Episode 9.02 "Cabin Fever"
by Mag1 and sosmitten


Authors' Note: Thanks to all of the readers for embracing this new season so whole heartedly. Special thanks to our head writers, Robinpoppins and Jewels12 for all of their hard work in putting this season together, and to Lula Bo and wounded for their mad beta skills, eagle-eyes, and infinite patience. We had such a good time writing this episode, and we hope that you enjoy reading it half as much.

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"Oh God, I'm late," Lorelai cried, hurrying through the front door. "Luke! Rory! Please tell me you're almost ready. Emily is just going to have to deal with me as I am," she called as she rushed to the foot of the stairs.

"Yeah," Luke called back.

"Almost ready," Rory confirmed from her bedroom.

"What a day! Hey, can you bring down my black patent leather slingbacks?" Lorelai called up to Luke as she kicked off the shoes she was wearing and glanced down at her dress. "Luckily, I didn't have time to eat today, so I couldn't spill anything on myself," she muttered. "Man, why couldn't they keep that rental for a longer time, I am so not ready for this."

"What did you want?" Luke called down the stairs.

"My slingbacks!" Lorelai answered.

"What are slingbacks?" Luke asked in an exasperated tone.

"Shoes!" Lorelai yelled as she rummaged through her purse. "Shiny black ones, high heels, open toe with a strap that goes around my heel," she called back as she pulled a tube of mascara from her bag and held it up triumphantly. "They're the ones that make your nostrils flare," she called over her shoulder as she turned toward the kitchen. Lorelai stopped and turned back toward the staircase and yelled, "And my dangly heart necklace!"

"Which one? You have ten thousand necklaces!"

"On my dresser, thin silver necklace with the little heart that dangles down," she replied as she headed for the kitchen. "Man, I'm starving. I need something to eat or I'm never going to make it through drinks," Lorelai said to no one in particular as she walked into the kitchen. Still speaking loudly, she rummaged through the cabinets. "I haven't eaten since my Pop Tart this morning. Ooh! A Pop Tart should do it," she said as she pulled the box from the cabinet and plucked a package out of it. She tore it open with her teeth and then dropped them into the toaster and pushed the lever down. "This spa thing is incredible," she called to Rory. "I hate to admit it, but my mother was right. We're getting bookings from all over the place," she said as she bent over and began applying a fresh coat of mascara using the toaster as a mirror.

"Cool," Rory answered from her bedroom.

"It is cool, but man, it was a crazy day," Lorelai said as she quickly screwed the tube of mascara closed. "We have this big bridal luncheon thing coming up. They booked all of the spa services for the whole morning, and then they're having a luncheon." She tugged at the skirt of her dress to straighten it. "I spent all day going back and forth with them. First they needed the time moved up because that was the only day the bride could get in for her final fitting. So after we rearranged all of the spa treatments, I had to tell Sookie that lunch would be an hour earlier and that the menu had changed. Again," Lorelai added as she tore off a paper towel and dropped the warmed Pop Tarts onto it.

"Uh oh," Rory commented through the closed door.

"Well, yeah. After I spent five minutes holding the paper bag for her to breathe into, I finally pried it out of her that she had never actually made that many of the mini chocolate soufflés all at one time, which she browbeat me into adding to the event menu, by the way." She shook her head in disbelief. "So now she's having panic attacks because the timing has to be just right for them," Lorelai explained as she broke off a hunk of a Pop Tart and shoved it into her mouth.

As she chewed, Luke walked into the room dressed in his gray suit, holding the patent leather pumps she had requested in one hand and with the silver necklace dangling from his other hand. "Soufflés can be tricky like that," he said as he came to a stop in front of her. He held his hands up and asked, "These, right?"

Lorelai smiled as she took the straps of the shoes from one and said, "Perfect." She placed the Pop Tarts on the table and braced one hand on his arm as she lifted her left foot and slipped the shoe on.

When she shifted to do the right side, Luke said sternly, "You need to take time to eat, no matter how busy you are."

"It'll calm down," Lorelai assured him. She glanced at the necklace still dangling from his fingers and gave him a flirty smile as she reached up to lift her hair. "Put it on for me?"

Luke fought back a smile of his own as he grumbled, "You know I'm no good at this," and began to fumble with the clasp.

Lorelai's smile widened as he reached to drape the necklace around her throat and she leaned into him. "Hi," she said softly.

"Hey," Luke answered as he secured the necklace and then gave her shoulders a gentle pat.

Lorelai turned to face him, smiled as she settled the necklace against her collarbone, and trailed along the drop that nestled into the deep vee of her dress. "Welcome to Happy Valley," she said as he watched his eyes follow her fingers.

"Stop that," he grumbled as he took a quick step back from her.

"Can't help myself," she said with a shrug. "Such a handsome man," she purred as she reached up to brush some imaginary lint from his lapel and then began to straighten the knot of his tie. She caught herself and immediately lifted her hands as she said, "Oh my, I'm turning into Emily Gilmore."

Luke caught her hands and said in a low voice, "I like it. Not the turning into your mother part, but this," he corrected quickly. He gave her a meaningful stare as he lifted her hands to his lips and placed a small kiss just above her wedding rings.

"Let's not go," she said in a breathy voice. "Your face is flushed, you have a fever."

Luke's eyebrows quirked as he asked, "Fever? Maybe..."

Without thinking Lorelai swayed into him, lifting her lips for a kiss. Just as Luke's lips touched hers, Rory's door opened and she gasped.

"Oh, sorry!" Rory said and quickly stepped back, closing the door between them again.

Luke jumped back, releasing Lorelai's hands and shoving his own into his pants pockets as he cleared his throat and asked, "You ready?"

Lorelai smiled at the color that flamed in his cheeks and called, "Rory, all clear!"

Rory opened her door again, her cheeks as red as Luke's as she said, "We need a signal," and hurried for the front door.

Lorelai smirked as she scooped the paper towel holding her Pop Tarts up off of the table and called, "Hey, how about, 'Rory! He's kissing me again!'  Would that work?" she asked as she followed her daughter to the front door.

Luke drew in a long, deep breath as he turned to follow her and muttered, "Aw, geez."

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Lorelai shifted on the bench seat of the truck, moving a little closer to Luke to give Rory more room. "If you had told me that you were almost out of gas I would have filled the tank for you," Luke grumbled.

Lorelai smiled as she glanced at Rory and said, "My husband takes such good care of me."

"Apparently not good enough," Luke muttered. He peeked over at Rory smashed against the door and said, "Sorry, Rory."

"It's no big deal," Rory said quickly.

"Figures that I would pick the day that your car is in the shop to forget to fill up," Lorelai said as she rolled her eyes.

"What's the matter with your car?" Luke asked.

"Oh, nothing, just time for the service check-up," Rory said dismissively.

"Uh oh," Lorelai murmured softly.

Luke leaned forward to stare over at Rory incredulously and asked, "You take your car to the dealer to be serviced?"

"Eyes on the road, eyes on the road," Lorelai said as she pointed to the windshield, hoping to head off a pre-Friday night dinner rant.

"That's what the manual says to do," Rory answered defensively.

Luke snorted and said, "Of course it does, that way they can fleece you for more money. Taking your car to the dealer to be serviced is a rip off," he insisted.

"Eyes on the road, hands at ten and two," Lorelai said quickly. "That's what they taught us in Driver's Ed. Of course, when I took Driver's Ed, I had a hard time buckling the seat belt over you, Missy," she mused as she elbowed Rory and laughed.

Rory rolled her eyes. "You wouldn't have been that big."

"When your car needs service, you tell me. I'll take care of it," Luke said firmly.

"But it's a hybrid. I don't think it works the same way as regular cars," Rory protested.

"Yeah, and you have a hard time keeping your wife's tank full, so you can't really be trusted, can you?" Lorelai mocked.

Luke turned to glare at her and then said to Rory, "If I can't figure it out, I'll get help. Just don't throw your money away like that."

"My husband, he's so strong and domineering. It makes me feel all twitterpated," Lorelai said in a high girly voice.

Rory smirked and joined in saying, "Yes, and so manly, with the car talk and stuff."

Lorelai sighed as she wrapped her hand around his arm, laid her head against his shoulder and cooed, "My husband."

"Is trying to drive," Luke growled.

"Hey, Mom, you want to go see Baby Mama this weekend?" Rory asked. "I'm sure it's not going to be in theaters much longer, so if we don't go soon, it'll have to be moved to the DVD rental list."

"Hmm, this weekend?" Lorelai asked with a frown. "That bridal thing is on Sunday, so I'll have to work tomorrow, at least for a little while," she said slowly.

Rory shrugged and said, "Well, we can go tomorrow night."

Lorelai nodded slowly. "We could. I'd have to ask my husband if we have any plans," she added, a slow smile creeping across her lips. She turned to Luke in time to see him roll his eyes and asked, "Husband? Do you and I have any plans this Saturday night?"

Luke snorted and said sarcastically, "Other than the married couples bowling league I signed us up for this morning? No."

"Ooh! Bowling? Do we get to wear matching shirts?"

Luke shrugged and said, "Of course, otherwise, what's the point?"

Lorelai beamed at him and then turned back to Rory as she said, "I might be bowling tomorrow night."

Luke cut his eyes toward them and said, "Enjoy your movie."

Lorelai gasped, pressing her free hand to her heart as she asked in a hurt tone, "No married people bowling?"

"Only if they're standin' in for the pins," Luke muttered.

"No shirts?" Lorelai asked plaintively.

"Not if you paid me," Luke answered.

"But Luke..." Lorelai started to whine.

Luke leaned forward and said to Rory, "I'll even buy the popcorn."

Lorelai's face brightened as she asked, "You're coming with us?"

"To see Baby Mama? I doubt that," Luke said dryly.

"How about if we go to see the new Indiana Jones movie?" Lorelai said hopefully.

"Is that out yet?" Rory asked, disinterested.

"No, you guys go see your movie," Luke said quickly. "I'll be fine at home with a ballgame and your nutty dog," he insisted.

"Our nutty dog," Lorelai corrected with a grin.

"You know what? I'm sure that Baby Mama isn't worth the price of admission," Rory said with a dismissive wave.

"Hey, maybe we can rent a movie and have a family movie night," Lorelai said excitedly. "Would you like that?" she asked Rory as she nodded her head encouragingly. Rory's smile was tight as she nodded her agreement, but Lorelai was oblivious as she turned to Luke. She squeezed his arm as she asked, "Would you like that, husband of mine?"

Luke shrugged and said, "Sure, whatever."

