Episode 10.05 "Swingers and Shackers"
by Mags & lulu1960


Authors' Note: Our eternal thanks go out to our friends and co-conspirators for indulging the madness that is a Lulu/Mags writing team. In particular, we'd like to thank our Coordinator, Robinpoppins, for being smokin' hot, Olivia_Jane for donning the HazMat suit and wading into the fray, and Jewels12 for being the comma commando. Lulu is sewing your cape right now. Of course, our heartfelt thanks to you, dear readers. You are the reason that this show has survived and thrived. For that, we humbly thank you!

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Ellie Danes was sitting in the catbird seat. Actually, it was a bouncy seat perched in the center of the kitchen table, but still, the spotlight was definitely shining on her.

"Tell 'em. Tell 'em how pwecious you looked in your baby Louboutins," Lorelai cooed, jiggling Ellie's tiny foot.

"I bet she did," Rory agreed, peering over the edge of the seat at her gurgling baby sister.

April leaned down to bump her forehead against Ellie's. "Look at how alert she is tonight." When the baby grabbed a hunk of her hair, April squeaked, and then gently tried to disentangle Ellie's facile little fingers. "You got me," she gasped playfully.

Luke placed a spoon on a folded paper towel and then bent to check the oven. "Just listen to you all," he muttered under his breath.

"Luke Danes' harem," Lorelai murmured, smiling widely at Ellie. "Don't listen to that cranky old daddy of yours. He's just jealous that all the girls don't coo over him anymore," she said in a sing-song voice.

"You're making a fool of yourself," he grumbled as he reached for his oven mitts.

"Says the man who wears oven mitts with dancing spoons on dem," Rory teased. She mugged for Ellie's amusement and laughed delightedly as Ellie chortled. "She likes me best!"

"Nuh uh," Lorelai said a she pushed Rory back in her chair and turned the bouncy seat toward her. "Her wuvs da mommy. Everybody wuvs da mommy best," she cooed, shooting Rory a warning glance.

"And so wars are begun," April intoned solemnly. She looked up as Luke set a steaming roasting pan on top of the stove to rest. "Smells great, Dad."

"Not very often we get all three of you here on a Sunday night," he mumbled, flashing April and Rory a small smile.

"Daddy wuvs having his harwem home," Lorelai told Ellie.

"Would you stop talking to her like that? She's gonna have a speech impediment," Luke grumbled.

"I can't hep it," Lorelai said as she shrugged and mugged comically. "I see a baby this cute and I just hafta make her grin. Dat's it! Dat's it," she cried as Ellie gave her a wide, drooly smile. "Show Momma dat pearly white."

"What pearly white?" Rory asked, leaning over for a better look.

"She's getting a tooth?" April asked, huddling over the baby too.

"Hers got a bump of a tooth," Lorelai said with an encouraging smile. "Show 'em. Show these girls your pearly white."

"It hasn't even broken the gum yet," Luke said impatiently.

"But it will. It will break that gum soon and you'll be maaaad," she crooned, her brow furrowing in anticipatory sympathy. "Right now, her's just a drool machine. Sing it, baby girl! I'm just a drool machine, and I won't drool for nobody but Mom," she sang, bouncing Ellie's seat along with the imaginary beat.

"And Dad and anyone else who stumbles into her path," Luke muttered under his breath. He clapped his hands together and turned toward them. "We're ready? You ready?"

"I'm ready," Rory answered with a bright smile. "I've been tasting this pot roast for two days."

"Two days?" April asked as she went to retrieve plates from the cabinet.

"The phone calls started on Friday. 'Rorwy, Mommy and Elwie miss their Rorwy...' and then the 'April will be here and Luke would just love having all his girls over for Sunday dinner' calls started yesterday," she said dryly, pulling cutlery from the drawer.

"Ah," April said with an understanding nod.

"The 'Rorwy, you hafta come home dis weekend or I'll wuv Appil mowre' calls were not as effective as she had hoped," she said mockingly.

"We really should have started them on that sibling rivalry thing younger," Lorelai whispered to Luke as he lifted Ellie from her bouncy seat.

"You live, you learn," he said as he placed her in her high chair, holding her securely as Lorelai fastened the safety strap and then slid the tray into place. He stepped back as April and Rory finished setting the table, and scowled when Ellie slumped in her seat. "Here, let's get you up a widdle higher," he said as he tried to reposition her.

Lorelai gasped, Rory dropped a handful of silverware onto the table, her hand flying to her mouth, and April's eyes widened.

Luke's head jerked up, the tips of his ears burning pink as he realized what he had said. "What?" he snarled at them.

"You. Are. So. Busted," Lorelai enunciated slowly and distinctly.

"Aw, Daddy Luke likey to tawk da baby tawk?" Rory asked coyly.

"Oh, Dad," April murmured, shaking her head in dismay.

Luke simply hung his head and sighed, staring down as Ellie kicked her legs, pounding the tray of her high chair with her palm. He leaned down and kissed her wispy hair as she shoved her closed fist into her drooly mouth. "This is all your fault. I hope you're happy."

Ellie squealed with delight, waving her wet fist wildly as her mother and sisters laughed, and her father turned back to the stove.

Lorelai beamed at her, her eyes shining with maternal pride as she pressed her hands to her heart. "That's my girl," she cooed softly, looking up to meet Luke's bemused gaze over their little girl's fuzzy head.

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A slight breeze rustled the leaves on the trees that lined Peach Street, the vibrant colors of reds, oranges and yellows a stark contrast to the gray sidewalk. Luke stopped and carefully adjusted the straps of the Snuggli, elevating Ellie higher on his chest. Ellie seemed to be enjoying the view as she babbled happily, slurping on her tiny fist. Making sure her cap was pulled down securely over her ears and that the legs of her quilted jumpsuit were pulled down over her chubby legs, Luke started down the sidewalk once again.

"What do you say, Ellie, think we should hit the post office first? Grab Mommy those stamps she wanted? Why she needs to get her Christmas stamps already when we haven't even celebrated Thanksgiving yet is beyond me, but you know Mommy. She'd decorate the day after Halloween if I let her," he chuckled, tickling Ellie's neck and making her giggle. A flash of movement caught Luke's eye as he neared Weston's Bakery, and he noticed Babette waving to him from the entryway.

As she began to briskly walk towards him, Morey fell easily in step with her. "Hiya, Sugahs," she squealed, stopping in front of the pair. "Aren't you two the cutest things?"

"Hey, Babette, Morey. Out for your morning stroll?"

"Oh, you know, gotta keep the old ticker pumpin'. Keeps us young," she laughed. "Look at you, big strong man like yourself, carrying this precious doll face around. I could just eat her up with a spoon," she said, grabbing Ellie's hand and kissing it. "Isn't she the sweetest thing, Morey?"

"Sweet," he intoned melodically.

"You're one lucky son of a gun, aren'tcha Luke? Got yourself a great bunch of gals, the whole lot of 'em."

Luke couldn't help but smile as he ran his hand over Ellie's head. "Yeah, I am."

"Well, we'll let you get back to whatcha were doin'. You give the rest of your girls a kiss for me," she said before giving Ellie a peck on her cheek.

"Will do, Babette." He smiled. "Morey, you take care," he said, patting his arm. "You two have a nice walk."

"I'm tellin' ya, the sweetest thing," Babette gushed as she and Morey began to walk away.

Luke and Ellie continued down the sidewalk, with Luke every now and then pointing out something to his daughter or acknowledging people with a nod or wave as they made their way to the post office. Reaching the building, Luke wrapped his left arm around Ellie's midsection and grabbed the door handle with his right hand, just as Miss Patty was making her way out. Luke held the door open and stepped back, allowing Patty to exit. His brow furrowed in concern when he noticed she had her hands full with a box.

"You got that, Patty?" he asked.

"Oh, yes, Dear, thank you for asking. It's actually very light; just some silk scarves and feather boas I ordered for the new 'Belly Dance Away the Bulge' class I've just started. I find that props make it oh so much more enjoyable," she purred, raising a perfectly arched eyebrow.

"Well, uh, sure," Luke stammered, rubbing his hand across his chin nervously.

"It really is a shame that Lorelai got back into shape so quickly," she continued wistfully. "If ever a woman had hips born to shake, it would be your lovely bride." She smirked. Patty reached over and grabbed Ellie's foot, tickling it softly. "Not to mention the fact that this little one helped other assets to blossom. Didn't you, Sweetie?" she laughed. "You are a lucky, lucky boy, Luke." She winked.

Luke looked down at his feet, a faint blush staining his cheeks. "Yep, that's me. Lucky Luke," he muttered as he rolled his eyes self-consciously. "Uh, well, we better head inside before the line gets too long," he stammered anxious to get away from Patty's teasing.

"Oh, you go ahead, Dear. You two enjoy your day!" Patty smirked as Luke headed through the door. "I think it's a toss-up over who's the luckier person in that family," she purred as she made a point of ogling Luke's butt, enjoying the view.

Luke turned and grumbled good-naturedly, "Stop staring at my butt, Patty."

After finishing up in line at the post office, Luke took a moment to change Ellie in the restroom and let her stretch out her legs. Removing a diaper from one of the pockets of the Snuggli, Luke made quick work of the diapering. After snapping the jumpsuit back up and gathering her in his arms, Luke left the post office. He headed for one of the benches in the square so that he and Ellie could enjoy their mid-morning mocking.

He sat back, holding a teething ring for Ellie to gnaw as they watched Kirk attempt to wash the windows at Le Chat Club. "This should be good," he murmured, distractingly kissing the top of Ellie's head. Thirty seconds later, the ladder toppled and Kirk was drenched from head to toe in sudsy water. "This is just too easy," he said as he shifted on the bench. "What do you say we head over to the bookstore, huh?" Luke smiled, lifting her back into the Snuggli and crossing the street.

Luke opened the door, but stopped abruptly in his tracks, quickly averting his eyes. "Hey, uh, Andrew, Gypsy. Um, excuse us."

"Oh, hi, Luke. Gypsy was just getting something off my cheek," Andrew stammered.

"With her tongue?"

Gypsy stepped away from the counter. "What's the matter, Luke? Never seen two people kiss before? I suppose you found that little chickie there in some cabbage patch," she snorted. "Besides, Andrew started it. Said he had a book on how to properly rev an engine. Men thinking they're so clever, but what the hell do I care? The guy's a really great kisser."

"Well, uh... great. Glad he keeps you satisfied... uh, happy." Luke shifted uncomfortably. "So, Andrew, did that book come in?" Luke asked, changing the subject.

