong's children listen to it, too!" Mrs. Kim interjected.

Lane and Zach high-fived each other, then Zach whispered in Lane's ear, "Who is Jeong?"

"Mama's new accountant. She wants us to use him, too, but I'm holding him at bay for now," she whispered in return.

Brian spoke up, "So, what do you think our next step should be?"

Gil finally joined in the conversation. "Maybe we should go on tour again."

"That would be awesome! On the road again!" Zach responded.

Gil looked serious. "But remember, you're a family man now," he advised Zach. "And your old lady can't stay home with the bambinos..." He ignored Lane's withering glare.

Brian added, "Yeah and remember last time, how money was tight? If we go on tour, I'll have to quit my job and..."

Mrs. Kim interrupted, "I will buy RV. You can take RV on tour."

The room fell silent.

"But Mama, money's been tight for you with the economy tanking—what about the shop?" Lane recovered first.

"Mr. Steven Jeong will sell store for profit. I will retire."

"Awesome!" Brian, Gil, and Zach simultaneously approved, exchanging fist-bumps.

"Yes. I will buy band RV. So you can tour," Mrs. Kim repeated.

"Wow, Mrs. K., that's very generous," Brian thanked her.

"Of course, I shall come along. Take care of the boys."

"No Mama! I mean, you're retiring. You should rest!" Lane implored her mother.

To Lane's dismay, Zach, Brian, and Gil disagreed with her.

Zach smiled at his mother-in-law. "What, Mrs. Kim retire? She's way too young for that, babe. I think it's a great idea!"

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

At dinner that evening, Luke and Lorelai stared at each other in concern as April miserably picked at her food.

Luke looked up at Lorelai to see her mouth "talk to her" and point her head towards his despondent-looking daughter.

Luke sighed and cleared his throat. "Um, April," he began. "I was thinking, maybe we can practice driving again this weekend."

"Forget it," she told him, pushing her still-full plate aside. "You'll just go psycho on me again. I'll just take the bus for the rest of my life!"

"April," he said. "Quit being so melodramatic."

"Or, better yet," she ignored him and went on, "I'll ask mom. She'll definitely be a better instructor than you!" April stood up and stormed off to her room.

As the door to Rory's old bedroom slammed shut, Luke dropped his head to the table with a light thud.

After a while, he looked back up at Lorelai, who gave him a sad, supportive smile. "Go talk to her, hon."

Luke nodded his head in agreement and got up, walking over to the bedroom. He gently knocked on the door.

"April?" he asked. "Can we talk?"

His daughter didn't answer, so Luke took it as his permission to come in. He opened the door and walked into the room, where he found April lying down on the bed, angrily tapping the stylus on her Nintendo DS as she played Brain Age.

"What do you want, Dad?" April asked, sounding defeated.

"Listen, honey," Luke began, pulling a nearby chair close and sitting down. "I'm sorry driving didn't go too well today."

"That's an understatement," she said sarcastically.

"Listen, young lady, I'm trying to be cool with you here, so drop that tone of voice," he told her in the ‘dad' voice he'd perfected in the past couple of years.

April remained quiet.

"I'm sorry that I yelled at you this afternoon," he continued. "After this morning, I kind of freaked, and I just wanted to make sure you didn't get us both into accident."

"I get it, Dad," she told him, sitting up and turning to face him. "But what you call advice was very belittling. It was as if you were anticipating me to screw up. That didn't feel good."

Luke sighed. "I know, and I apologize," he told her sincerely. "But you were clearly agitated, and that is no way to be behind the wheel."

"I guess I was a little freaked to be driving with so many cars and pedestrians alongside me," she admitted with a laugh, looking a bit embarrassed. "After our fight and you took over driving, I guess I was a little bit relieved. But, I don't know, if you were more supportive and in less of a yelling mode, I would've done better."

"Tell you what, for both our sanity, how about we practice in the school's parking lot this weekend? No cars, no people, just you and me. We'll get you up to speed enough and you'll hit the actual road when ready."

April smiled. "I'd like that. But promise me you won't go crazy on me. No yelling, more patience."

Luke nodded. "Okay, I'll keep my advice to myself. However, if you do something wrong, I will have to tell you, just so you can fix your mistakes for next time."

"I can live with that," she told him, reaching out her hand for a shake. "Deal?"

"Deal," he agreed, taking her hand to shake it, then pulling her in for a hug. "We're good?"

"We're good."

"Okay, let's go finish dinner, unless Lorelai already ate our food while we were gone," he joked as they exited the bedroom.

♫   ♫   ♫  

Lorelai arrived promptly at 10, ready to work. "Happy Thursday!" she greeted Michel, who physically shrank away from her as she purposely leaned into his personal space. Her second day back, he'd discovered the breast pump in her office and appeared mortified by what it represented. Teasing Michel always made her day.

Settling down at her desk, she smiled at each of the photos of her family—her three daughters, her hot husband—then picked up her cell and speed-dialed Rory.

"So, Rory?"

"Hey, Mom."

"Remember when you ran into a deer right after you learned to drive?"

"Let me remind you, missy, that said deer ran into me!"

"Well, things are a leeeetle bit tense at the Danes household these days..."

"I know. April texts me after every driving lesson. Or should I say, 'lecture?'" Rory giggled. "Of course, I was the perfect student driver."

Lorelai laughed. "Poor Luke... he's so serious... Speaking of serious, I'm seriously suffering from some Rory withdrawal. You gonna grace the Hollow with your presence soon?"

Rory sighed. "Mom, I'm SO swamped with work, plus there's Kevin. Schoolteachers really do work a longer day than you'd think."

"Tough making time for each other, huh?" Lorelai sympathized. "I'm sure you'll figure things out."

"But I'll see all of you for sure at Friday Night Dinner," Rory assured her.

"Well, let's hope so. April wants to drive us over there..."

Rory giggled.

"On the phone with your personal business again?" Michel snidely interrupted Lorelai as he handed her a flyer.

"Hold on a sec, hon... it's Michel."

"Emily thought you might want to check out this sale, see if there's anything for the inn," Michel told her as he backed out of her office.

Lorelai looked at the flyer: Kim's Antiques. Going-on-the-road-again liquidation sale, and then returned her attention to the phone.

"Um, Rory? Have you talked to Lane lately? You'll never believe what just landed on my desk..."



To be continued... 




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