"See? My husband said, 'Sure, whatever.' That means he'd love to have a movie night with us," Lorelai told Rory. "You see, we're married now, so I can read his mind," she said with a smug smile.

"Can you read it now?" Luke grumbled.

"Yes," Lorelai answered smartly.

"Apparently not very well, or you'd be moving over and giving me a little room to drive," Luke said with a heavy sigh.

Lorelai scooted back toward Rory slightly and turned to smile at her as she said, "My husband is just crazy about me."

"Or just crazy," Rory answered soberly.

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Lorelai poked at her salad dubiously, unearthing a frightening variety of greens sprinkled with an unfamiliar selection of vegetables.

"Is there something wrong with your salad, Lorelai?" Her mother's voice had that forced patience people usually directed toward children.

"Whatever happened to regular salad?" Lorelai asked.

"I can assure you that your salad is quite ordinary," Emily answered in a clipped voice.

"There's a piece of lettuce I'm pretty sure could cause serious bodily harm." She held up a finger. "Wait! I'll find it."

"Lorelai, honestly!"

"Aha! Here it is." Lorelai held up the offending leaf, stabbed on the tines of her fork. "See? He-Man better watch out, Skeletor's coming to get him." She demonstrated with her free hand, earning an eye-roll from Luke and only the barest of smirks from Rory.

Emily sighed wearily.

"And what is this?" Lorelai went on, picking up an unidentifiable white chunk. "Whatever happened to tomatoes and cucumbers?"

"Tomatoes and cucumbers are not yet in season. That," Emily nodded toward the vegetable Lorelai held carefully between her fingers, "is a salad turnip. They have such a wonderful delicate flavor. And the radishes are wonderful right now too."

"Turnips? Radishes?" She wrinkled her nose. "Since when have you ever cared what is in season?"

Emily sniffed. "Sookie recommended a delightful farmer's market. Hilda's been going a couple of times a week. It's organic," she added.

"Well, if it's organic..." Lorelai said sardonically.

"Well, you do know what those pesticides do to your body, don't you?"

"Oh, for cripes sakes, not you too! Don't you think that I get enough of that from him?" She flung her arm toward Luke and in the process splattered him with a few drops of vinaigrette.

"God forbid someone tries to look out for your well-being," Luke muttered, wiping his face discreetly with his napkin.

Lorelai ignored him and turned to her father. "Does she do this skeleton greens and turnip thing all the time or is this a special thing just to torture us?"

"Your mother has been experimenting with locally grown produce quite often recently."

"And are you enjoying this little culinary adventure?"

"Well, I've always liked radishes," Richard answered diplomatically.

Emily interrupted him before he could continue. "Lorelai, how are things going with the spa?"

It took her a moment to process the change in topic. "It's great, Mom. We're almost back to pre-renovation occupancy and the spa is getting busier each week."

"Have you had a chance to talk to Harriet Culpepper?"

Lorelai's forehead wrinkled in consternation. "Harriet Culpepper? That must have slipped my mind. Who is she again?"

Emily let out a frustrated huff. "She's the secretary of the DAR."

Lorelai stared at her mother in confusion and when no further explanation followed, she asked, "Yes. And?"

Another exasperated sigh followed. "We talked about offering special spa services to members if the monthly meetings were held at the Dragonfly. I must say, I expected more follow through from you."

"That was an idea for the future. It's barely been a month. How about you let us get settled in first and I'll call Mrs. Picklepepper when I get a chance?"

"Culpepper," Emily corrected sharply.

"Whatever. Look, Mom," Lorelai put down her fork, "it's been a little crazy. We're getting a lot more small events: bridal showers and retirement parties. It's good. It's why we expanded, but coordinating the events is more complicated than I expected."

Emily set down her wine glass and looked up knowingly. "I thought you said it was going well."

"It is," Lorelai insisted. "We're just working out the kinks."

"She's running herself ragged," Luke said quietly from behind her.

She turned and fixed him with a glare. "It's fine."

"It wouldn't kill you to hire someone. You can't keep this up."

Emily raised her eyebrow. "You're planning to hire someone?"

Lorelai glanced back at her husband accusingly, then eyed her mother. "There are no plans."

"You mentioned that it might be helpful to have an event coordinator," Luke reminded her. It wasn't fair that he made it sound so reasonable.

"Maybe," she admitted. "As a possibility. In the future."

"The future is now, Mom. He's right," Rory added.

Lorelai glowered across the table at her traitorous offspring. "Great! Why don't you all run the inn for me?"

There was silence around the table for a moment, then Emily asked, "So you're thinking of hiring someone to work on events?"

"Ugh!" Lorelai threw up her hands in exasperation, then picked up her fork and gave an agitated stab at her salad. "Oh, look! A beet. Yum."

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"Now you know why I wasn't about to let your father take me to his barber for a shave," Luke grumbled as Johnny Depp sliced the throat of another victim. He shoved aside the bowls of candy and snacks that littered the coffee table and placed his Luke's to-go box in the space he had carved out.

"I love Johnny," Lorelai sighed happily as she popped another marshmallow into her mouth and sank her teeth into the sweet goodness.

"Already she's lookin'," Luke grumbled as he settled back into the couch and Lorelai curled up against him like a cat.

"Well, not in the same way that I love my husband," Lorelai said through stuffed cheeks as she rubbed his leg affectionately. She took a sip of her coffee as she swallowed and said, "Besides, I think Helena would mince me up and put me in a pie."

Rory shifted uncomfortably in the chair, watching out of the corner of her eye. She resolutely turned her attention back to the screen, absently tearing apart a french fry and dropping the pieces back into the open take-out box in her lap.

"Would you put this on the table for me, husband dearest?" Lorelai asked in sticky sweet voice as she handed the to-go cup to Luke and nodded to the end table. Once he had set the coffee aside, she reached for his left hand and began to run her thumb over his wedding band as she turned back to the movie.

A few minutes later, Luke looked down at her and said quietly, "I need to get up."

Lorelai scowled as she released his hand and said sternly, "Luke, you know the movie night rules."

"Yes, and you've already broken almost every one of them," Luke answered.

"I had to answer the phone," Lorelai said indignantly. "Sookie is barely hanging on by a thread."

Luke rolled his eyes. "What else is new?" he muttered as he started to stand up.

"Don't go!" Lorelai cried dramatically, making a grab for his hand. "Don't leave me, I can't be trusted! What if I throw myself at Johnny?"

"Make sure you get me the pie lady's phone number, we'll console each other," Luke said as he stepped over her feet and headed for the bathroom.

Lorelai turned to Rory and cocked her head as she asked, "You okay, Sweets?"

"I'm fine," Rory answered as she turned back to the screen.

"Can you believe he wouldn't care if I ran off with Johnny Depp?" Lorelai asked sadly.

"I think he would care," Rory said dryly as she closed the to-go box and set it on the floor next to the chair.

"This is nice, huh?" Lorelai asked, oblivious to Rory's discomfiture.

"Sure," Rory replied with a nod.

Lorelai looked over at her and said, "You're so far away. Don't you want to sit over here? There's plenty of room," she added as she gestured to the empty space at the opposite end of the couch.

"I'm good," Rory said with a slight shake of her head, feigning absorption in the movie as Lorelai shot her a worried glance.

When Luke came back down the stairs he asked, "Off anyone while I was gone?"

"Uh, no," Lorelai said as she looked at the screen and realized that she had been watching Rory more than the movie. Luke sat back down at the end of the sofa, and Lorelai immediately reclaimed her spot next to him. "I missed you," she whispered in his ear.

Luke glanced over at her, his eyes warm as he teased, "It's getting deep in here."

Lorelai tipped her chin up and said, "Mock all you want, I'm getting one of those Promise Keepers stickers for my car."

"The ones that say, 'I love my wife'?" Luke asked with a laugh.

"I'm getting you that one for the truck. I'm getting one that says how much I looooove my husband," Lorelai said, drawing the word out with relish.

"I always figured that those were for people who couldn't remember that was what they were supposed to do anyway," Luke said with a smirk.

Rory glanced in their direction and then started to stand up. "I think I'm gonna go read for a little while," she told them.

"Huh?" Luke asked as he looked up at her.

"But the movie isn't even half over," Lorelai protested.

"I just, uh, I guess my stomach is a little upset," Rory told them. "The blood," she added unconvincingly as she jerked her head toward the screen.

Luke's brow furrowed in concern as he asked, "You think you're getting sick?"

"No, no," Rory said as she glanced longingly toward her bedroom door.

"We can watch something else. I got the Chipmunks," Lorelai said enticingly as she pointed to the DVD cases atop the television.

"Maybe tomorrow night," Rory replied as she flashed them a quick smile and then started toward her room. She shut the door quietly, and then leaned back against it as she let out a sigh of relief. A moment later she pushed away from the door and began scanning the titles on her bookshelves, running her finger along the spines as she muttered, "No epic love stories." She pulled a worn copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe from the shelf and murmured, "Good choice," as she flopped down on her bed and turned on the reading lamp.

A few moments later she heard the rumble of Luke's low voice as the television was switched off, followed by her mother's giggle, and then two sets of footsteps on the stairs. Rory immediately rolled over, turned on her CD player. She scanned the room as the music began to blare, and smiled as she spotted her old Discman sitting on the top bookshelf. She got up, grabbed the headphones, shoved the jack into her stereo and rolled her eyes as she placed the headphones over her ears and leaned against the headboard once again. "It's just like living with Paris," Rory grumbled as she picked up her book and stared at the page intently.

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After spending an hour on the phone arranging a spa weekend for a group of sorority alumnae, Lorelai stepped out of her office to find the reception area abandoned. With a puzzled frown, she stepped into the parlor and then glanced up into the dining room, only to be met by the hostile stares of eight members of the bridal party that the inn was hosting. She blinked in surprise at the half empty banquet table, and cautiously made her way into the dining room. She smiled and said, "Hello. How were your treatments?"

"Fine, thank you," the mother of the groom responded in a carefully polite tone.

"Wonderful," Lorelai said, her smile slightly hesitant as she tried to figure out what was going wrong. "Well, I'm sure that the rest of your party will be out in a moment. I'll just go check with our chef. I know that she has prepared a fantastic luncheon for you," she said as she kept her smile plastered carefully in place and backed toward the kitchen door.

"Well, I guess I don't have to worry about smudging my manicure," a petulant blonde bridesmaid muttered just loud enough for Lorelai to hear. "We're never going to get to eat."

"I'm starving," the flower girl whined to the woman next to her.