"It sure did. Got it right here for you," he said, reaching under the counter.

Gypsy moved in closer, looking over Luke's shoulder. "How to Make Organic Baby Food," she read. "You planning on making your own baby food?"

"Thinking about it."

"Seems like a lot of work to me, especially when you can get the jars at the market."

"Yeah, well, if I make it, I'll know what's in it. I mean, they say the stuff in the jars is natural, but how do we really know what kind of preservatives they put in it? They had to process it somehow, right?" he scoffed.

Gypsy just shook her head in amusement. "Wow, your dad really takes your baby food seriously, Cookie," she said, smiling down at Ellie.

Luke just shrugged. "I figured I've pretty much lost the battle with her mom. Got to at least try with this one," he chuckled. Grabbing his wallet out of his back pocket he looked up at Andrew. "How much do I owe you?"

"That will be $24.52, Luke," he said, looking at the amount on the screen.

Luke pulled two twenties out of his wallet and handed them to Andrew. Once he got his change he turned towards the door. "Well, we better get going. We have one last stop to make."

"Where you heading now?" Andrew inquired.

"Got to pick up a few things at Doose's."

"Ah, saving the best for last," Gypsy teased, patting Luke on the arm.

"Yeah, right," Luke snorted, walking out the door.

Making his way to the market, Luke stopped at the front door. "Okay, little girl, last stop. We're in, we're out and then it's home for your lunch and nap." Luke walked in and headed straight for the baby aisle in search of baby wipes and shampoo.

Taylor looked up from the cans he was stacking. "Well, hello, Luke. Isn't it a lovely morning? Enjoying this glorious day with your little sweetheart, I see."

Luke wrinkled his forehead, confused by Taylor's overly bright greeting. "Hey, Taylor, you feeling all right?"

"Of course. Why do you ask?"

"You update the town by-laws or something?" Luke mocked. "Cause we all know how those sub-sections get you all fired up."

Taylor chuckled. "Oh, Luke, how you do like to tease. Like I always say, 'A happy customer is a returning customer.' By the way, did I mention I've started stocking environment-friendly wipes? I seem to recall you grumbl... I mean, mentioning not seeing any eco-friendly products on the shelves."

"Um, thanks, Taylor. That was considerate of you."

"No problemo, my friend. There's nothing more satisfying than ensuring the futures of cuties like Ellie here as well as being kind to Mother Earth. Well, you two have a wonderful day now," he said, shaking Ellie's foot quickly. "And don't forget bananas are three pounds for a dollar," he called out as he walked away.

Luke stood there and stared in amazement as Taylor walked away. "Okay, that was just weird," he muttered, shaking his head. "Nut jobs. We live in a town full of nut jobs."

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Lorelai's fingers flew rapidly over the keyboard as she cradled the telephone under her chin.

"Yes, Mr. Morris, I have you down for two nights: December 4th and 5th. Yes, it should be lovely then. Well, I don't know about that. Mother Nature and I are close, but she hasn't really let me in on whether it's going to be a winter wonderland on those days. Why don't you let me put in a call to Jack Frost and get back to you?" she joked.

Looking up from the computer, she saw Kirk walk in with a floral arrangement. She lifted her finger to signal she'd be off in a minute.

"Thank you, Mr. Morris. We at the Dragonfly Inn are looking forward to seeing you and Mrs. Morris in December."

Hanging up the phone, Lorelai walked out from behind the desk. "Hey, Kirk, still working for the flower shop I see."

Kirk's hands shook. The water in the vase he held sloshed back and forth. His knuckles were turning white from gripping it so tightly. "I have a flower delivery," Kirk replied, overstating the obvious.

"Yes, I see that. Just go ahead and set them down over there. I need to go check on a linen delivery before the driver leaves," she said, walking past Kirk. "Oh, I forgot my clip... Ah, Kirk, is there some reason you're following me?" she asked, colliding into him when she turned back around.

"Flower delivery," he repeated, still holding the arrangement.

"Yeah, I got it the first two times you said it, not to mention the faceful of wild flowers I just got there. Is there something you needed? You're acting awfully squirrelly."

"Well, I, uh..."

"Tell you what, why don't you just give me the flowers, huh?" Lorelai asked as she reached for the flowers. "Kirk, you're going to have to let go now. Kirk!"

"Uh, gotta go," he cried, and ran out the door still clutching the flowers.

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Rory laid on her right side. A faint beeping noise filled the room. Her eyes blinked a few times before managing to stay open, the annoying sound finally able to penetrate her still half-asleep brain. Rolling over onto her back, she saw Kevin reach for his cell phone off the nightstand, pushing a button to stop the alarm.

"Hey," she whispered.

"Hi. Didn't mean to wake you up. I tried to grab it before it beeped too many times."

Rory stretched her arms above her head before turning onto her left side and propping her head on her hand. "That's okay. What time is it anyway?"

"It's only 6:30. Go back to sleep."

"Why are you up so early?"

"Got to get ready for class," he answered, relaxing against the headboard.

"Doesn't your first class start at 8:15?"

"Yes, it does. Good memory, Gilmore."

"You need that long to get ready? I thought I was bad." She chuckled.

"Well, not generally, but I need to head back to my place and shower."

"You could just shower here," she offered.

"Can't. Don't have any clean work clothes here."

"Oh, yeah, that does present a problem, doesn't it? Can't have you going to school naked."

"Yep, pretty sure the administration would frown on that. Would make the Tuesday morning staff meeting more interesting, though."

"Well, they might have a problem with it, but I sure wouldn't," she purred, reaching under the blanket to rub his thigh.

"Hey now, don't start something we can't finish," he said, playfully swatting Rory's hand away. "Oh, did I tell you my lease is up at the end of December? The landlord sure is making a killing off me. I'm paying rent on a place I'm hardly ever at. I actually think my bed is jealous of yours."

"Well, she is very soft and warm," she murmured. "Why don't you lay back and see for yourself. You might find something else soft and warm while you're at it."

"As tempting as both you and your bed most definitely are, I really do need to go back to my place. I still have to gather my lesson plan and check my emails, since I didn't do that last night."

Rory frowned slightly. "Maybe I shouldn't have forced you to stay."

Kevin laughed. "Oh, I don't recall any forcing. I do however remember teasing, lots of touching and I definitely remember your..." Kevin stopped mid-sentence when Rory's mouth made its way to his earlobe. "Tongue."

"Now what were you saying about leaving?" she whispered in his ear.

"Um, can I borrow a towel?"

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"Someone said there might be fried chicken on the menu!" Lorelai called as she burst through the front door Wednesday evening, breathless and bedraggled. When there was no answer from the kitchen, she took a sharp left and headed for the living room at full steam. "Fried chicken?" she called hopefully.

"I also answer to Luke," he responded from the top of the stairs.

"Why don't I smell that wonderful smell of fried chicken frying?" she asked, looking up at him, her confusion clearly written on her face as she moved toward the stairs. "Oh!" she gasped as she tripped over a large and apparently immovable object and stumbled forward.

"Careful," Luke cautioned as he hurried down the steps.

"Too late," she grunted. Her left foot landed on Paul Anka's squeaky hot dog toy, starling them both, and Lorelai spun away from the steps, crashing over the leg of Ellie's swing and then falling face first over the arm of the couch.

Luke couldn't stifle the laugh that bubbled up as she planted her face in the couch cushions, but he attempted to make up for it by trying to pull her up by her arms.

"Leave me," Lorelai grumbled.

"Are you okay?" he asked. Luke pushed the hair back from her face as she turned toward him, pressing her cheek into the cushion as her legs hung over the end of the couch.

"This house is trying to kill me," she said petulantly. "After all I've done for it."

Luke smirked and then schooled his features into a mask of sympathy. "I know, it's a very ungrateful house," he said solemnly.

"What tried to take me out?"

"April's backpack. She went up to play with Ellie before she starts her homework."

Paul Anka managed to stir himself from his place by the hearth and wandered over to the couch to give Lorelai a curious sniff.

"Yeah, I'm fine, thanks for asking," she said to the dog. "Pick up your toys."

She blinked in surprise and Luke reared back slightly when Paul Anka walked over and picked up the squeak toy, carrying it back to his spot by the hearth.

"Wow, it worked," she whispered to Luke.

"Save that for Ellie. Remember that tone," he instructed.

"Annoyed, with a touch of ticked off, and dash of a throbbing ankle. Got it," she muttered as she tried to push up off of the couch.

Luke slipped one arm under her legs and pulled her to his chest, helping her turn to sit on the couch. "You think you sprained it?" he asked as he dropped to his knees in front of her.

Lorelai raised her left foot slightly and then shook her head. "I think I just twisted it a little." When he gently lifted her foot onto his knee to check for swelling, Lorelai sighed and looked up at the ceiling. "How come I don't smell any fried chicken?" she asked mournfully.

Luke smiled as he gently massaged her injured ankle. "I'm sorry, I just didn't get to it. Will you settle for chicken strips?"

"Cooked in the oven?"

He winced and then nodded.

Lorelai eyed him closely and then asked, "Tater tots?"

Luke sighed. "Fine."

"And we eat in here," she added. When Luke opened his mouth to object, she pressed her fingers to his lips to stop him. "Luke, the house tried to kill me," she reminded him gently.

His lips curved into a tired smile, and then he pressed a kiss to her fingers. "We'll eat in here," he said as he stood up and began to weave his way toward the kitchen.

"I may need pudding, too!" she called after him.

"Now you're pushing it."

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The following day, Luke was wearing a hole in the living room floor. "Come on, Ellie, you want to nap. I know you do," Luke said as he continued to walk his fussy daughter around the living room. "Don't you want to lie down in your comfy crib with all your little stuffed buddies? I bet they're real tired right about now."

Ellie continued to cry halfheartedly, only stopping long enough to rub her face across the flannel on Luke's shoulder before she would pick up her head and start again.

"What's the matter, little girl? I just changed you and I know you're not hungry. Are you just having a bad day?" he whispered softly as he tried to soothe her while rubbing her back gently. "What do you say we take a little drive? Will that make you feel better?" he asked as he kissed her head.

A few moments later, with Ellie securely fastened in her car seat, Luke pulled out of the driveway.

"Where to, El?" he asked glancing in the rear-view mirror. "How 'bout we drive around the square? Sound good?" Luke continued to drive, noticing that while Ellie's cries were less frequent, they hadn't stopped completely. "What do you say we go a little further, check out some different sights. Would you like that?" he asked as he reached back and patted Ellie's foot.