Lorelai pushed through the kitchen door and almost took out two waiters hovering just inside. "Oops, sorry. What's going on here?" she asked, finding Michel and Sookie glaring at each other and the rest of the kitchen staff hovering idly just behind their leader.

"It's a disaster, that's what's going on!" Sookie cried, throwing her hands up in the air, and suddenly the kitchen erupted in a babble of voices.

"What? What's a disaster? Hold on! Slow down and one of you please tell me what's going on," she ordered.

"I don't even know where to start, the whole thing is ruined," Sookie said angrily as she crossed her arms over her chest.

"Trust me, I have time. It's gonna take a while to pull out all of the daggers those women were shooting at me out there," she said as she gestured to the door in frustration.

"The others are not done yet," Michel said with a very Gallic shrug.

"Not done yet?" Lorelai asked. She glanced at the clock and saw that the luncheon was already almost thirty minutes late. "How did this happen?" she demanded.

When Michel shrugged again in response, and Lorelai turned to see Sookie's face crumpling as she moaned, "The soufflés?!"

"Where's Tasha?" Lorelai asked Michel.

"Well, I can only assume that she is in the spa," Michel answered.

"Get her in here," Lorelai said through clenched teeth. When Michel left the room, Lorelai spun around and said to the kitchen staff, "Quick, get something for those people to nibble on while they wait. Chop some veggies, cheese and crackers, anything!" she ordered. Lorelai turned back to Sookie and asked, "What's the damage?"

"Everything else is fine, it's the soufflés that are the problem," she said as she wrung a dishtowel in her hands.

"I thought that you weren't going to start them until they were seated," Lorelai reminded her.

"Well, I hadn't, but they were seated," Sookie said as she gestured to the door helplessly. "How was I supposed to know that the rest of them weren't done yet?" she asked plaintively.

Lorelai pointed to the rows of ramekins lined up on the counter and asked, "What are those?"

"I poured the batter, but I haven't baked them yet," Sookie said worriedly.

"Good, well, okay then, they aren't baked," Lorelai said as she blew out a sigh of relief.

"But the batter, the egg whites, they're resting too long," Sookie whined.

"Can you make more batter?" Lorelai asked.

"I used the last of the imported bittersweet for those," Sookie said dejectedly. "The closest place to get more is Hartford."

"Oh, man," Lorelai said as she turned to watch the staff arrange a platter of crudités. As the final bits of garnish were added to the platter, she nodded to the waiters and said, "Go, go! Oh! And make sure their glasses are full." She turned back to Sookie and said, "Okay, the feral bridesmaids are being appeased. Now about the soufflés..." she started to say as Tasha walked into the kitchen with Michel hot on her heels.

"You needed me?" Tasha asked, oblivious to the chaos that surrounded her.

"Um, we need the other members of the bridal party," Lorelai said. "Where are they?" she asked.

Tasha consulted the clipboard that she held and said, "Well, two are in massages, two are having sea salt scrubs and the other four are in the pedicure chairs."

"How close are they to being done?" Lorelai asked incredulously.

Tasha glanced up at the clock and shrugged as she said, "They should be about done with the actual treatments. Another fifteen or twenty minutes," she estimated.

"We needed everyone done by twelve!" Lorelai cried. "Don't you remember that whole conversation that we had on Friday about the time changes?" she asked.

"You said you needed everyone in by twelve. I scheduled them in by twelve," Tasha replied with a confused frown.

"I needed everyone in the dining room by twelve," Lorelai moaned as she let her head fall back and stared up at the ceiling hoping the ground would open up and swallow her.

"Oh, well, I was thinking in terms of appointment times. When you say in, to me that means when to start them, not finish them," Tasha said with a wince. "Finish would be out," she said, her explanation trailing off lamely.

"Okay, okay," Lorelai whispered to the ceiling. When she lowered her head, she stared straight at Tasha as she said, "Go whisper to their operators to speed it up a bit. Not a lot, but to kind of move things along," she cautioned as she gave the 'come on' signal with her hand. Tasha nodded once and turned to leave. Lorelai turned to Sookie and asked, "Can they be saved?"

Sookie glanced over at the oven and said, "I don't know."

Lorelai chewed the inside of her cheek and then said decisively, "Bake them. If they fall, smother them in the homemade ice cream instead of putting it on the side. Oh, and drizzle something over them. Caramel, raspberry, doesn't matter. Hopefully, they'll be blissed out from the massages and the food, and they'll just fall on them anyway. A couple of those bridesmaids look like they haven't had a good meal in months," she muttered as she turned and stalked out of the room.

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Lane's door was open when Rory arrived at her apartment and Lane gestured her inside. As soon as Rory shut the screen door behind her, Steve cried, "Wo!" and hurried over to her. "Uh-pa!" he cried, reaching his arms emphatically toward her.

Rory couldn't help but grin as she lifted him and propped him against her hip. "Hey, buddy," she cooed. "How are you, little man?"

"Well, you've certainly got that one wrapped around your finger," Lane commented, while tossing a few toys in a box in the corner.

"Yeah, I gotta work on Kwan, though. He's still seems pretty indifferent to my existence." She gestured toward the other twin who, true to form, was ambling across the room toward a Stars Hollow souvenir beach ball without so much as a glance at Rory.

"Eh," Lane said, waving her hand dismissively, "he's like that with all of us. He's got his own agenda, that's for sure."

"Good, then I won't take it personally," Rory said, lowering Steve and herself onto the end of the couch.

"Definitely not," Lane assured her. "Hey, do you want a soda?"


"Okay," Lane said, rummaging in the refrigerator. "Crap! We're out. Let me check the closet." She stepped expertly over the laundry basket and dodged Kwan coming at her on a brightly colored but unidentifiable wheeled animal and opened the door. When her head emerged from the closet, she looked toward Rory "Last two. I guess this goes on the grocery list. Hold on." She pointed toward the kitchen. "I'll get ice and glasses." After jotting something on a notepad on the refrigerator and filling two glasses with ice, she walked across the room and handed one to Rory, along with a can of soda.

"Thanks," Rory said, leaning forward to pour and simultaneously instigating a yelp of protest from Steve. "Oh, chill, you," she admonished him with a smirk.

"Oh wait," Lane said suddenly, digging under a pile of papers on the coffee table and unearthing two coasters. "Zach's gotten really anal about these ever since we got the 'new' coffee table," she used air quotes to qualify her statement. "Even though we got it for $22.50 at Taylor's mother's yard sale. He's convinced it's an antique."

"Well, Taylor's mother certainly is," Rory quipped, as she leaned in and nuzzled Steve's nose. "That's nice, though..." Her voice trailed off thoughtfully.

"What is?"

"Coasters, yard sale furniture, a grocery list." Off Lane's quizzical look, she clarified. "Having your own space, your own stuff."

Lane scoffed. "Are you kidding? This place is a wreck. Four people in a four-hundred and seventy eight square foot apartment." She rolled her eyes.

"Yeah, but it's your four-hundred and seventy eight square foot apartment."

Lane sighed wearily as she leaned back into the couch and looked around the room. "Yes, yes it is." She turned her head sideways toward Rory. "Do I sense a little cabin fever?"

"I just think I need a break from the honeymoon house," Rory said, smiling grimly.

Lane giggled. "Oh, you caught them making out again, didn't you? I'd just love to see the look on Luke's face-"

"Yeah," Rory answered, not nearly as amused. "It's a hoot watching Luke turn fourteen shades of red and look as mortified as I feel. And Mom is either totally oblivious or she thinks it's cute. I'm not sure which." She shrugged. "I've started this whole noisy entering the house routine just to keep from interrupting something."

Lane chuckled. "Yeah, you never know what your mom would talk Luke into. They could have a Bull Durham kind of thing going on."

"Lane! That's my mom you're talking about!"

"So you see my point," Lane said knowingly.

"And Luke!" Rory continued. "Who is your boss."

"Right. Point taken." Lane cringed, shaking her head. "Images purged. Brain bleach commencing." She looked over at Rory sympathetically. "You guys will get used to it," Lane said.

"But that's just it. We shouldn't have to 'get used to it.' They're newlyweds and they should get to act like it without having to worry about permanently scarring the full-grown adult daughter. They should get to- Oh my god, Lane!" Rory tried to simultaneously cover her eyes and ears without dropping Steve. "Why did you have to put that image in my brain. You know I'll never look at the kitchen table the same way again."

Lane gave her sheepish look. "Sorry."

"I guess I just didn't really think about how much different it would be once they got married, and I thought I'd be traveling for this Salon story anyway." She sighed and bent her head to look at Steve as she added, "Maybe its just time for me to be a grown-up already."

"And let your mom be a kid for a while," Lane teased.

"Don't go there," Rory warned, pointing her finger. "I bet I could come up with all sorts of scenarios involving newly christened furniture in the Kim household."

Lane's eyes widened in horror. "You wouldn't!"

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"And the worst thing is that Tasha doesn't even seem to understand why we have to coordinate all the details so carefully," Lorelai said, closing her eyes as she pinched the bridge of her nose to try to ward off the impending headache. Luke gestured toward the Kung Pao chicken and she passed it to him, adding, "I mean, don't get me wrong, she does a fabulous job with the spa. She puts together great packages and really knows how to find the best people, but anytime we have to coordinate something with the inn, I have to go over the details with her two or three times. I'd really hoped that I could back off this time and let her work everything out with Michel, but look how well that turned out."

Luke scooped the chicken onto his rice, nodding. "Probably doesn't help that Michel can't put together a complete sentence when she's around. That guy follows her around like a puppy dog in heat."

"He's not that bad."

Luke raised his eyebrow. "Close."

"Oh, well," Lorelai sighed, as she took a sip of her wine. "I guess I'll just have to oversee everything a little more closely. We can't afford to be infuriating bridesmaids all over Connecticut."

"You know," Luke started cautiously, "hiring an event coordinator might solve-"

He was interrupted by the doorbell and as she jumped up to answer it, Lorelai called behind her, "Don't even go there. We already talked about this." Still talking, she reached the door and pulled it open. "I'm not quite ready to- Babette! Hi."

"Hi there, Doll," Babette said, walking in and looking around. "You here all by yourself or is that hunky husband of yours home too?"

"Uh," Lorelai started uncertainly. "Luke's here. We're eating dinner," she added pointedly.

The hint was clearly too subtle for Babette as she headed toward the kitchen, gesturing animatedly as she spoke. "Great! I've been waitin' for a chance to talk to the two of you." She settled herself into one of the chairs next to Luke.