Taking a right, he headed out of the center of town. After driving for a couple of miles, Luke found himself on a street that appeared to have well established older homes. He couldn't help but notice that the houses sat on bigger lots, many with mature trees dotting the properties. A 'For Sale' sign caught Luke's eye as he drove past a house with an oak tree in the front yard.

"Wow, did you see that Ellie? Look at the size of that oak tree," he whispered. "And it has a tire swing, too. Pretty cool, isn't it. What do you say we go take a look, huh?"

Luke made a quick U-turn and drove back down the street, parking in front of the yellow house. He turned in his seat and smiled; Ellie was sound asleep, her soft blanket clutched in her arms. Making a quick dash to the sign, Luke grabbed a flier from the tube, then turned on his heels and jogged back to the car, careful not to wake his daughter when he opened the door. He turned on the engine, but didn't put it in drive. Instead, he looked out into the yard, lost in thought. After a moment, Luke glanced down at the flier in his hand, reading the particulars of the property.

Luke shook his head when he noticed it was Kirk's name at the top of the listing. "Figures," he muttered before putting the car in gear and driving away.

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"Hey," Kevin said as he peeked around the corner of Rory's cubicle.

Rory's head popped up. "Oh! Hey," she said, a smile warming her face. "What are you doing here?"

"I thought I'd come by and see if there was any chance of luring you out to dinner," he told her. He leaned against the partition, trying to look casual, and had to catch himself as it swayed under his weight. He straightened quickly and flashed a sheepish smile. "I'll take you to the Soup Plantation," he whispered temptingly.

Rory smiled wistfully at him and then glanced at her monitor. "I wish I could. I'm already behind and I have to get this done by eight."

"Oh." Kevin nodded and shoved his hands into his pockets.

"But if you wanted to grab us a couple of sandwiches," she said as she gestured to her cluttered desk.

"Toasted or untoasted?" he asked quickly.

"Um, toasted, I think," she said slowly.

"Be right back," he promised as he bent down and kissed her lightly before hurrying to the door.

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Kevin watched Rory chomp down on a mouthful of food, nodding her approval as she chewed. "Sweet onion teriyaki without the onions, good call," she complimented.

"I am nothing if not self-serving," Kevin answered, shaking the last few chips out of the bag onto the paper sandwich wrapper.

Rory raised her eyebrows as she stared at his cup pointedly and reached for her drink. "So, we're splitting a sandwich and chips. I'm surprised you didn't want to share a drink with me, too. Two straws?"

Kevin shrugged. "I wasn't trying to be cheap. I just thought that maybe if you get done by eight, we could go out and get something a little better later."

"You just don't want to share a straw with me," she teased.

"I can think of better things that involve your lips."



"You're insatiable."

"You're irresistible," he countered.

"I might like you a little bit."

Kevin watched warily as she plucked a chip from his wrapper. "That's good, because I like you an awful lot."

"Really? An awful lot?"

Kevin nodded solemnly and leaned onto her desk. "You know when it's the most awful?"

"When I steal your last chip?" she asked as she proceeded to do just that.

"In the mornings," he answered in a low, husky voice.

"The mornings?" she asked, the chip suspended halfway to her mouth.

"I hate leaving your place. I hate it when you leave mine. I had something a little nicer in mind than splitting a Subway sandwich when I decided that we should talk about this, but here goes," he said with a wry smile. "Rory, I've been thinking about it a lot, and it doesn't make sense for us to keep two separate apartments in the same building."

"It doesn't?" she asked breathlessly.

Kevin shook his head. "You know, the lease is almost up on my place," he said with a shrug. "I think that we should move in..." Rory jumped as her phone rang. Kevin sighed as she shot him an apologetic look and snatched it from the cradle just as he said, "Together."

"Rory Gilmore," she said into the phone, her eyes wide as she continued to stare at him. "Uh huh. Uh huh," she murmured as she groped for a pen and began scribbling notes on a lined pad next to her keyboard. "Now?" she asked, her spine stiffening as her eyes met Kevin's again. "But I have the... Oh, okay, well... I'm on it," she said as she pushed her chair back.

"What?" Kevin asked as she placed the receiver back on the cradle and stood up.

"I have to go. There's some impromptu protest going on at one of the local television stations, and one of the news guys just had a baby today, another is in a closed door city council meeting, and the other isn't answering his cell," she said as she gathered her pad, pen, and purse.

"So they're sending you out to cover it?"

"Looks that way," Rory said and gave him a distracted kiss on the cheek. "Not a feature, not an interview, a real news story," she said as she started for the door.

Kevin gaped at her back as he watched her walk away. "Uh, okay," he mumbled. "I'll just; I'll clean this up," he said to himself as he began to ball up the wrappers. He dumped the remains of their dinner in her trash can and then slumped back in his chair, tipping his head back to stare up at the ceiling tiles. "Well, that went well."

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"Hey," Luke said as he walked into the bedroom, peeling the flannel from his shoulders.

"Tell him to take it off, take it allllll off," Lorelai whispered to Ellie as they lay snuggled up on a pile of pillows.

"She's out," he said with an affectionate smile as he dropped the shirt into the hamper.

"Like you," Lorelai murmured as he planted his hands on the mattress and leaned down to peek at his sleeping daughter. "Never gets old, does it?"

"No," he breathed.

Lorelai smiled. "It never will, no matter how big she gets."


"You want to take her?"

Luke shook his head and sat down on the edge of the bed. "In a little bit," he said as he bent to pull off his boots.

"You want a little cuddle time, too."

"I want to show you something," he said as his boots fell to the floor.

"I keep telling him I've already seen it," she whispered to Ellie.

"Stop that," he grumbled as he leaned forward and reached into the back pocket of his jeans.

"Seen that too, but I have to tell you, it never gets old either."

He pulled out the flier he had taken from the house he and Ellie had seen earlier in the day and carefully unfolded it. "Take a look at this," he said as he handed it to her.

Lorelai's brow creased as she took the sheet of paper and began to read cautiously. "It's a house."

"It's a really nice house. A little older, which you know I like. I don't want any of that shoddy new construction," he said emphatically.

"Not all new stuff is shoddy," she murmured as she scanned the page. "Four bedrooms, two and a half baths..."

"Plenty of room," he said with a nod.

"Finished basement..."

"Dibs," Luke called with a boyish smile.

"Wow, 2.2 acres of land?" she asked as she looked up at him. "Where is this?"

"Just outside of town. You take 74 like you're going to Rockville," he explained.

"How far?"

"No more than two miles," Luke said quickly.

"Two miles out of town?"

"Less than two miles."

"You want to move out of town?"

"I'm sure the address is still Stars Hollow," he pointed out.

"But it's not in town. You wouldn't be able to walk to work."

"I can walk two miles," he said defensively.

"Okay, but you wouldn't want to every day," Lorelai insisted, waving the paper at him.

"I just think we should look at it. The house seemed to be in pretty decent condition. Probably needs some updating, but it looks like they took care of it. And the yard, the yard is really great," he said, just getting warmed up.

"It is?" she asked, puzzled by his obvious enthusiasm.

"There's this huge, old, live oak with a tire swing," he told her. "The yard right around the house is fenced, so Paul Anka could go out and run."

"Have you ever seen Paul Anka run? I mean, other than from the vacuum?"

"No, but he could, you know, without a leash. He hates the leash," Luke pointed out triumphantly.

"Wow, you're really high on this place."

"I'm not high on it," he said gruffly, color flooding his cheeks as she scooted off of the bed. "I just think we should take a look at it."

"Sounds like you looked pretty closely."

"Well, no, I couldn't. I didn't want to go tromping around on someone's property without permission," he grumbled.

"How did you find this?"

"Ellie was cranky, so we took a drive," he said as he yanked his t-shirt up over his head.

"So you thought you'd buy her a house to cheer her up?"

"I didn't buy her a house."

"You've been known to buy things: cars, houses," she said pointedly.

"One. I bought one house," he said as he yanked a clean t-shirt over his head.

"And a car."

"And a car," he admitted.

"Without telling me."

"But you like the car!" he reminded her as he stalked into the bathroom.

"Are you sure you didn't accidentally buy this house?" she called after him.

Luke poked his head out of the bathroom, clutching his toothbrush tightly. "I wonder if the people who bought the Twickham place would sell."

"Luke, no," Lorelai said as she crushed the flier against her leg.

"You want to live in town, that's smack in the middle of town. You should be dying to live in the Twickham house."

"It's not that," she told him.

"What? What is it then? You agreed that we need to move. You want to move. This house is trying to kill you, remember?"

"I just thought we'd go out looking together."

"We will. I wasn't looking, Lorelai, honestly."

"You just stumbled across this place."

"We were driving by, I saw the sign, I took a flier. That's all."

"Hmm," she hummed as she raised the piece of paper and peered at it closely. "It does look like a nice house," she conceded at last.

"Doesn't it?" Luke asked as he crossed the room, still holding his toothbrush.

"Hah! The listing agent is Kirk," she crowed as she held the flier up for him to see.

"Yeah, I noticed that."

Lorelai gave him the eye. "You haven't talked to Kirk about this?"

Luke shook his head adamantly. "I wanted to show you first, see what you thought."

"Good call."

"Thanks. I'm not a complete idiot," he muttered.

Lorelai handed the flier back to him. "Okay, talk to Kirk and see when we can get in to have a look at it."


"Sure, why not," she answered with a shrug. Luke smiled as he leaned down to kiss her gently. "But no buying it," she warned, tugging at his t-shirt.

"I won't buy it."

"Yet," she added under her breath as he sauntered back to the bathroom.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Rory was having a hard time keeping her eyes open as she made her way to her apartment. The strap of her laptop case slipped off her shoulder yet again. "Stupid strap," she mumbled.

"Hey," Kevin said as he pushed off Rory's apartment door.

"Oh, you scared me," she said, her hand clutching her chest.

"Sorry about that, but you should really pay attention to your surroundings," he said, his voice edged with concern.

"I'm having a hard enough time paying attention to putting one foot in front of the other let alone my surroundings. What are you doing here anyway? It's after midnight."

"I couldn't sleep so I thought I see if you'd made it home okay."

"Why didn't you just call my cell?"

"I did. It went straight to voice mail."

"Oh yeah, I forgot I put it on silent. The write-up about the protest was giving me fits and I didn't want any distractions. Plus my editor wanted it, like, yesterday so I ended up having to stay way longer than I anticipated, and to top it off, I haven't eaten anything since you came by earlier today."

"Well, I could make you some eggs or something. Maybe we could finish up our conversation from earlier."

"You want to talk about it right now, tonight?"

"Sure, why not? We've been up later than this."

"True, but I'm really not in the mood to have any lengthy discussions tonight," she sighed. "I'm tired, my shoulders hurt from hunching over the computer, and I'm cranky. All I want to do right now is take a hot bath, eat a bowl of Fruit Loops and crawl into bed. Besides, I don't see what the big deal is, it's not like your lease is up tomorrow."

Kevin shook his head in disbelief, the muscle in his jaw tightening. "You don't seriously think this is about my lease, do you?" he asked incredulously.

"Well, you did mention how the landlord was making a killing off you."

Kevin folded his arms across his chest as he exhaled forcefully. "That was a joke, Rory."

"Why are you getting mad?" she asked, tucking her hair behind her ear nervously.

Kevin began to pace. "Gee, let me see. I asked someone that I care about and who I am in a relationship with—or at least I assumed it's a relationship—to discuss the possibility of moving in together, and she thinks I'm worried about saving a few bucks." Kevin stopped and blew out a defeated breath, running his finger through his hair. "You know what, you're right, it isn't a big deal. Just forget I even bought it up. You just go crawl into that soft bed you're always raving about."

"Kevin, come on," she pleaded as she reached for his arm.

"I'm just gonna go," he said as he pulled his arm back and walked around Rory heading toward the stairs.

Rory stood there dumbfounded as she watched Kevin stomp off. "What the hell just happened?" she muttered to herself as she opened the door and went inside.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"Hey, Patty, you haven't seen Kirk around, have you?" Luke asked as he set her plate in front of her. "I've been trying to get a hold of him and I haven't been having much luck."

"No, Dear, not today." She paused and said, "It's Friday. Did you try the beauty supply store? He may be there."

"Yeah, I did. They told me he works Wednesday afternoons and alternates Saturday mornings," he said, walking back to the counter to grab the coffee pot.

"The florist?"

"Yep, tried there," he said, returning to her table to refill her cup. "And the post office, the feed store and I even called the dog grooming place where Lorelai takes Paul Anka," he said, blowing out a frustrated breath. "The guy's in here more than I am it seems like, but the one day I need to talk to him, he's the Invisible Man."

"Well, if I see him I'll make sure to send him your way. You may want to ask Taylor," she added. "He always seems to be in the know."

"You mean he always seems to be in everyone's business," he muttered as he continued on his coffee rounds.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

With the morning rush over, Luke decided to take Patty's advice and headed over to Doose's to see if Taylor had seen Kirk.

"Morning, Taylor," he said as he spotted Taylor at the register.

"Well, good morning to you, too, Luke. No little Ellie with you this fine morning?" he asked exuberantly.

"Nope, not today. I've been working."

"Ah, that's too bad. Your little one always brings a smile to my face."

Luke wrinkled his forehead in puzzlement. "Well, uh, that's great. Listen, Taylor, I only have a few minutes and then I need to get back to the diner."

"Is there something I can help you with? Perhaps I could interest you in some broccoli? I just got an exceptional crop in. I know how you're a healthy eater. I think you'll be very pleased. Oh, did Lorelai send you in? You'll be happy to know I just replenished the Pop Tarts and tater tots. That ought to make Lorelai happy, don't you think?" He smirked.

Luke rubbed his fingers across his chin, feeling himself tense up. "Nope, don't need any Pop Tarts, broccoli to put in tarts, or tarts of any kind. I just came in to ask if you've seen Kirk around. I've been trying to get a hold of him."

"Well, why didn't you just say so?" he said, patting Luke on the arm.

Luke glanced down at Taylor's hand then back up again. "Maybe if you'd let me get a word in," he muttered under his breath.

"What was that?"

"Nothing, Taylor. Have you seen him?"

"Can't say I have, but wait a minute. I may have something that can help you," he said as he quickly scurried to the back office.

Luke's eyes narrowed as he watched in bewilderment. "I didn't think he could move that fast," he said to himself.

"Here we are," Taylor said as he waved a paper frantically over his head. "I took the liberty of jotting this down for you," he said, handing Luke the paper.

"Wow, there must be twenty-five phone numbers listed here," Luke said incredulously, scanning the paper.

"Twenty-three, actually. Kirk does like to keep his resumé current," he said. "He must give me a new one every month. You may have noticed, the diner's number was recently added."

Luke tilted his head, a bit puzzled by Taylor's helpfulness. "Thanks, Taylor. I, uh, appreciate you giving me this," he said, holding out the paper.

"No problem. If you need anything else, don't you hesitate to ask," he said jovially as he began to walk back around the counter to the register. "No, no Sally," he tsked. "The melons are two pounds for a dollar, not two melons for a dollar."

Luke walked to the door and reached for the handle, but turned back around when he hear Taylor shout out a, "Have a nice day." He nodded to Taylor before opening the door and heading outside. Pausing on the sidewalk, he cast another quick glance towards the market, and shook his head. "What the heck are you up to, Taylor?" he muttered under his breath.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"Hi. How's your day going?"

Rory murmured the words to her phone as she typed them and then chewed her lip as she hit send. She turned back to the computer and tapped her nails against the keys lightly as she stared at the silent phone. She shook her head to clear it and then frowned at the words on the monitor. Her fingers began to dance over the keys, gaining momentum slowly but steadily. Then her phone buzzed, and she lurched for it.

"Okay?" she asked as she stared at the text message on the display. "Can you expand on that a little?"

Using her thumbs, she began to peck out another message.

"Good. Do you want to have dinner tonight? My treat!"

With a decisive nod, she muttered, "Good girl, go for the oblivious," as she hit send.

She sat back in her chair, swinging her legs back and forth as she waited for his reply. When the phone vibrated again, she quickly hit the button to retrieve the message. Her brow furrowed as she began to gnaw her bottom lip again. "Well, don't get too excited," she muttered under her breath as she saw only the words, "OK if U want" displayed on the screen.

"Sad when you get the cold shoulder via text," she murmured to herself as she pursed her lips. Her email chimed, and she tried her best to answer him one handed. "Only if U want 2."

She was typing her email reply when an envelope popped up on her phone. "Bonor will B there? I love U2.''

A burst of laughter escaped her as she typed, "bonor???"

"Possibly Freudian :)"

Rory giggled again and drummed her fingernails on her mouse, her eyes darting from the phone to the computer and then back again. She sighed softly as she started to message him back. "Cranky last night. I want to make it up to you. You choose where. I miss you."

She pressed send and then whispered, "Come on, Kev, take me for all I'm worth."

When the phone hummed again, she smiled as she read, "Gonna cost you." Rory's smile turned into a wicked grin as she started jabbing buttons with her thumbs.

"I look forward to paying and paying again. I may even throw in a tip."

Moments later, only one word popped up on her screen. "Irresistible," she read with a pleased smile. "I'm glad you think so."

Rory set her phone down on top of her desk calendar, smiling smugly as her hands hovered over the keyboard once again. Giving the phone one last hopeful glance, her eyes widened as she noted the day and date on the calendar.

"Oh no," she groaned as she leaned forward, beating her head lightly against her desk. "How did it get to be Friday already?"

Taking a deep breath, she grabbed her phone off the desk. "So much for a quiet dinner with Kevin," she grumbled, punching in her grandparents' phone number.

After the fifth ring, a breathless Emily came onto the line. "Yes, hello."

"Hi, Grandma, it's Rory. Are you okay? You seem out of breath."

"Oh, hello, Rory. Yes, I'm fine. Nothing that hiring a new maid won't cure. Apparently answering the phone is too much for the woman," she answered curtly as she patted her perfectly coiffed hair. I wasn't expecting to have to run a hundred yard dash to the phone this morning. If I'd have known, I would have invested in some jogging shoes."

"Well, I'm sure your form was excellent," Rory joked halfheartedly.

"So what do I owe the pleasure of this call? You aren't canceling, are you?" Emily asked as she made her way to the living room, stopping at the mantle to adjust an already straight picture.

"Oh, no, I'm not canceling," Rory replied quickly, tapping her fingers nervously on her desk. "But I did want to ask you a bit of a favor."

Emily's hand hovered over the figurine she was about to move to a spot more to her liking. "A favor? What kind of favor?" she asked as she dropped her hand back down to her side.

Rory stammered a bit. "Well, I was wondering if I could maybe bring someone to dinner?"

Emily pursed her lips. "Tonight's dinner. That's very short notice, Rory."

Yes, I know it is, Grandma, but I was hoping that maybe you'd let it slide this once. Here's the thing," Rory said, chewing on her bottom lip. "I kinda behaved badly the other evening to this person and I offered dinner as a way to make it up to him."

"Him?" Emily interrupted, her curiosity piqued.

"Yes, him. His name is Kevin."

"And are you seeing this Kevin?" Emily asked, taking a seat on the couch.

Rory closed her eyes, taking a deep breath, unsure of how much information to divulge. "Well, um, yes, we've been seeing each other. It's been hard juggling our schedules sometimes, but we're making it work."

"So, is it serious then? I mean, if you're taking the time to try to coordinate schedules and are asking to bring him to dinner this evening, it must be."

"Well," Rory stammered "I didn't want to disappoint you by canceling, plus I knew that Mom, Luke and Ellie would be there," Rory hedged.

"Yes, I'm sure that's it," Emily said knowingly. "By all means, bring your friend. We'll see you this evening at seven then."

"Thank you, Grandma. We'll see you at seven." Rory hung up the phone with a sigh. "She so knows."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"Kirk!" Luke barked as Kirk walked through the diner door.

"I work here," Kirk answered defensively, holding up his apron as proof.

"I've been looking for you everywhere," Luke said as he skirted the end of the counter.

"You have?" he asked nervously.

"I left messages all over town, three on your cell and two at home. Are you trying to tell me that you didn't get any of them?"

"I don't remember?" Kirk hedged.

Luke cocked one eyebrow at the smaller man as he crossed his arms over his chest. "You don't remember your wife telling you that I called when you finished watching I Love Lucy? You been into the Vitameatavegamin?"

"I love that one!"

"Kirk," Luke growled, and then he smirked as Kirk visibly deflated in front of him.

"I think Lulu did say something about you calling, but I figured you were probably going to cancel my shift and I thought that you wouldn't cancel my shift if I actually showed up to work," he said in a rush. "I guess I'll just go home."

"I'm not canceling your shift."

"You're not?" Kirk asked, brightening instantly.