"What's up, Babette?"

"My sister Annabelle just started doing in-home parties for her business and Morey and I are hosting one next Saturday. We thought that, being officially married and all now, you'd wanna come."

Lorelai looked over at Luke, who gave her a pained shrug. "Well, we'll have to look at our schedule. What's the company?"

"Passion Products. I think you can look 'em up online if you want to get a preview. Not the same as trying stuff out, but it gets you in the mood, if you know what I mean." She winked suggestively. "Can't afford to let things get stale. You got a whole life together now."

Across the table, Luke choked suddenly and Lorelai looked up to see his eyes bugging out. Sputtering, she managed to get out, "Well, we'll have to look at our calendar. I think that I just remembered that my mom had some function she was demanding our presence at. You know, fundraiser for the preservation of blue hair or something."

"Ah well, I hope you can make it, but we can always catch you next time if it doesn't work out." She lifted her stout body out of the chair. "Just don't neglect your passion. That's how us old married folks keep things fresh."

"Yeah, well thanks for thinking of us. We'll keep that in mind," Lorelai said, as she followed Babette toward the front door.

When she returned to the kitchen, Luke looked up at her, motioning with his hands as he talked. "Let's not let her into the house ever again."

Lorelai chuckled. "Sure, hon."

"And can we make sure that we are far, far away from here on Saturday night?" He took a bite of his dinner.

"Aw, you don't want to check out what they've got to offer?" she teased. "Might be-"

"Far away," he repeated.

"Oh well," she sighed dramatically. "I guess we'll have to be creative all by ourselves."

He rolled his eyes and just continued eating. After a few minutes of relative silence, Luke spoke up. "See, here's the thing."

"What?" asked Lorelai, preparing herself for a rant.

"This event stuff. You're good at it, but it's not what you want to spend your time with. You-"

"Wait," Lorelai interrupted. "Are we seriously back to this conversation? Babette comes in here and invites us to her sex toy party and you want to talk to me about the inn?"

Luke grimaced. "I was trying to pretend that whole incident didn't happen. Humor me, will you?"

"Humor you by telling you yet again why I'm not ready to hire someone new for the Dragonfly?" she asked snippily.

He shrugged. "Humor me by hearing me out, just this once."

"Fine, you've got three minutes."

"What? You've got a stopwatch?"

"No, but if you go on too long you risk losing me and any chance to make your case."

"Okay then." Pausing, he rested his arms on the edge of the table, leaned in and took a breath before speaking quietly. "Here's what I know. You spent most of the last few months brainstorming all sorts of marketing ideas for the inn and the spa. You had ideas for using the spa to draw in clients beyond the tourist crowd. For creating new kinds of events that you weren't able to do before."

"But we're doing that," Lorelai protested.

"You're starting to do that," Luke corrected. "And you're barely keeping your head above water."


Luke went on as if she hadn't spoken. "And not because you're not able to."

Lorelai crossed her arms over her chest but didn't respond.

"Lorelai," he said, reaching for her hand and rubbing his thumb gently across the back of it, "you are one of the smartest and most creative people I know."

"You need to get out more," she quipped, even as the color rose in her cheeks.

He shook off her comment. "And you know this business better than anyone. Now you finally have the inn at a place where you can use all of those talents. And all of those innovative ideas."

"You mean all those crazy ideas?"

"Well, I'm not too sure about that Halloween promotion..."

"You mean the 'get free witch or vampire make-up with any pedicure'?"

"Yeah that's the one I meant, but only because I don't want to end up with either vampire makeup or a pedicure. But, if anyone could make that work, you could," he looked her in the eye, "as long as you don't spend your days repeating details to Tasha and trying to keep Michel from drooling."

Lorelai let out a nervous chuckle. "Well, I have to say, husband of mine, that was pretty effective use of the allotted time. They teach you that in fiancé boot camp?"

"Something like that." He gave a small smile and mumbled, "I've certainly spent enough time in basic training to pick up the fundamentals."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

After finishing a morning shift at Weston's, Rory stopped into the bookstore to pick up the books Andrew had ordered for her and then decided to walk home via the fruit streets. As she turned onto Plum, she spotted Kirk walking out of a newly renovated duplex followed by a young couple holding hands. Kirk straightened the lapels of his Hill-Top Realty blazer and plastered a big smile on his face as he said in a jovial tone, "Oh ho! There's Rory Gilmore!" He glanced at the couple and then beckoned Rory over to where they stood on the sidewalk, admiring the freshly painted house. "Rory, come here, I'd like you to meet some people," Kirk boomed, waving frantically.

"Hi, Kirk," Rory said cautiously.

"Rory, I'd like you to meet Mike and Debbie Pearson. They're thinking of moving to Stars Hollow."

"It's nice to meet you," Rory said politely as she shook the couple's hands. "It's a wonderful town."

"Rory should know," Kirk said with a laugh that was slightly too hearty. "She grew up here, went off to the ivy covered, hallowed halls of Yale University, and look where she is now, right back here in her hometown," Kirk said proudly.

Rory said as she smiled through gritted teeth. "Yep, here I am. It is a really nice town. I think you'd like it here. It's a great place to, you know, have a family and stuff..." she trailed off as she realized that they were probably about the same age as she was.

"I think we'd like to take a walk around to the back," Mike told Kirk.

"Go right ahead. It has a nice backyard. Very flat," Kirk added as a selling point.

"Level," Rory muttered.

"Yes, level," Kirk said quickly. "Lots of usable space," he called after them. He turned to Rory and said, "Thanks," under his breath.

"No problem," Rory said as she turned to leave.

"Man, I hope they buy it. I had to trade Taylor a month's free labor in the Soda Shoppe just to let me have the listing, and boy is he milking it. Each day this baby's on the market, I'm losing money," he complained.

"Well, good luck," Rory said as she tried to extricate herself from the conversation.

"I need this real estate thing to work. If Lulu and I have a baby, I can't work five jobs a week," he moaned.

"Oh, well, you should be building a pretty solid client base by now," Rory said encouragingly.

"If this goes through, it'll be my first sale," Kirk admitted in a whisper.

"Oh. Well, I hope it goes through," Rory said with a worried frown. She nodded to the side of the duplex and said, "Here they come. Now go seal the deal."

"Right," Kirk said as he straightened his shoulders and marched over to meet his clients.

As she walked away, Rory watched out of the corner of her eye as Mike draped his arm over Debbie's shoulder and said something to Kirk that made his eyes light up. She chuckled when, in his haste to get back to the office to formalize the offer, Kirk tripped over the sidewalk, pin-wheeled his arms wildly to catch his balance, and ended up splitting the seam down the center of his burgundy jacket. Ducking her head so that he wouldn't see her laughing, Rory hurried home.

Rory walked through the quiet house, smiling as she realized she had the place to herself for a change. She turned to go into her room and stopped short on the threshold. She stared into the room, her eyes taking in the twin bed before scanning her old student desk, the book shelves that Luke had built for her many years before and the chair on which Colonel Cluckers still rested. She took a deep breath as she forced herself to take a closer look at the memorabilia that chronicled her life so far. Her eyes darted from the Yale banners still pinned to the bulletin board to the posters she had hung the summer before she had left for school. She spotted the brightly painted mask she had decorated at a festival long since forgotten, sitting next to the figurine of the Chicago Water Tower she had picked up while she was on the campaign trail. On the dresser, Logan's rocket propped up an old Luke's menu that Lorelai had once double dog dared her to swipe, and stood beside the leather portfolio which held her diploma. She walked into the room and gently stroked the soft fabric of the colorful quilts made from scraps of old clothes that Lorelai had spent hours laboring over as she swiveled her head, taking in the room as a whole.

Rory glanced down at her flour covered jeans and t-shirt and then back up at the Yale pennant stuck to her mirror. Her eyes flickered to the laptop sitting open, its screen blank. Her mouth set in a grim line of determination, Rory stared it down.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Lorelai shuffled into the Dragonfly's kitchen with her empty coffee cup in hand, staring down at the sheet of paper clutched in her other hand with a frown.

"Hey, Muffin," Sookie said brightly.

"Oh, hey," Lorelai said distractedly as she looked up. "Here, I need you to look this over for me real quick and tell me if it sounds okay. Michel said it did, but he probably wouldn't tell me if it didn't," she said as she handed Sookie the sheet of paper and then turned to refill her coffee cup.

Sookie scanned the page and then nodded quickly. She handed the paper back to Lorelai as she asked, "Are you sure we can afford to do this?"

Lorelai nodded and said, "With the extra money these events are pulling in, we can. Plus, I added 'generating new business' to the description, so basically the job will be self sustaining. They don't bring in the business to keep busy, there's no job," she said with a shrug.

"And you're sure that you want to do this? I mean, the event planning has always kind of been your thing," Sookie said worriedly.

"I'm sure," Lorelai said with a nod. "I want to focus more on the inn itself, and how to improve the business and make it grow. If we have someone to coordinate the events, then I can spend more time on that," she explained. "And, I'll get to use phrases like 'Maximizing the bottom line' and stuff like that. I don't have time to say all of that cool business-y stuff now," she said with a cheeky smile. "See? I'm already thinking outside of the box!" she said happily. "And the bun, I want Taco Bell tonight," she murmured as she made a mental note to tell Luke.

"Well, then, there you go!" Sookie said happily.

Lorelai nodded as she glanced at the sheet again. "Okay, I'm going to go call the Courant and place the ad." She walked toward the door and then paused and turned back to Sookie as she asked, "Do we have any muffins?"

Sookie plucked a muffin from the basket of breakfast leftovers and placed it on a small plate. "Here ya go!" she said as she held it out to Lorelai.

Lorelai looked at Sookie pointedly as she said, "Stop calling me food names, you know how suggestible I am," and then pushed her way through the doorway.

Once she reached her office, Lorelai placed the plate next to the phone as she re-read her ad copy one more time and picked up the receiver. She jumped slightly as her cell rang in her pocket, and dropped the office phone as she dug for it. Without thinking, she flipped it open and purred, "Hello, sexy diner guy. I'm sorry but I'm going to have to call you back."

"I'm sorry to disappoint you, but it's your mother," Emily said dryly.

Lorelai sobered instantly. "Oh, I need to change his ringtone," she muttered, as she bent over and wrote, 'Taco Bell, Luke ringtone' on a post it note. "What's up, Mom?"

"I was just calling to see if we could expect you all for dinner on Friday, I'm going over my menus with Consuela," Emily explained.

"We will be there at the appointed time," Lorelai replied distractedly as she scanned the ad copy and made a note on it.

"And I need to speak to you about having our DAR founders day tea at the inn," Emily continued.

"That's fine, we can talk about it on Friday," Lorelai answered as Michel appeared in the doorway and tapped his watch. "Uh, Mom, I have to go. I need to call the Courant to get this ad placed before the deadline," Lorelai said as she turned to look at the clock.

"Ad? What kind of an ad?" Emily asked.

"We've decided to create the event coordinator position, and I have about three minutes to get this called in," Lorelai said in a rush.

"Oh?" Emily asked, intrigued.

"Yes, but I have to go," Lorelai said as she picked up the receiver again and began to dial the office phone.

"Very well, I'll see you on Friday," Emily acquiesced.

Lorelai closed her cell and listened as the Courant's phone rang. She tucked the receiver under her chin and then said, "Oh, hi, yes, I need to place an ad."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Rory sat in the corner of the diner staring at the outline for her current project, filling in details of the research she'd already done and noting areas for which she needed more background information. She sighed as her to-do list continued to grow and glanced over at the plate of fries that had appeared at her elbow sometime in the last half hour. She turned toward the counter to thank Luke, but he was nowhere in sight, so she grabbed the ketchup bottle and squirted a generous portion onto her plate.

As she leaned back in her seat and lazily dragged a fry through the sauce, she noticed that she was picking up a fledgling wireless signal. Glad for a break from her article, she checked a few headlines then, on a whim, clicked over to the Stars Hollow website to see if anyone had bothered to update it in the last few months.

When the page loaded she was treated to a photo of a triumphant Kirk and grinning Lulu coming out of the diner in their wedding best. Shaking her head, she scanned the page briefly. Just before she was about to close the window and get back to her work, she noticed an 'Apartments' link at the bottom of the page. A few minutes later she had several tabs open with descriptions of everything from units in a pristine apartment building to the 'carriage house' in Bootsie's backyard, which didn't look like much more than a shed.

After eliminating the most ridiculous choices, she looked at the details of the remaining properties, surprised at how appealing the idea of her own apartment sounded. They were all offered by a company called TJD Enterprises; Rory's finger hovered hesitantly over the 'Contact Information' link before she finally took a breath and clicked it. When a page popped up listing Taylor J. Dooses's phone number and address she let out a groan and clicked the window closed.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"No way, mister!" Lane cried as she caught Kwan by the back of his shirt and gently pulled him away from the buttons on the DVD player. "We've already had to reprogram that thing three times. I'm thinking about unhooking it altogether. My mother was right about the sweet taste of temptation," she muttered. She turned a Tupperware bowl upside down and beat on it like a bongo to give him the idea, and then turned back to Rory. "So, how did Lorelai take it?" she asked.

"Take what?" Rory asked cautiously as Kwan beat a steady tattoo on the bowl.

Lane smiled and handed Steve another storybook to tear to pieces. "About you getting your own place."

Rory nodded to the shreds of paper surrounding Steve. "You know that's killing me."

Lane laughed and said, "You'll be amazed at what you'll let them do as long as they are quiet and happy. Besides, those are the books that didn't even sell at the Seventh Day Adventist rummage sale. Apparently no one other than my mother likes to read their kids books about plague and pestilence. Trust me, I'm doing the literary world a favor," Lane said as she sank back against the cushion. She turned to look at Rory and stated flatly, "You haven't told her yet."

"No," Rory admitted.

"Why? Don't you think she'd be excited for you, moving out on your own, making your own way in the world?" Lane asked enthusiastically.

"I think so," Rory said slowly. "It's just that..." she trailed off with a sigh.

"That what?" Lane asked. "You said you were ready to get out, grow up, and have your own place. That you felt weird living there now that they're married," she added in a low voice.

"I am, I do, it's just, my mom," Rory said lamely.

"She'll be happy for you," Lane assured her.

"She keeps saying how happy she is to have me there," Rory argued.

"I'm sure she is, but I also know Lorelai well enough to know that no one will be more excited for you than she will. Well, except maybe me," Lane added with a wistful smile.

"Yeah, you're right. I need to talk to her."

Lane reached over and gave Rory's leg a pat as she stood up. "Yes, and you need chips. Distract the boys," she ordered.

"Uh okay," Rory said with a confused frown. "How?" she asked.

Lane nodded to the door and said, "Just make sure they're facing that way, otherwise the jig is up and there will be nothing left for Mommy."

"Okay," Rory agreed in a bewildered tone as she lifted Steve and turned him toward the door. She smiled when he continued to rid the world of baby bible books without missing a rip. She placed herself bodily between Lane and Kwan and asked, "Good enough?"

"That should do," Lane said as she flipped back the rug, lifted a floorboard and pulled out a snack pack of Pringles. "I had to stop buying the big cans because once these are open it'll be a free for all," she explained. She quickly replaced the floorboard and the rug, and then pulled the top off of the container. The moment they heard the sound, both boys instinctively turned toward Lane as she offered the chips to Rory and smirked as she said, "Get 'em while you can."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"Luke!" Lorelai leaned on the counter, trying to see into the kitchen to spot her husband. "Luke!"

After one more long glance, she walked toward the end of the counter and headed into the kitchen.

"Hey!" she heard sharply from behind her. "You trying to get me in trouble with my insurance company?"

"Gah! You scared the crap out of me. Where were you anyway?" She pointed down the hall in front of her. "The storeroom is back there."

"I'm well aware of where the storeroom is, but I wasn't in there."

"So where were you? I was calling."

He sighed wearily. "I was in the bathroom."

"You can do that?"

Luke gave her the moderately perplexed version of the 'you're being ridiculous' look. "What? Go to the bathroom? Ever since I was two and a half."

"Ooh," Lorelai answered, impressed. "That's pretty early for a boy. But I meant leave the diner unattended."

"Because someone might come in and make themselves a cheeseburger?"

She shrugged. "Maybe."

Leveling his gaze on her, Luke planted his hands on the counter and let out a long, slow breath. "So what's the emergency?"

"It's my mother," she said gravely.

"What did she do this time? Tell you to get a haircut? Criticize your shoes?"

She narrowed her eyes at him for a moment, then burst out, "No! She applied."

"Applied for what?" Perplexed again.

"Applied for the job!"

She watched comprehension dawn across his face. "The event coordinator job?"

"No, my mom's decided to see how the other half lives and wants to be a maid," she said sarcastically. "Of course the event job."

He tried unsuccessfully to hide his laugh.


He pointed at her, grinning. "You've got to admit it's pretty funny."

"Funny? You think this is funny? My mother is an investor - a freaking investor in the spa, but instead of just asking me about having a role in the event planning, she applies for the job?" She shook her head, a grim smile on her face. "Well, if she wants an interview, then she'll get one." Her eyes widened in realization. "I have to interview my mother for a job. I don't think she's ever had a job before."

"Well, at least she's done plenty of interviews," he offered.

"Yeah, I'm sure that'll be a great help."

"You know..." he hesitated, eying her carefully. "She'd probably be really good at it."

"You are not helping."

He shrugged. "I call 'em like I see 'em." He took a breath. "So did you come all the way over here just to tell me that?"

Lorelai shook her head. "No, I'm meeting Rory for lunch."

He nodded. "Oh, so all of that," he waved his hand in front of him, "was just you being dramatic?"

She drummed her fingers on the counter and smirked. "No that was a desperate wife looking for a little support from her kind and thoughtful husband. Any idea where he went?"

Luke gave her a smug smile. "Haven't seen him around here in a while. Maybe he got tired of his hen pecking at his toes and flew the coop."

♫   ♫   ♫  

Lorelai dove into her fries as soon as Luke delivered their meals, but Rory tucked her hands in her lap and squared her shoulders before starting hesitantly. "So Mom, there was a reason I wanted to have lunch with you."

"You mean besides my sparkling personality and the fact that I birthed you?" She grinned.

Rory toyed nervously with the hem of her skirt. "Uh, yeah, all that, but there's something else I wanted to tell you."

Lorelai's eyes narrowed in concern, as she put down her burger and focused on her daughter. "Is everything all right? You've got 'bad news' face."

"No, not bad news," Rory corrected quickly. "Not even news, actually. Just an idea."

"But a good idea?" Lorelai asked anxiously.

"Yes, a good idea." Rory bit her lip. "At least I think it's a good idea."

"Okay, out with it." Lorelai gestured toward Rory. "The suspense is killing me."

Rory took a deep breath. "I've been thinking about getting my own place."

"Your own place? Like an apartment kind of place?"

Rory gave a tentative nod.

"But it's been so nice having you home again," Lorelai whined.

"And it's been nice being home, but you and Luke are married now and you deserve to have some space."

"We have space. We have a whole renovation full of space."

"But no privacy," Rory said quietly.

"But we don't need..." She could practically see the wheels turning in her mother's head. "Oh God, hon. Luke and I can cool it. I know I get a little out of hand with the dirties, but if it's making you uncom-"

"Mom, stop. You're being ridiculous. You're in your honeymoon period. You're supposed to be silly and dirty. After everything you went through to be together, at least you deserve that."

Lorelai frowned. "But I don't want to drive you away."

"You're not. It's not even really about that. I mean, I might miss, just a little bit, that wonderful shade of fuschia that Luke's face turns when he's embarrassed, but really I just think that it's time for me to sit at the grown-up table."

"We have a table! A very nice table."

Rory's mind flashed to Lane's Bull Durham scenario and she said quickly, "It's just, people my age are buying houses, or at least condos, and I'm still living with my mommy."

Lorelai's shoulders dropped in surrender. "I get it. I don't want to get it, but I do." She looked mournfully at her daughter for a moment, before her eyes brightened with an evil glint. "I've got an idea!" she announced triumphantly. "You're looking for an apartment, and your mommy wants to keep you close." She looked upward slyly.

"No! Don't even go there!"

"Why?" Lorelai sulked. "It's perfect."

"Because you have referred to it more than once as your 'nookie nest,' and I just don't want to think about..."

"Aww, I just say that to freak out Luke."

"He's not the only one," Rory said grimly.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"The squab was delicious, Grandma," Rory said to break the silence as the maid cleared their plates.

"Thank you, Rory," Emily said primly as she dabbed her mouth with her napkin.

"Yes, the next time I have to go to the courthouse, I'm going to pick a few up for Luke to cook," Lorelai joked, earning a sharp look from her mother, her daughter and her husband.

Richard, however, chuckled appreciatively. "Yes, well, I don't think that is where your mother gets hers from, but it certainly would save some money," he said dryly.