"I wanted to talk to you about this," Luke told him as he pulled the creased flier from his back pocket.

"What's that?" Kirk stared at the folded paper warily.

Luke rolled his eyes and unfolded the paper to show it to him. "It's a house, Kirk. It's a house that is for sale, and the listing agent whose name is on this flier is Kirk Gleason. You know him?"

Kirk's eyes widened in recognition. "Oh, the Sanders place!"

"Yeah, yeah, whatever. Lorelai and I want to make an appointment to look at this house."

"You do?"

"Yes. That's why I've been calling you!" Luke said, losing his grip on his patience.

"You were calling me about a house?"

"You do sell real estate, don't you?"

"Well, haven't sold very much," Kirk admitted. "None, actually... besides my flip. I do better at the beauty supply store. Oh! Tell Lorelai that we got that new line of mineral make-up she was wanting to try. I can give her a sample."

"The house, Kirk," Luke reminded him as he stepped closer.

"Oh, you don't want that house," Kirk said with a nervous laugh. "Tell you what, if you and Lorelai are really ready to start looking for a house, I'll log in and check out some MLS listings and find some great properties for you."

"That's great, but we want to see this house, too," Luke persisted.

"Oh! I heard about this fantastic property that's supposed to be listed this week. I'll try to sneak in and get the 411 for you before anyone else gets to see it."

"Fantastic," Luke drawled as he took another step closer, smiling grimly as Kirk cringed away from him. "And you'll show us this one tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow? Oh, well, gee, I don't know..."


"I may have to..."

"Tomorrow, or I'll send you home right now and cancel your shifts for the rest of the week," Luke threatened.

"But Luke..."

"Or, I could just fire you now," he said, crossing his arms over his chest. "Tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow," Kirk sighed.

"Good," Luke said, slapping Kirk heartily on the back and snickering when he stumbled forward. "See you at about ten."

"AM or PM?" Kirk asked as Luke stalked toward the door.

"AM, Kirk. Now get to work, and don't burn down my diner."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Looking at the clock on her computer Rory noticed the time. Realizing that Kevin would be on his free period, she decided to give him a call and see if he was up to the change of plans.

"Hey, you busy?" she asked. "You're on your break, right?"

"Yep, just started it about fifteen minutes ago. What's up? You calling to welsh on the dinner tonight? " he joked.

"Um, about that..." she hesitated. "I kinda screwed up and forgot about a dinner engagement I had."

"Oh, it's cool if you need to cancel. We can do it some other time," he said, trying to hide his disappointment.

"No, no, not cancel, I just want to change the venue. I want you to come to dinner with me at my grandparents'," she said quickly.

"At your what?" he chuckled.

"At my grandparents'. I totally forgot it was Friday, and with Fridays come Friday Night Dinner."

"Ah, yes, Friday Night Dinner. I remember you mentioning that."

"Yeah, well, I can't always make it as often as I would like, what with work and all, but I have been trying to go as much as I can, especially now that Ellie's here. Gives us all a chance to catch up."

"I don't know, Rory. Sounds nice and all, but I don't want to intrude on your family time."

"Kevin, no. I really want you there. Plus I know Mom and Luke would like to see you again, not to mention my little sister. And it will give you a chance to meet my grandpa. I think you'll like him."


"Don't worry, I already ran it past my grandmother and she is fine with it. I'm sure she's already planning a menu that will knock your socks off. You never know what she'll have her cook come up with."

"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?" he chuckled.

"Well, I'd say it's a good thing, although there was the snails incident. Mom swears she saw one moving across her plate," she giggled.

"Not sure you're really selling me on this whole dinner idea, Gilmore."

"How about this? She serves us anything that has no business being on a plate, and I make it up to you by stopping at that little taco joint you love on the way home. Deal?"


"Dinner's at 7. See you at my place at say... 6:00?" she asked.

"Sounds perfect, and Rory?"


"Thanks for wanting me to go with you tonight. It sounds nice."

Rory released the breath she didn't realize she had been holding. "You're welcome," she murmured, picturing the smile on Kevin's face.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"Wow, your grandparents live here?" Kevin asked as they walked up the drive to the door. "Very impressive."

"Yeah, I thought that too, at first, but now it's just the house my grandparents live in. Don't be nervous," she said reassuringly as she wrapped her arm around Kevin's before reaching forward to ring the bell. "Ready?" she asked, smiling up at him.

"When you are," he finished as he pecked a quick kiss on her lips.

The door opened and the maid on the other side greeted them. Just as she finished taking their coats, Emily walked into the foyer. "Thank you, Rebecca. I'll take it from here. Please see to it that dinner is still on schedule," she requested curtly.

"Yes, Mrs. Gilmore."

Emily bought her attention to Rory and Kevin, smiling primly. "Rory, right on time as usual. Your mother called. They're running a bit late, something about a boo boo crisis," she said, shaking her head in confusion.

"BoBo," Rory supplied. "He's Ellie's bear. She likes to snuggle up with him at night."

"Oh, I see," she said. Emily turned and offered her hand to Kevin. "I'm sorry, I'm being terribly rude. Emily Gilmore, and you're Rory's friend..."

"Kevin. Kevin Jamison, Ma'am. A pleasure to meet you," he said, politely shaking her hand.

"Yes, Kevin, please, let me show you to the living room. Rory's grandfather is in there waiting."

"Thank you, after you," he said, grabbing Rory's hand and following Emily to the living room.

"Well, Rory, so lovely to see you," Richard said, walking towards the couple. "And this must be Kevin, is it?" he asked.

"i'Yes, Sir. Kevin Jamison. Very nice to meet you, Mr. Gilmore," he said, extending his hand to Richard.

"Nonsense. Please call me Richard. Would either of you care for a cocktail?" he asked, heading towards the drink cart.

"Just club soda for me please, Grandpa."

Emily gestured to the couch as she walked toward the one opposite it. "Rory, Kevin, sit, make yourselves comfortable."

"And you, young man?" Richard asked as he looked over his shoulder. "I have a marvelous bottle of scotch if you're so inclined."

"Um, no thank you, Mr. Gilmo... uh, Richard. Club soda will be fine."

"And you, my dear? Your usual martini?" he asked Emily as he handed Rory and Kevin their drinks.

Emily smiled up at Richard, her legs crossed primly at the ankles. "I think I'll wait for Lorelai and Luke to arrive, but thank you."

Richard walked back to the cart and poured himself a small amount of scotch before returning to the couch and taking his place beside Emily. "So, Kevin, your last name is Jamison. Any relations to the Bridgeport Jamisons? A fine fellow, that Dalton Jamison, plays a mean game of bridge."

"No, Sir, can't say that I am," Kevin said, taking a sip of his club soda. "I've lived in West Hartford most of my life. Although my family and I go to Brazil every Christmas. Growing up, I spent most of my summers there as well," he added.

Emily's eyes widen in surprise, fascinated by this tidbit of information. "Brazil, now isn't that interesting," she said. "Why Brazil, if I may ask?"

"That's where my mom is from, born and raised in San Paulo. She came here to go to college. Fell in love with America, as well as a skinny farm kid from Iowa," he chuckled, a smile brightening his face as he remembered the story that he had been told growing up.

Rory looked over at Kevin and squeezed his hand. "Your dad," she whispered knowingly.

Her curiously piqued, Emily started to ask another question, when the doorbell sounded. "Oh, that must be Luke and your mother, and only 20 minutes late," she said snidely, standing up to head to the foyer. "Please excuse me for a moment."

The brief silence from Emily's departure was soon broken by Lorelai's voice as she made her way into the living room. "Sorry, sorry, sorry," she said repeatedly, finally stopping in front of Rory. "It took us forever to find BoBo. If I didn't know any better I would have though he went back to the woods."

Getting up from the couch, Rory wrapped her arms around her mom, giving her a heartfelt hug. "Hey, Mom, you remember Kevin, right?" she said, gesturing to him.

"Of course. Nice to see you again, Kevin," she said, smiling warmly at him.

"Lorelai, a hand here, please," Luke huffed as he struggled with a diaper bag and BoBo in one hand and Ellie nestled in her carrier in the other.

Lorelai turned and smiled mischievously as she clapped with enthusiasm. "Bravo. Bravo. Encore," she said before she rounded the couch and snatched the diaper bag from Luke.

"Very funny. You're a regular laugh riot," he grumbled, rolling his eyes at Lorelai. Setting the carrier next to the couch, he crouched down and began unbuckling Ellie. "Hey, Rory," he said as he stood and walked around to the front of the couch with Ellie nestled against his neck, his forearm supporting her back. "Hi, Kevin. How's it going?" he said as he extended his hand towards Kevin.

"Fine, thanks, Luke. And yourself?"

"Oh, you know, this one keeps us busy," he said, softly kissing Ellie on the head. "Richard, Emily, how are you?" he asked turning towards his in-laws.

"Fine, fine. Everyone do sit down," Richard replied, gesturing to the couches. With everyone situated—Rory and Kevin on the love seat and Lorelai and Luke on the couch next to Emily—Richard returned to the drink cart. "Emily, your martini now?" he asked, looking over his shoulder.

"Yes, thank you, that will be lovely."

"Lorelai? What can I get you?" Richard asked, reaching for a martini glass for Emily's drink.

"Club soda's good for me, Dad."

"Luke. I just stocked up on that beer you like. Can I offer you one?"

"Sounds great, Richard. Thanks," Luke said as he shifted Ellie on his lap. He propped her up against his stomach, his arm wrapped around her mid section.

Luke stood and handed Ellie to Lorelai. "Here, Richard, let me help you with that," he said as he walked to the cart.

"Why, thank you, Luke. Why don't you take yours and Lorelai's and I'll get Emily's," he said as he handed Luke the two glasses. Luke set Lorelai's drink on the side table, smiling down at her before returning to his seat. "Want me to take her?" he offered, starting to set his drink down in front of him.

Lorelai reached her arm out, gently pushing him back, as she winked. "No, I've got the munchkin. Enjoy your brew."

♫   ♫   ♫  

Richard swirled the ice in his glass as the conversation lagged a bit. "Emily, is your martini cold enough?" he asked solicitously.

"It's perfect," she replied.

"This club soda is perfectly chilled," Lorelai said with a bright smile and a tad too much enthusiasm.

"I'm happy to hear that," Richard said dryly. He shifted slightly in his chair and recrossed his legs. "So, Kevin, what do you do?"

"Kevin's a teacher," Rory answered for him.