"Richard," Emily began to protest.

"I'm just teasing, my dear," Richard raised his hand to stop her. "Lorelai, I can assure you that tonight, we dined on what were most likely the cleanest, most well-fed, and certainly the most pampered pigeons in the world," he said officiously. "Now, as I am sure that Luke has as little interest in dessert as I do, I was wondering if he could join me in my study for a brandy," he said as he pushed his chair back.

Luke's eyes widened in shock as he glanced up at Lorelai for help, but she simply made a face and said in a low voice, "Uh oh. Someone's getting grounded."

"No TV for a week," Rory added with a giggle.

Richard fixed them with a patient stare and said, "He is not being grounded. I just think it's time that my son-in-law and I got to know each other better."

Luke's eyes darted from Lorelai to Rory as he tried to come up with a plausible excuse but failed. Instead he moved his chair back and said, "Uh, thank you, Richard."

"How do you know that Luke won't want dessert?" Emily demanded in a miffed tone.

"Because Luke never eats his dessert, Lorelai eats it for him," Richard replied. "And you may have mine, my dear," he said as he inclined his head slightly.

"I need to get me a husband," Rory muttered as she crossed her arms over her chest with a pout.

"Well, while the men are off thumping their chests, I suppose you can have two servings also," Emily said to Rory indulgently.

Lorelai's jaw dropped in disbelief as she muttered, "Lu-cky," but her eyes never left Luke's back as he followed Richard from the room, clearly wishing that she could follow him.

Luke glanced back at Lorelai one last time as Richard opened the door to his study and mouthed, 'Help me!' only to be met with a small lift of her shoulders as she shooed him into the study with her hand. He rolled his eyes and followed Richard into the darkly furnished room.

The moment Luke closed the door behind them Richard picked up a decanter and poured two snifters of brandy. "Have a seat," he gestured to the club chairs arranged in front of his desk. "We haven't had many opportunities to talk, you and I," Richard began with a forced chuckle.

"No," Luke agreed as he shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

Richard handed a snifter of brandy to Luke, who took it, pleased to have something to do with his hands. Richard watched as Luke swirled the amber colored liquid gently, warming it with the heat of his hand. "You like good brandy?" he asked in a surprised tone.

Luke shrugged and asked, "Who likes the bad stuff?"

"Indeed," Richard said with a laugh. He reached for the humidor on the corner of his desk and opened the lid as he offered Luke a cigar. When Luke shook his head and held up a hand to refuse, Richard insisted, "Take one, they go well with the brandy." Reluctantly, Luke reached for a cigar, and held it inexpertly between his fingers. Richard cut the end off of his cigar and then offered the tool to Luke, who followed suit, nicking his thumb in the process. Luke instinctively lifted the pad of his thumb to his lips and Richard smiled as he said, "They have the safety knives now, but this was my father's."

"Very nice," Luke said as he handed the lethal implement back to Richard.

"So, Lorelai has decided to create the event planning position," Richard said as he placed the cigar knife back in the tray where he kept it.

"Yes," Luke answered slowly.

"And Emily has applied for it," Richard continued.

"Right," Luke said.

"Emily applied, you see, because she was not exactly sure of what the proper procedure would be in a case such as this." Richard smiled slightly as he murmured, "Emily does love to follow the proper procedure." He looked at Luke appraisingly as he said, "I hope that Lorelai will be able view Emily's qualifications for the position on their merit."

Luke nodded and took a small sip of his brandy as he stalled for time. "I'm sure she will," he said at last.

"Lorelai has a tendency to underestimate Emily's abilities," Richard said worriedly.

Luke chuckled and said, "You're wrong. Lorelai never underestimates her mother."

"I was wondering if you might be able to use your influence with her," Richard said cautiously. When he saw Luke stiffen, he hastened to add, "Not to offer Emily the position, per se, but to define the type of input Emily would have. Whether it is simply as an investor, or, perhaps as the event coordinator."

"I think you might overestimate my influence on Lorelai," Luke said plainly as he began to roll the cigar between his fingers nervously.

"I think not," Richard said with a smile as he lit his cigar and puffed it, lost in thought. "I know that you have been involved with her dealings concerning the Dragonfly before," he said smugly.

Luke's eyes widened slightly as he asked, "How do you know that?"

Richard smiled and said, "Well, I know that Lorelai has always counted on you to make small repairs and such. And that they called you in to look at the situation they had with the pipes during the construction," Richard pointed out. Luke continued to roll his cigar between his fingers to try to calm his agitation. "I believe that Lorelai may have mentioned that you gave her some advice on running a small business when she and Sookie were contemplating making a move," he said with a shrug. When Luke neither confirmed nor denied his assumptions, Richard leaned forward and said, "So, you see, you do have some influence."

Luke shook his head slowly and said stubbornly, "The inn is Lorelai's."

"Ah, but you do have an interest now that you're married. Just as Lorelai has some influence on your diner," Richard pointed out.

"The only influence Lorelai has in the diner is the amount of coffee I order each week. We each run our own businesses in our own ways," Luke said firmly.

"Yes, but like any partnership, you rely on each other for advice and counsel," Richard said as he gestured with his cigar. "I'm not asking you to ask Lorelai to hire Emily. I'm just asking that you counsel Lorelai to keep an open mind where her mother is concerned," he said calmly.

"Got it," Luke said as he took another fortifying sip of his brandy, still fidgeting with the cigar.

"Oh for God's sake, you're destroying it. Here," Richard said as he picked up the lighter he had placed on the table between them and flicked the wheel as he held it up for Luke to light his cigar.

"Uh no," he said quickly, but Richard waved the flame at him insistently. Unsure of what to do, and feeling trapped, Luke placed the cigar between his lips and leaned in cautiously. As the flame touched the tip, he drew lightly, releasing the smoke as he had seen Richard do just moments before. He pulled the cigar away and held up the glowing tip for Richard to see as he settled back in his chair with a frown of distaste. He took a sip of the brandy to wash the taste from his mouth and said, "This is excellent brandy."

Richard nodded, studying his new son-in-law carefully as he sat back and said, "Better with the cigar," as he raised an eyebrow at Luke.

Unsure of whether his words were a challenge or simply a statement of fact, Luke raised the cigar to his mouth again and drew on it, this time a little too deeply. He immediately began to choke, cough and sputter, leaning forward in his chair to place the snifter on the low table as he tried to rid his lungs of the smoke. Richard chuckled and reached over to give Luke a slightly too hearty pat on the back as he said, "You'll get used to it, Son."

Luke held up the smoldering cigar in surrender as he gasped, "Doubt it."

Richard took the cigar from Luke's fingers and dropped it into the ashtray on the table as he said, "Trust me, it'll get easier. You're just new at it, that's all."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

As they waited for the maid to appear with coffee and dessert the uncomfortable silence that had plagued them throughout dinner settled over them again. "How are things at the DAR?" Rory asked Emily.

"Oh, the same," Emily said disinterestedly. "The Founders Day tea is coming up," she said with a nod.

"I saw that in the newsletter," Rory answered.

"Oh, did you have questions about scheduling it for the inn?" Lorelai asked her mother.

Emily nodded and said, "Well, I believe that you already marked the date for us. I just need to go over the menus with Sookie." She watched as the maid appeared with the coffee and dessert and then said, "I can take that up with whomever you decide to hire as the event coordinator." The silence in the room was deafening as the maid quickly placed two dessert plates in front of each of them and then fled the room as Emily began to pour the coffee.

As Emily handed a cup and saucer to Lorelai she asked in an overly casual tone, "So, have you had many applications for the position?"

"A few," Lorelai replied, clearly uninterested in discussing the subject.

"And are you conducting all of the interviews on Monday?" Emily inquired.

"Yes," Lorelai answered shortly.

Emily opened her mouth to ask another question, but as she stared at her daughter's tight expression, she thought the better of it. She turned to Rory and asked, "Have you heard from Salon?"

Rory nodded and said, "Yes, finally. They weren't able to work the piece I originally submitted to them into their budget at this time, but they have expressed interest in having me write a similar story from a more local angle," she explained.

"Oh, so you would be staying in Stars Hollow?" Emily asked, a pleased smile curving her lips.

"Well, I'll be staying in the area," Rory hedged as she shot a quick glance at Lorelai, who stirred her coffee a tad too vigorously and then tapped her spoon against the cup loudly.

"Oh?" Emily asked, her eyebrows lifting as she caught on to the slight undercurrent that ran between her daughter and granddaughter.

"Yeah, well, I'm thinking of looking for an apartment of my own," Rory told her as she glanced over at Lorelai again, trying to gauge her mother's reaction.

"That's wonderful! But, why an apartment? You know that we always have the pool house available," she offered without thinking. When both Lorelai and Rory stiffened, Emily quickly said, "But I'm sure that you want something that's more to your taste. Something young and hip," she added as she quickly dismissed the question of the pool house with a wave of her hand.

"Yes, well, my own place would be nice," Rory said with a shaky smile, exhaling in relief that the subject of the pool house was dropped.

"There are the most darling apartments near the West Hartford Center. Oh, and townhouses that are just adorable," Emily said enthusiastically. "If you'd like, I can put you in touch with our realtor. I'm not sure that she handles rentals, but she'd be able to point you in the right direction," Emily offered.

"Thanks, Grandma, but I'm not in a hurry. I thought that I would just look around a little, see what's out there," Rory said, hoping to throttle the conversation back a little.

"Oh, well, if you need any help at all, you know who to call," Emily said with a smile. She looked over at Lorelai to find her poking at the second slice of cake in a desultory manner. "You didn't like the cake, Lorelai?" she asked.

Lorelai sat up straighter as she quickly said, "Oh no, the cake is delicious. I guess I'm just a little more stuffed than I thought. Who knew that such tiny birds could take up so much room?" she joked with a nervous laugh as she glanced at Rory.

"I know. Two pieces seemed like a good idea at the time," Rory said with a rueful smile.

"I'll ask Consuela to put them in a container for you to take home," Emily said as she rose and walked toward the kitchen.

"Mom?" Rory asked as Lorelai began prodding her cake with her fork again.

"You're not running away again are you?" Lorelai asked without looking up.

"No, you're not getting rid of me that easily," Rory said with an uncertain smile.

"Promise?" Lorelai asked as she turned to meet Rory's eyes.

"I'll have an insanely uncomfortable futon with your name on it," Rory promised.

"West Hartford Center is yuppie land," Lorelai murmured out of the corner of her mouth as Emily returned with the maid, who promptly began to pack up their dessert.

The ladies looked up when they heard the door to Richard's study open and Luke emerged looking shell-shocked. Richard laughed and patted him on the shoulder genially as he said, "Lorelai, I'm afraid I may have broken your husband."

Lorelai stood up and hurried into the hall to meet them. "Are you okay? You look a little green," she said worriedly as she peered into his eyes.

"I'll be fine," Luke said gruffly.

Lorelai reared back as she caught scent of his breath and asked, "Have you been smoking a cigar?"

"Not really," he mumbled as he avoided her eyes.

"Choking one is more like it," Richard said as he chuckled at his own joke.

"Richard Gilmore!" Emily chided. "You know that Luke doesn't smoke, and he certainly wouldn't have wanted to smoke one of those vile things," she said as she stepped into the hallway behind Lorelai.

"They are not vile, those are the finest in hand rolled cigars," Richard said indignantly.

Rory peeked over Lorelai's shoulder and caught Luke's worn expression. A small giggle escaped her, causing Lorelai to turn toward her curiously. Rory couldn't suppress her smile as she said, "Sorry, Luke, but man, they're so gonna make an after-school special about this," she said with a laugh.

Lorelai started to giggle too, grinning as she corrected, "An after work special. Peer pressure messages for the over forty crowd."

"Very funny," Luke grumbled.

"When good boys go bad. Brandy and cigars were all it took to start Luke Danes' slippery slide into depravity," Lorelai said in her best announcer's voice.

"Soon he was wearing white after Labor Day and tucking his napkin into his collar," Rory added as she laughed harder.

"They knew he had hit rock bottom when his wife and step-daughter found him sneak-eating triple cheeseburgers and washing them down with shots of Stoli," Lorelai said as she nudge Rory with her elbow.

"Can we go now?" Luke asked them in a deadpan tone as he caught Emily's lips twitching at the corners.

Lorelai turned to Emily with a bright smile and said, "Thanks for dinner, Mom." She turned and said sternly, "Dad, you are no longer allowed to play with Luke unsupervised."

"I really didn't mean to break him," Richard said with a wide smile as he held his hands out helplessly.

Luke sighed and said, "Thanks for dinner."

"Come on, Smokey, let's go home," Lorelai cooed as she took Luke's arm. As she led him to the door she said, "I really hope that you disposed of it properly. I'd hate to open the door and see that Indian chief crying on the other side."

Rory smiled as she tucked the container holding their leftover cake under her arm and said, "Goodnight, Grandma. Goodnight, Grandpa," as she kissed each of their cheeks. She glanced over her shoulder at Lorelai and then whispered to Emily, "Good luck on Monday. Knock her socks off."

"Thank you, Rory," Emily answered quietly.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

The bells jangled loudly as Emily Gilmore hurried through the diner door and straight into Luke's mid morning lull. Luke looked up in surprise and set aside the breakfast tickets he had been sorting through. "Morning, Emily," he said cautiously.

"She's never going to hire me, is she?" Emily demanded as she dropped her handbag onto the counter and glared at Luke.

"Uh, I wouldn't say never," Luke said hesitantly.

"What was I thinking? I'm surprised that she even had Michel call me to set up the interview," Emily ranted. "I'm utterly amazed that she didn't simply toss my resume into the nearest trash can. Perhaps dump some wet coffee grounds in on top of it," she said indignantly.

"Would you like some tea?" Luke asked nervously.

"No, what I would like is a fair chance at a position that she knows as well as I do that I am eminently qualified for!" Emily insisted.

"I can't make that happen for you," Luke said pointedly. "Tea, I can do." When she opened her mouth, Luke held up a hand to stop her and then pointed to a stool as he commanded, "Sit." Emily dropped down onto the closest stool as she watched Luke pour hot water into a large mug. He turned and placed the mug in front of her as he asked, "Earl Grey okay?"

"That would be fine, thank you," Emily answered stiffly.

Luke nodded and reached under the counter for the small basket of tea bags he kept for his own personal use. "I prefer peppermint, but the Earl Grey will do in a pinch," he said as he set the basket on top of the counter and then procured a spoon and a napkin for her use.

As Emily daintily dunked the tea bag in the hot water, she sighed. "I'm a fool," she said dejectedly.

Luke's eyebrows lifted as he asked, "Funny, I never took you as being eminently qualified for that position."

Emily shook her head sadly and said, "Lorelai will never take me seriously."

"I've never seen two people who could push each other's buttons like you and Lorelai. To be honest with you, I'm not even sure why you would want to do this," he grumbled.

"I enjoyed the time I spent working on the spa. It was productive. It was real," she said quietly. She looked up at Luke and straightened her shoulders a little as she said, "And, I was good at it."

"Yes, you were," Luke answered. "That's what you need to remind Lorelai about," he said as he plated a brownie and placed it in front of her.

"I'm not hungry," Emily protested.

Luke smiled a little as he said, "You'll need the chocolate. The apple didn't fall too far from the tree," he added with a smirk as he tapped his fingers on the counter top and picked up a clean towel. "You relax for a minute, I'm gonna do some work," he said as he moved to the end of the counter and began wiping down tables.

A few minutes passed, and the next time Luke looked up, Emily was standing in front of him with her purse over her arm. "I need to get going now or I'll be late. What do I owe you?" she asked him.

Luke waved her off as he said, "It's on the house."

"Family discount?" Emily asked.

"Something like that," he answered as he straightened up. "You ready?" he asked her.

"Yes. Thank you, Luke," Emily said with a nod as she turned and walked calmly to the door.

"Good luck," he called to her.

Emily smiled as she started to pull the door closed behind her and said, "Thank you. I think I'll need it."

Luke bused a few more tables, and was walking back to the kitchen with an armload of plates when the bells chimed again. He glanced over his shoulder and called, "Hey, Babette, be right with you."

"Take your time, Doll," Babette said as she hoisted herself onto a stool.

When Luke emerged, wiping his hands on a towel, he asked, "What can I get ya?"

Babette shook her head and gave him a sly smile as she said, "It's not what you can get me, Doll, it's what you can get Lorelai!"

"Lorelai?" Luke asked blankly.

"Well, ya know, I figured since ya can't make it to the party, you might find somethin' in here to help keep the spark goin'," she rasped as she thrust a fist for emphasis.

"The spark?" Luke asked.

"Yeah. Neither of ya was too good at bein' married the first time around, so I thought ya could use a little help," she said with a shrug. "So anyway, I was pickin' up my mail this mornin' and I saw that this had come," she said as she waved a magazine in the air. "I don't really need any more of this stuff, Morey's already put a good dent in their inventory, if you know what I mean," she said as she dropped the latest Fredrick's of Hollywood catalog onto the counter.

"Babette!" Luke hissed as he glanced at the cover and then pushed the catalog back toward her.

"I'm tellin' ya, you just pick out a couple of little numbers in here that get your spark a-sparkin' and Lorelai will take care of the rest, trust me," she cackled.

"We don't need that, our spark is fine," Luke said as he stepped back, holding his hands in the air as if he were surrendering.

"Aw, now, no need to be bashful," Babette said as she scooted off of the stool. "I promise, it's fun for both of ya," she screeched as she hurried for the diner door. "Bye, Doll, happy shoppin'!" she called as she made a quick escape.

Luke glanced around at the empty diner, thankful that the lull was still lulling as he stared at the cover of the catalog suspiciously. With a quick look out of the windows to be sure that no one was watching, he pulled the catalog toward his side of the counter with his index finger, his eyebrows shooting up to his hairline as he got an eyeful of the cover model and the flimsy scraps of material she was sort of wearing. With another nervous glance over his shoulder, Luke picked up the catalog and hid it up under his flannel shirt, holding it in place as he looked around frantically, trying to figure out where he could stash it. Finally, he opened the drawer beneath the register and pulled out the ledger he used to keep track of his purchase orders. He quickly slid the catalog between the covers and closed the drawer, his eyes darting to every corner of the diner until he was satisfied that he hadn't been caught. He grabbed the towel he had been using and a bottle of disinfectant spray and vigorously cleaned the countertop, just for good measure. After placing the towel and bottle back on the shelf, Luke leaned against the back counter, crossing his arms over his chest and watching people hurry from shop to shop on their daily errands. After a moment, his gaze drifted back to the drawer. With yet another self conscious look around, Luke pushed away from the counter, and pulled the drawer open with one finger. He lifted the edge of the ledger book and tilted his head as he studied what lie beneath with a little more interest than he had dared to show before.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"So, did you get everything you needed?" Rory asked as Lane walked toward the grassy area where she was playing with the twins.

"Yes." Lane held up her fingers as she ticked off the items. "Organic free-range chicken nuggets because they're the only kind of chicken nuggets she'll let near her grandchildren, chicken sausage because Luke is rubbing off on Zach and he's all of a sudden trying to eat healthier, a wide selection of cereals that are way cheaper here than at the regular grocery store, and..." She grinned up at Rory. "The quart size of Cherry Garcia for me, and chocolate covered espresso beans for you."

"Oh, Lane, you didn't have to do that," Rory protested.

Lane waved off her protest with a shooing motion. "It's about 300 times faster getting through Trader Joe's without Steve and Kwan. Those carts are only made for one kid, which makes for some creative seating." She pointed at where the boys were sprawled on the grass. "This is so much easier."

"Well, it's not a big deal," Rory said as she picked up Steve and Lane reached for Kwan's hand.

They walked back to the car and as they buckled the boys into their car seats, Lane looked at Rory across the back seat of the car and asked, "Hey, do you mind if we make one more stop? There's a record store close to here that I've been meaning to check out."

Rory laughed. "Do you have some sort of music store homing beacon or something?"

Lane grinned back. "Something like that, I guess."

About ten minutes and a couple of miles later, Lane had parallel parked her station wagon and they were unloading in front of a little coffee shop which was sandwiched between a clothing store specializing in artwear and a music store that looked like it had been there since before the first CD.

Rory frowned in confusion. "Are you sure you've never been here before? I can't imagine it escaping your notice for as long as it looks like it's been here."

"See, that's just the thing." Lane gestured animatedly at the storefront and the dingy sign printed with the faded words 'Second Time Around.' "It's been masquerading all this time as a used clothing store or a consignment shop or something. Talk about flying under the radar. Let's check it out!" Her eyes sparkled with anticipation as she swung Kwan onto her hip and headed toward the store without even taking the time to get the stroller out of the car.