Kevin gave Rory a puzzled look, and then nodded. "I teach middle school science."

"Wonderful! There's nothing more rewarding than helping to mold a young mind," Richard said as he settled in his chair.

"But you wouldn't want a mind so young to grow moldy," Lorelai murmured to Rory.

"Where do you teach, Kevin?" Emily asked.

"Joseph Belizzi Middle School," he answered, taking a sip of his drink.

"Is that the school on South Street?" Emily asked Richard.

"I believe so," Richard replied. "Do you enjoy your work, Kevin?"

"Very much, Sir."

"That's wonderful, wonderful," Richard said with a nod.

Lorelai grinned. "Rory told me that you almost blew up your classroom a couple of weeks ago."

"Twelve year old boys and chemistry experiments are always a chancy thing," Kevin said, returning her smile.

"And your future plans? Do you intend to stay in the public school system? Have you considered an advanced degree?" Emily asked.

Kevin darted a glance at Rory and then shifted in his seat. "I've thought about getting my Master's degree," he hedged.

"Oh, you should," Emily said knowledgeably. "I know that most of the faculties at the better schools have them. I believe that Chilton requires a Master's degree at minimum, don't they, Rory?"

"I think so," Rory admitted quietly.

"And, if you were interested in an administrative position, you would need to begin working on a doctoral program," Richard chimed in.

Lorelai flashed Kevin a sympathetic smile. "How many kids do you have in your classes?" she asked pleasantly.

"My largest is twenty-eight," Kevin answered.

"That's far too many students in one classroom! How could one teacher possibly give that many students the attention that they need?" Emily demanded.

"I usually have a student teacher," Kevin mumbled.

Lorelai looked from her parents to Kevin nervously, and then joked lamely, "I've always thought middle school teachers should get combat pay."

Kevin glanced over at her and nodded. "It's a difficult age group, but I think it's the most important."

"How so?" Richard asked, quirking an interested eyebrow.

"Because it's the age when most kids start making choices that could possibly change their lives, for better or worse. Yeah, it can be hard to deal with the attitudes and the budding hormones; really hard. Just the same, it's also the time when they really start thinking about their futures and what they may want to do or be," he said, shrugging his shoulders.

"I think some of my middle school teachers had the biggest impact on me," Rory told them. "Remember Mrs. Belmont?" she asked Lorelai.

"She was great, and she loved you," Lorelai said fondly.

"She's the one that made me fall in love with writing," Rory told Kevin. "I've always read a lot, but Mrs. Belmont was the one that made me really believe that I could write."

Kevin smiled warmly at Rory. "That's it. That's it exactly." He turned back to Richard and Emily and said, "There's a moment when you can see something click, when a student looks at you, and you know that they know that they finally get it. That's the best feeling in the world."

"I bet," Lorelai said encouragingly.

"You know, it's probably a lot more rewarding to do that in a public school than someplace like Chilton," Luke said slowly. When Rory turned to him questioningly, Luke shrugged. "Chilton was full of kids like you, right? Academically minded, they already have a plan, right?"

"True," Rory conceded.

"I'm just saying that when you're teaching someplace that's not as competitive, you have a better chance of making a real impact on a kid," Luke argued.

Kevin smiled at Luke gratefully. "Yeah, it's great. Sometimes you get a kid that you think is nothing more than a little thug in training, and then you see that spark, that potential in them," he said enthusiastically.

"And you were there. You get to get them fired up," Luke concluded.


"I agree with Lorelai, though. I think you should get combat pay," Luke said dryly, raising his glass in a small toast.

"Thanks. I'll give you my principal's number."

Ellie let out a little squeal and started bouncing on Lorelai's lap, smiling at her older sister. "You think so, too, Ellie? Huh?" Rory laughed, getting up to scoop her baby sister off her mom's lap. "You think he should get combat pay? Maybe wear a flack jacket while he's at it?" she said as she tickled Ellie's stomach making her giggle. "Do ya, Jelly Belly Ellie?" she asked as she sat back down on the couch.

Kevin reached over and grabbed Ellie's hand, giving it a playful shake as Ellie continued to gurgle happily. "Hey, there, Cutie," he said, smiling down at the downy-haired little girl. "How'd ya get to be a blondie, huh" he murmured softly. "You're in a sea of dark-headed people," he chuckled, running his hand over Ellie's head.

"Oh, Luke was a blondie when he was little. Weren't you, Luke?" Lorelai said, winking at him. "He was a regular towhead, blond curlies and all," she said teasingly.

Luke rolled his eyes good naturedly. "Yep, my mom was a blond. Took after her, I suppose, 'til it darkened more like my dad's. My sister, Liz, she stayed blond, though."

"And you should see Liz's daughter, Doula," Rory added. "Most beautiful blond curls you've ever seen. So adorable."

Emily smiled as Rory bounced Ellie on her lap and Kevin entertained her with silly faces, earning a gummy smile from the little girl. "So, do you want children, Kevin?" Emily asked, putting her martini down.

Kevin shifted in his seat as he turned his attention to Emily. "Well, I, uh..." he stammered. "I haven't really thought about it."

"You haven't?" she pressed, her eyes never faltering. "A man who works with children on a daily basis? Surely you've thought of having your own."

"Well, I mean, sure, I want kids someday. But when the time is right. And when..."

"And when you find that special someone perhaps," she interrupted, raising an eyebrow.

"Oh! Mom, Dad, Luke and I are looking at a house tomorrow," Lorelai said, excitedly jumping in when she noticed Kevin reach for his collar and shift in his seat yet again.

"Where at?" Kevin asked as he relaxed back against the couch cushion silently mouthing a 'thank you' to Lorelai.

"Luke says it's about two miles out of town, that you take 74 towards Rockland."

"Luke says? You haven't seen it, Lorelai?" Richard asked.

"No, not yet. He was out trying to get Ellie to settle down and drove past," she explained. "He did show me a flier, though. The picture looked nice."

"You want to move? Move out of Stars Hollow?" Rory asked, finally chiming in, her voice cracking slightly as she busied herself with straightening Ellie's pant leg.

"Well, I'm pretty sure the house is in Stars Hollow, and if it's not it's really close. Besides, we're getting ahead of ourselves," Luke said, patting Lorelai's leg. "Your mom hasn't even seen it yet and I just saw it from the outside," he added, sipping his beer. "But it does look good. Big yard, all fenced in. Even has this giant oak with a tire swing on it," he chuckled, his eyes twinkling.

"Dinner is served, Mrs. Gilmore," the maid announced as she entered the room.

"Thank you, Rebecca. Shall we?"

Lorelai got up and reached for Ellie, taking her from Rory's arms. "That house sounds nice, doesn't it?" she said, smiling as she started towards the dining room.

Rory turned away slightly as her forehead furrowed, schooling her features before turning back to her mom. "Yeah, really nice."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Worn out from an overdose of adoration, Ellie dozed off in her car seat before they even reached the highway. The tires hummed along the asphalt and Lorelai stared into the inky darkness as they rolled steadily closer to home.

"What's with the tire swing?" she asked, breaking the silence.


"You keep bringing up the tire swing in the yard. Why? Did you have one when you were a kid?"

Luke shrugged and draped his hand over the top of the steering wheel. "No. I don't know. I guess I just liked the look of it."

"You want to buy a house because you like the way the swing in the yard looked?"

He shook his head and placed his hands carefully at ten and two o'clock on the wheel, gripping it tightly. "It's not the swing so much. I guess that I just like what it means."

"What does it mean?" When he cast a sidelong glance at her, Lorelai turned toward him in her seat. "No, I'm not giving you a hard time, I just want to understand."

Luke pursed his lips for a moment and then blew out a breath. "I just, I want her to have the kind of childhood where she has a tire swing. I want her to have that kind of Beaver Cleaver, Opie Taylor kind of childhood," he said slowly. "Kids today, they're always toting those little games around, or they sit parked at the TV—or worse, the computer—all day. I want her to have the kind of childhood where she goes out and plays."

Lorelai nodded slowly. "Okay, but you do understand that you just said you didn't want her to have a childhood ruled by television by referencing television characters?" she pointed out.

Luke shook his head in exasperation and stared intently through the windshield, clamping his mouth shut. The silence stretched between them for a moment, and then Lorelai asked, "So, while Ellie's being Beavopie Danes, do you see yourself as being more like Ward or Andy?"

"Forget it."

"No, seriously, I want to know. Tell me about this childhood you're envisioning," she said sincerely.

"I just, I want to push her in that swing," he blurted. "I want to walk down to the creek and listen to April explaining the different kinds of rocks they find, or see Ellie and Rory leaning up against that big oak tree reading a book." He glanced over at her, trying to gauge her reaction. "The screen door is the old kind with the wooden frame, the kind that slams really loud if you don't catch it. I want to hear her run through that door babbling at you a mile a minute. I want to yell 'Stop letting the screen door slam!' at her," he added with a wry smile.

Lorelai pressed her head against the headrest and smiled at him lovingly. "That sounds great."

"You'll understand when you see it," he said gruffly. "It just looks right. It looks like a home."

Lorelai nodded as she reached over and took his hand, wrapping her fingers around his and resting them on the console between them. "When I was little, I really wanted a tire swing," she confessed.


"Yeah." Her smile turned wistful as she said tiredly, "Of course, that would have wreaked havoc with my crinolines."

"Yeah, it would have."

"I would have killed for a tire swing and a pair of Toughskins jeans."

Luke gave her hand a squeeze, and then raised it to his lips, planting a soft kiss on the back of it. "I had Toughskins."

"Lucky," she sighed as she closed her eyes, a small, contented smile curving her lips.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

The radio played in the background, Kevin quietly humming to the music as Rory watched the scenery whiz past, both lost in their own thoughts. Pulling into the parking space, Kevin turned off the engine and shifted in his seat reaching for Rory's hand.

"Penny for your thoughts," he murmured.

"Oh, I think they're worth more than that, what with the economic climate being what it is," she joked halfheartedly.

"Want to talk about it?"

"Just stuff rattling around," she said, squeezing his hand. "Listen, Kevin, I want to apologize for my grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Pit Bull Gilmore," she chucked softly rolling her eyes. "If it wasn't my grandpa telling you to get a higher degree, it was my grandma grilling you about kids. I really am sorry about that."

"You kidding? Every Christmas my grandmother in Brazil asks me when I'm going to find a nice girl and settle down and have many babies." He smirked. "I think it's universal. Your grandparents weren't that bad. I can tell they're just interested in what's best for you. I think that's universal too," he said, stroking her cheek. "Well, since we seem to be apologizing, even though you have no reason to," he added. "I'd like to apologize to you as well."

"Apologize for what?" she asked, puzzled.

"Apologize for pushing the moving in bit. I didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable. I understand if it's something you don't want to do," he said as he leaned forward and gently kissed Rory. Pulling back slightly, he whispered, "We can just keep doing what we've been doing."

"It's not that I don't want to move in with you, it's just that I'm worried we're moving too fast. I don't want to screw this up," she confessed. "It's a big step."

"It is," he agreed.

"But looks like big steps are in the air," she sighed softly, sitting back in her seat.

"What do you mean?" he asked, concerned by her sad tone.

"It's stupid really. I don't know why, but it just kind of threw me when Mom said they were going to go look at that house. I mean, here I am, I haven't lived there in like forever, and yet the thought of them selling it makes me really sad."

"That's because it's home." He nodded knowingly.

"Well, maybe it's time to really make a home for myself here," she murmured. Taking a breath she asked, "Let's just say we did this, where would we live?"

"I don't know. What do you say we go upstairs and talk about it?" he asked, running his hand over her head before getting out and going around to open her door.

"See, now that's what I'm talking about. Upstairs is very vague. Is it upstairs to your place or mine?" she teased, running her fingers down the front of his shirt.

Kevin looked deeply into her eyes. "Hmm, I really should try to get my money's worth on my place," he said, pretending to weigh his options.

"I have ice cream in my fridge," she said, kissing the side of his neck.

Kevin closed his eyes, savoring her touch. "My TV's bigger," he countered.

"My bed's warm and soft, "she whispered in his ear. "Remember?"

Kevin let out a hearty laugh before grabbing Rory's hand and rushing to the front door of the building. "Sold."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

The Saturday morning rush was on at Luke's Diner. Lorelai shoveled a tiny spoon into Ellie's gaping mouth as Luke zipped around the dining room. "Mmm. I wish Daddy would give me some mashed bananas. You're the luckiest girl."

"That can be arranged," Luke said as he passed nearby.

"He's too literal sometimes," she told Ellie in a conspiratorial tone. "The good thing about all this drool is that she's self-cleaning," she said to Luke as he passed again.

"We need to get something to put on her chin and neck; she's getting a rash," Luke said as he started a round of refills at her table.

"A little Vaseline will do the trick, won't it?" Lorelai said as she fed Ellie another spoonful.

"Hello, all!" Taylor called as he swung through the door.

"Hey, Taylor," Lorelai said distractedly.

"There she is," Taylor said, beaming down at Ellie.

Lorelai did a double take and then flashed a puzzled smile. "Yeah, here she is."

Luke shot Taylor a suspicious look as he slipped into a chair at the table next to Lorelai and Ellie's. "Chances are she's gonna be with one of us," he said gruffly. "What'll you have?"

"Ham and cheese omelet and wheat toast, please," Taylor answered with a jovial smile.

"Be right up," Luke said, keeping his eyes trained on Taylor as he backed away.

"Ah, Lorelai," Taylor said, smiling paternally at Ellie. "She is a beauty."

"Thanks, Taylor, we like her. Don't we, Smelly Ellie?" she asked playfully as she gathered another spoonful of banana.

"Stop calling her that," Luke growled as he bustled past them. "She doesn't smell."

"He wasn't saying that this morning, was he, Señorita Poopypants?"

When Ellie smiled broadly, there was almost a collective sigh from the tables around them. Lorelai beamed as she looked up at Luke, and then flinched when she was blinded by a flash. "Agh!"

"What the hell?" Luke asked, whirling toward Taylor's table. "Did you just take a picture of my kid?"

"My eyes!" Lorelai cried dramatically.

"Gimme the camera," Luke demanded.

Taylor tucked the camera into his cardigan pocket. "What's the big deal, Luke? People take pictures of babies all of the time."

"Yeah, their own babies," Lorelai retorted.

"Give me the camera," Luke repeated, enunciating each word.

"I will not," Taylor huffed.

"Taylor, this is just weird," Lorelai said in a more conciliatory tone.

"Why is it so weird?" he asked defensively.

"Give me the damn camera," Luke said through gritted teeth.

"Why do you want a picture of Ellie now, anyway? She's all drooly and banana-y," Lorelai pointed out.

"I'll turn you upside down and shake you," Luke said as he leaned on Taylor's table menacingly.

"Now, Luke," Taylor said as he began to rise from his chair. "There's no need to threaten violence." He slipped away from Luke and began edging toward the door.

"Not so fast," Lorelai said as she sprang from her chair and blocked the door. "What are you planning to do with that picture?"

"Planning to do with it?" he asked innocently.

Lorelai's eyes narrowed. "I haven't forgotten the Ice Cream Queen, Taylor," she said suspiciously.

"You are not putting Ellie on a poster," Luke said as he stepped up, boxing Taylor in on the other side.

"It's not a poster!" Taylor said quickly, holding up both hands to ward them off.

"It's not?" Lorelai asked skeptically. "Fliers? Brochures? One of those freaky cardboard things that tourists stick their faces in?"

"It's a full color foam core display!" Taylor blurted.

"What?" Luke demanded.

"I want Ellie to be the face of my new line of organic and environmentally-friendly baby products," Taylor explained quickly. "Children are our future. Ellie is the future of Stars Hollow."

"And we will teach her well and let her lead the way," Lorelai said brusquely. "But don't you think you should have just asked me or Luke first?"

"I would have asked, but you've been so busy lately that I've only seen Luke and we both know that Luke wouldn't listen, no matter how good the idea," Taylor said derisively.

"Give me the camera," Luke growled.

Taylor huffed and then pulled the camera from his pocket. "Honestly, Lorelai, I expected this kind of kneejerk reaction from Luke, but not from you," he muttered as he held up the camera to let them watch as he deleted the picture he had snapped of Ellie drooling mashed banana down her chin. "It wasn't a good shot anyway."

"Get out, Taylor!" Luke bellowed.

"You can cancel my omelet," Taylor said in a haughty tone as he opened the door.


Taylor sniffed as he shook his head sadly. "It's a shame that she isn't more photogenic," he tsked.

"Not photogenic!" Lorelai gasped.

"Don't," Luke barked.

"She's insanely photogenic! I have tons and tons of pictures where she'd knock your socks off, Taylor!"

"Lorelai, no," Luke said as he grasped her arm.

"Really? May I see them?" Taylor asked ingratiatingly.

Lorelai's eyes widened as she realized that she had almost been taken in. "No! Get out, Taylor!"

"Fine," he grumbled and then hurried down the step, beating a path to the market.

Luke scowled as Lorelai gaped at him. "He just got the one, right?" he asked.

"She's incredibly photogenic," Lorelai argued.

Luke rolled his eyes and ushered her back to her seat. "She's the country's next mega model," he assured her.

"America's Next Top Model," Lorelai muttered as she plopped into the chair and frowned at Ellie's smeared face. Ellie broke into a beaming smile as her eyes lit on her mother, and Lorelai's frown immediately turned upside down. "Taylor's nuts," she whispered to her baby. "Want some more banana?"

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Rory rolled over on her side and flung one arm out, but instead of warm snuggly man, she found only cool, rumpled sheets. With a frown, she sat up, pushing her hair back out of her eyes and blinking into the early morning sunlight that streamed through her window. Just as she moved to throw the covers back, she heard a thump and then a muttered expletive right outside her bedroom door.

She slipped from the bed and crossed to the door, pulling it open to reveal Kevin standing bare-chested in the hallway, a plate heaped with eggs and toast with a mug of coffee balanced in the center in one hand, and a similar plate featuring a tall glass of orange juice in the other.

"What's this?" she asked, grinning as she stepped back to let him into the bedroom.

"Breakfast," he mumbled as she carefully relieved him of the plate she assumed was hers by the oversized coffee mug.

"For me?" she cooed. "You are so sweet."

"I forgot that I shut the door so I wouldn't wake you," he said as he followed her back to the bed. Kevin placed his glass of orange juice on the floor beside the bed and then crawled back in next to her. "It almost proved to be my undoing. I'll have to ask Luke how he carries all those plates."

Rory grinned as she balanced her plate on her lap. "Oh, managing plates the way Luke does is like getting to Carnegie Hall. It takes practice; lots and lots of practice. Lane still hasn't perfected it." She frowned at her plate, and seeing that there was no fork, she used a piece of buttered toast to scoop up some eggs.

Kevin shook his head. "Luke wouldn't forget forks either, would he? Be right back."

Rory placed her hand on his arm to still him, and then stroked the soft golden-brown hair. "Luke cheats. The silverware is already on the tables and he brings the drinks first. This works," she insisted as she took a huge bite of her egg-covered toast and chewed happily.

Kevin smiled and then followed suit, pushing some of his eggs up onto a slice of his own toast. When he took a bite, Rory swallowed and said, "See?" She took a sip of her coffee and then hummed appreciatively as she cradled the mug in both hands. "You're very handy to have around."

"I thought you just wanted me for my body," Kevin answered with a mouthful of food.

Rory froze for a moment, and then turned to look at him, suddenly serious. "I want you for so much more than that. You know that, right?" When Kevin nodded and gulped his food down, she sighed. "I'm a little scared. Things have been so good, and I want them to be good," she said. "I guess I just move a little more slowly than you do. I don't want to get in too deep too fast, you know?"

Kevin wet his lips and tried to give her a reassuring smile as he nodded. Staring into her bright blue eyes, his smile turned rueful as he said, "I think it may be too late for me."

Rory sucked in a sharp breath and then set her coffee cup on the bedside table. She turned back to him with a brilliant smile. "You have no idea how happy that makes me," she said softly.


Pressing her lips together, she nodded quickly. Reaching out to brush her fingertips over his scruffy cheek, she whispered, "I could get used to this."

Kevin caught her hand and brought it to his lips. "You mean that?"

"Oh yeah."

"Do you want to get used to it?" Rory nodded slightly, an impish grin curving her lips, and Kevin showed her his own version of that brilliant smile. He turned her hand over and pressed a soft kiss to her palm, his eyes locked on her. "Your place or mine?" he asked teasingly.

"My couch is better."

"Yeah, but your water pressure sucks."

"It's your lease that's up," she argued.

"True, but we could do a full lease on my place and sublease yours now," Kevin said as he leaned down to place his plate on the floor.

"That makes no sense."

"Neither does keeping two apartments, but we've been doing that too."

"What are you doing?" she asked as he took her plate from her lap and leaned across her to slide it onto the nightstand.

"I'll make you more later," he promised.

Rory smiled as she wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him down on top of her. "Your place smells like socks," she whispered as he leaned in.

Kevin kissed her tenderly, his lips clinging to hers as he pulled back and opened his eyes. "Soon yours will too. Part of the package, take it or leave it," he said in a low, raspy voice.

"I'll take it," Rory answered, her fingers slipping up into his hair as she pulled him back down and sealed the deal with a kiss.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Luke carried Ellie in the Snuggli, grimacing each time she dug a tiny heel into his gut, and smiling as she waved her arms excitedly. "Yeah? You like it?" he asked as he followed Lorelai into a small, empty bedroom.

Lorelai stood at the window and peered up at the giant oak tree that shaded the house. Her eyes traveled down the trunk and came to rest on the single tire swing that hung from one thick limb. "It would be cool if you could build some kind of window seat," she murmured as she looked down at the chipped paint on the old wooden window sill.

"Window seat?" he asked, moving further into the room.

"The windows would need to be replaced. They aren't energy efficient," Kirk chimed in as he hovered in the hallway. "The house on Poplar, that has all new windows, the kind that you can tilt in to clean."

"You know, like a bench with maybe some kind of cabinet or hidey-hole in the bottom. Someplace she can hide her diary and contraband copies of Judy Blume's dirty books," Lorelai said to Luke.

Luke scowled. "Dirty books?"

"Every kid needs a hidey-hole. Where did you stash your Playboys?" she said with a shrug.

"Under the mattress like any normal kid," Luke grumbled as Lorelai opened the closet door.

"The closets are really small," Kirk said dismissively.

"Eh, you put some of those organizer shelves in there and it'll be fine," Lorelai said as she closed the door. She smiled as Ellie gave her father another swift kick to the stomach and then caught one flailing fist. Lorelai smooched her baby's fingers loudly and then asked, "What do you think? You like it?"

"The paint might have lead in it. I'd have to check the disclosures a little more closely," Kirk told them as Lorelai wandered from the room with Luke close on her heels.

Lorelai paused in the doorway to the hall bath, and frowned at the aquamarine tile that climbed halfway up the wall. "I can't decide if it's hideous or retro," she murmured.

"We can redo all of that, it's just cosmetic," Luke reminded her.

Lorelai stepped back and cocked her head, still studying the tile. "Retro, I think," she concluded.

"That new house, the one on Mango?" Kirk said excitedly. "It has that new shower board stuff behind all of the tile, the kind that is mold resistant. You have to watch out for mold; these older houses are practically mold factories. Something to do with bad ventilation, I think," he said as he trailed them into the last bedroom.

Luke stood back as Lorelai turned in a slow circle in the middle of the room and then smiled and shrugged. Kirk pressed himself up against the wall as they left the room and headed for the stairs.

"Well, they did a nice job of updating the master bedroom and bath," Lorelai commented as they trooped back down the stairs.

"Yeah, I liked it," Luke agreed.

When they reached the main floor, Lorelai paused and Luke moved past her, heading back to the kitchen once again. This time Lorelai followed him, pressing her chin to his shoulder as he stood looking at the tiled counters and backsplash that looked eerily like the ones in the Crap Shack.

"You like it?" she asked quietly.

Luke looked down at the worn linoleum under their feet and then nodded. "Reminds me of my mom's kitchen. And ours, kind of."

"It is kind of like ours," she said as she stepped out from behind him to take the room in again.

"Floor would have to be replaced," Luke said as he turned in a circle, eying the linoleum with distaste.

"Yeah, that could be a problem," Kirk said anxiously. When Luke looked up at him, he shrugged and said, "Asbestos. They used it all the time back in the day. You have to have a HazMat crew come in to get it out."

"We're not in any hurry," Lorelai said as she unlocked the back door.

She yanked hard on the old, solid wood door, and then smiled as she looked out at the backyard. Flipping the latch on the screen door, she pushed through it, holding it open for Luke and Ellie to follow her out onto the weather-worn back porch. When the screen door slammed hard behind Kirk, she turned and smiled over her shoulder at Luke.

He shook his head sheepishly and then walked down the steps into the yard, eying the porch critically as Lorelai and Kirk followed.

Kirk turned and pursed his lips. "That would have to be replaced. Not that it would do you much good. There are probably foundation problems."

Cradling Ellie's head, Luke squatted down and peered under the porch. He shook his head and said, "No. Whoever rebuilt this didn't get the supports in the right spots."

Kirk blew out a breath and shook his head sadly. "Yeah, there's a ton of work that would need to be done before anyone would want to move in here."

Straightening up, Luke turned in a slow circle and then made his way around the side of the house, his eyes scanning along the foundation. "Looks pretty solid," he said as Lorelai caught up to them. "We'd need to have Tom or someone inspect it more closely."

Lorelai nodded as she walked over to the oak tree that dominated the yard and leaned up against its massive trunk, looking up into the tangle of bare branches above her head.

Kirk shivered as the wind kicked up. "Hey, there's a new subdivision going up between here and Woodbury," he said encouragingly. "Lots of families with young kids. I hear they are even planning their own park. That would be a lot better for Ellie than having Carson's Creek running through your back yard," he said derisively.

"I like the creek," Luke said gruffly.

"It's dangerous!" Kirk retorted. "Children drown in creeks!"

"There's a fence around the yard," Luke reminded him.

"This new subdivision, Nutmeg Nook? They plan to have neighborhood block parties every month," Kirk told Lorelai.

"I'm not baking Toll House bars for any stupid block party," Luke growled, shielding Ellie from the wind with his body.

"Mmm, Toll House cookie bars," Lorelai murmured as she wandered over to the tire swing and gave it a push.

"There's not nearly enough counter space in this kitchen to do any real baking. Mother always said that you needed adequate counter space to be able to bake really well," Kirk said, panic raising his voice.

Luke whirled on him. "What's the deal, Kirk? Why don't you want to sell us this house?" he snapped.

"What? Oh, no! I'm just trying to keep you from making a huge mistake!"

"Cut the crap, Kirk. There is nothing wrong with this house that can't easily fixed," Luke snarled. "What's the problem, or are you just trying to jerk my chain again like you did with the Twickham house?"

Lorelai cocked her head as she stared at the two men facing off over a house once again. "Do you want to buy this house, Kirk?"

Kirk stared at them both wide-eyed, his mouth working, but no sound was coming out. Finally, he blurted, "Lulu's pregnant! We're having a baby, and yes, I want this house. This house is perfect for a family and you guys already have a great house! You're just being greedy!"

Luke reared back. "Greedy?"

"Lulu's pregnant?"

"Yes and yes," Kirk answered petulantly.

"Kirk, that's great!" Lorelai said as she grabbed Kirk's arm and shook it. "You guys are having a baby! That's really great. See? I told you that your biological clock wouldn't run out of time."

Kirk turned to look at her with a stunned expression. "We're having a baby," he murmured. "Lulu and I are having a baby!" he cried as if the news had just sunk in. He threw his arms around Lorelai and hugged her tightly, rocking back and forth before releasing her abruptly and sending her reeling.

When he turned to Luke with his arms flung wide, Luke wrapped his arms around Ellie protectively and growled, "Watch it."

"So, you want to buy this house?" Lorelai asked, disappointment coloring her voice as she looked up at the house longingly.

Kirk shrugged and said, "We're going to need a house, and this is one of the few in the area that I can afford."

"Afford?" Luke asked.

"Yeah. The newer houses are going for a lot more than this one. I figured that we could have the work done on it a little at a time."

"You have more money than God," Luke said, incredulous. "You tried to buy the Twickham house out from under me. In cash," he pointed out.

Kirk rubbed his hand over his chin as he winced. "Well, I made a bad investment," he admitted.

"You lost over a quarter of a million dollars on one investment?" Luke scoffed.

"Well, not all of it. Some of it went into that house I flipped. I still have about fifty grand left," he said defensively.

"Fifty grand? You lost over two hundred thousand dollars?"

"Mother made me do it! She said that my brother Steven needed that money to build his pyramid, and I thought it would be cool to own part of a pyramid."

"Pyramid?" Lorelai asked with a befuddled frown.

"And people travel from all over to the world to see the ones in Egypt, so I thought it would be great to have one here in Connecticut, but it turns out that they didn't actually build a pyramid," he explained.

"Oh, Kirk," Lorelai sighed.

"It's just as well. I think that the contractors they planned to use weren't very good. Mother said the whole thing fell apart like a house of cards before it really got off the ground. That would have been bad," he said solemnly. "What if people were trapped in there?"

"Jeez, Kirk," Luke muttered as he turned away.

"Anyway, that's why I wanted the extra job at the diner. I need to save up some money. Lulu and I are having a baby!" he shouted to the sky holding his arms out as he turned in a circle.

"Hey, Kirk?" Lorelai called to get his attention.

"Huh?" he said as he stumbled to a stop.

"I think Luke and I want to put an offer in on this house," she said gently.

"We do?" Luke asked, surprised.

"It would have some contingencies," Lorelai continued, placing her hand on Luke's arm and smiling at him. When he returned her smile, she nodded happily and turned her attention back to Kirk. "You'd earn the commission on this sale, and if it would help, Luke and I will give you the listing on our house."

"We will?" Luke grunted.

"Really?" Kirk asked hopefully.

"Yes, we will," Lorelai said firmly.

"But we want it to sell," Luke muttered.

"I can sell it," Kirk said excitedly. "It's a great house; it'll definitely sell."

"Sound like a good deal?" Lorelai asked Kirk.

"Are you kidding me? It sounds like a great deal!" he said as he moved to hug her again.

Lorelai backed away quickly, holding out her hand to shake. Kirk pumped Lorelai's hand enthusiastically and then turned and grabbed Luke's. "You don't know what this means to me. Those late hours at the arcade were killing me. I can't Dance-Dance like I used to. My knees are shot," he babbled as he shook Lorelai's hand again. Luke tucked both of his hands behind his back as Kirk reached for his again. "You won't regret it," he assured them both sincerely.

"We'd better not," Luke mumbled under his breath.

"I have to go tell Lulu!" he said as he turned and ran toward Lorelai and Luke's car.

Luke smirked as he pulled Lorelai closer to him. "I guess we're done here."

Lorelai took his hand and pulled him toward the driveway, giving the tire swing one last push as they passed. Flashing a brilliant smile over her shoulder, she said, "I think we're just starting."



To be continued... 




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