Rory followed more slowly, holding onto Steve's hand as she surveyed the neighborhood. A number of ethnic restaurants and independent shops clustered around a nearby intersection, and a block or two in the other direction she saw rows of two family homes, some of which were home to businesses on the street level. The whole area was bustling with activity and Rory was surprised to see that most of the patrons sitting at outdoor tables or carrying shopping bags down the street looked to be in their twenties or thirties. There was a vibrant energy and Rory found it hard to believe that such a place existed within the city limits of Hartford.

By the time Rory made it into the music store, Lane was elbow deep in bins of records and CDs, treating Kwan to her running commentary about the quality of the selections. Shaking her head at Lane's enthusiasm, Rory looked down at Steve. "I'm telling you, little man, it is a sickness." Giving him a sympathetic smile, she added, "Let's hope if you catch this illness that it's a milder strain."

Sighing, she headed in the direction of the music and browsed wordlessly. There was nothing that caught her eye and eventually she found herself distracted by the vintage clothing and accessories toward the back of the store. She was just beginning to plot Lane's extraction when she spotted a bulletin board full of community notices. Steve started to tug on her hand and point at the door. "Wo!"

"Hold on, buddy," she said, hauling him up into her arms. "There are some pretty cool looking apartments here. Hardwood floors, original woodwork, porches, washer/dryer, plenty of storage in the basement. And they're even somewhat affordable." Steve grasped for the pieces of paper hanging from the board and Rory moved back beyond the reach of this arm, but not before plucking off a few of the paper flaps with phone numbers and email addresses.

"Planning on escaping the Hollow, huh?"

Lane's voice from behind her startled Rory and she jumped a bit, feeling guilty about having been caught. She shrugged. "Oh, I don't know. There were just a couple of places that looked interesting. I'm not really looking, looking. Just browsing." She tried to brush it off, but Lane would have none of it.

"Are you kidding? I would kill to live in a place like this, where you can buy Futurama action figures at the corner store and there's not a Chat Club in sight."

Rory couldn't help but agree with Lane. "But, I'm not sure I want to move this far away."

"Well, the nearby Trader Joe's is a selling point," Lane offered. "And," she pointed at Rory, "your mom would totally come visit you. She'd love it here."

Rory looked around thoughtfully. "Yeah, she probably would."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

In the hallway just outside the kitchen of the Dragonfly, Lorelai mentally prepared herself for the 'interview' with her mother. She wasn't even sure how to address her. 'Mrs. Gilmore' seemed excessively formal, but 'Mom' sounded ridiculous, and Lorelai was sure she didn't need yet another reminder that they were related. She took a deep breath before turning the corner into the lobby, where her mother was sitting with her hands folded primly in her lap. Emily looked up expectantly as Lorelai approached, and Lorelai said carefully, "Hello. Thank you for coming. Why don't we go talk in my office?"

Emily gave her an odd look, but got up and followed her. As they entered the office, Lorelai gestured toward the small couch and took a seat in her desk chair. She picked up a clipboard just to have something between them while they spoke, and then made a show of looking through the papers in a manila folder labeled 'Emily Gilmore.'

Having very little idea how to proceed, Lorelai finally just started in with the questions she'd prepared for all of the candidates. "I assume you've reviewed the job description?"

Emily nodded. "Yes, of course," she said, a touch sharply.

Lorelai raised her eyebrow. "Good, then..." She looked down as if consulting her notes, then asked, "Can you describe the experience you have that is relevant to this position?"

Her mother hesitated, eying her as if sizing up an opponent. Then, with an expression Lorelai could only describe as her mother's 'game face,' Emily launched into a detailed description of her event planning experience. "I have spent the last 38 years in various capacities coordinating events, of all sizes." Before Lorelai could ask her to elaborate, Emily continued. "In my role as both the social secretary and then later President of the DAR, I have planned small and large parties, charity events and meetings. I currently serve as the fundraising director for the Hartford Memorial Hospital Foundation, a position which, in addition to other duties, requires the planning of several fundraisers each year, ranging from formal sit-down dinners to more casual themed events. I have also, for many years, coordinated events for my husband's clients."

She appeared able to continue for quite some time, but as Lorelai had actually seen it all listed on her mother's resume, she cut in when there was a pause in Emily's monologue. "Thank you, that's very helpful." She scanned the resume again. "Now, these are volunteer positions, am I correct?"

Emily let out a long breath, betraying a bit of exasperation. "Yes, but I can assure you that I treat my responsibilities as if I were being paid, as you can see from the written recommendations." She pointed toward the folder Lorelai held open on her lap.

"Yes, I see that," Lorelai agreed. "The recommendations are very impressive." She paused, feeling the tension in the air and trying to figure out how to navigate it. "Can you describe some of the specific qualities you would bring to this position?"

Emily momentarily looked as though she'd bitten into a lemon expecting an orange, but it was fleeting. "I am organized and detail-oriented. I settle for nothing less than the highest standard, both from myself and those that I hire..." She hesitated slightly, correcting herself, "Those with whom I work. I'm efficient and I personally oversee the budget and finances of any event for which I'm responsible."

Lorelai held back a smile at the thought of extensive budgets and asked the one question she didn't already know the answer to. "Have you ever held a job?"

Her mother's eyes narrowed and she answered quickly, her response clipped, "Not since I was in college."

"And what did you do?" Lorelai asked with interest, her pen poised as if to take notes.

Emily let out a sudden huff of breath. "Honestly, Lorelai, do we really need to continue this charade? If you don't want to consider me for the position, just tell me that, so that you can stop treating me like some stranger off the street."

"I'm asking you the same questions I'm asking every candidate," Lorelai retorted. "Maybe if you'd just talked to me about it, instead of applying like some stranger off the street..." Lorelai retorted.

"I didn't think that would be appropriate," Emily said sensibly. "You shouldn't have to give me a job because I'm your mother."

"Well, I'm not sure that an investor in a business should have to interview for a position they're qualified for." Lorelai sighed. "I don't know how we're supposed to do this. You own half the spa, Mom, and I'm interviewing you for a job. Doesn't that sound screwed up to you?"

Her mother's tone was businesslike. "It sounds like the way things are done, Lorelai."

"Okay," Lorelai said doubtfully. After a moment, she tipped her head to the side and looked her mother directly in the eye for the first time since they'd started the interview. "Do you really want to do this? Do you really want to work for the inn? For me? I mean, you're not going to be able to hire and fire people at whim. You're not going to be able to terrorize the staff. We can't afford to have the kind of turnover you have with your maids."

"Lorelai," Emily started, clearly annoyed. "We spent nearly a year together planning for a spa, and in all that time I did not terrorize, torture or maim any of your employees."

Lorelai held up her finger. "There was that waitress who left in tears and never came back."

"You mean the one who didn't understand why it was inappropriate to carry pet hamsters around in your pockets while serving people their lunches? Do you really wish you'd been able to keep her around?"

"Okay," Lorelai admitted with a little grin. "You've got me on that one." Her expression turned sober again. "You're serious about this."

"Yes, Lorelai. I am."

Lorelai looked back at her thoughtfully. "I do have two more candidates I'm supposed to interview this afternoon," she said with a touch of regret, "but I'll talk to you later."

"Of course. I would appreciate that," Emily said, gathering her notes as she stood. "Thank you."

She was almost out the door, when Lorelai stopped her. "Mom?"


"So, what was the job you had during college?"

Emily half-turned and looked back. "Wouldn't you like to know?" she asked before walking out of the room, leaving Lorelai with her mouth hanging open.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Lorelai plopped down on the couch next to Rory, shaking the laptop that rested on her knees. "Whatcha doing? Working on your article?"

"Mom!" Rory looked at Lorelai in feigned annoyance. "You've got to give me more warning so I can close the windows with the X-rated Harry Potter artwork and the smutty House fanfic!"

"House?" Lorelai scoffed. "If you're going to read stories about imaginary television characters having sex at least make it Prison Break or something." She nudged her daughter playfully with her shoulder. "So what are you really doing?"

Rory looked up warily. "Promise you won't get mad?"

"Mad? Of course I won't be mad, unless you're looking at naked pictures of Snape without me."

Rory continued to hold her mother's gaze. "Or do that thing you do where you pretend not to be upset about something when you really are, and you make all sorts of snarky and obnoxious comments."

"I don't do that!"

"You so do!"

"Fine, don't tell me," Lorelai pouted.

Rory sighed, breathing out a long breath. "I'm looking at apartments."

Her mother recovered quickly, but Rory couldn't help but notice the disappointment that flashed across her face before she smiled too broadly. "Oh, let me see!"

Rory nodded and gestured for Lorelai to move closer so they could prop the laptop on both of their knees. She quickly clicked through the tabs that she had open.

"Oh, so these are in Hartford, then?"

The words held a note of sadness and it took a moment for Rory to admit it. "Yeah, Lane and I went to check out this record store while we were making her monthly run to Trader Joe's to stock up on the organic chicken nuggets for the boys. It was in this cute little artsy neighborhood with quirky shops and interesting restaurants and two-family houses." She gave her mother a pleading look. "See? Aren't they cute?"

"I suppose," Lorelai admitted grudgingly. "But do you really have to go all the way to Hartford to find quirky charm? Did you even look for something in Stars Hollow?"

"I did, but it turns out everything in Stars Hollow is owned by TJD Enterprises," Rory answered gravely.

"And that's a problem because..."

"Taylor Jasper Doose."

"Oh. I see." Lorelai nodded, reaching to flip through the apartment listings again. After a few moments, she looked up. "Jasper? Seriously?"

Rory grinned. "I googled it."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"Those aren't green peppers, are they?" Lorelai asked, wrinkling her nose as she slipped up to the counter where Luke was chopping vegetables for dinner. "If you're going to sneak vegetables into my dinner, you need to not be so obvious about it. I can't pretend they're not there if you chop them right in front of me."

"Maybe you need to give me a little warning before you get home, so that I can hide the evidence." He shrugged as he looked sideways at her. "You're home a little early."

Lorelai feigned insult. "Well, if I'd known I'd receive such a warm welcome..." She lifted her eyebrow and gave him a teasing grin.

He shook his head as he leaned over to press a soft kiss to her lips. "Better?"

"Much." She looked down again at the cutting board. "So, here's the deal: I'm going to go upstairs and change out of these clothes and when I get back can you make sure that all evidence of green vegetables has been erased?"

Luke sighed deeply. "If that will help you maintain your sad illusion, then yes."

A few minutes later, Lorelai had returned and was perched on the counter while Luke sliced some very innocuous looking chicken. She was in the middle of detailing Sookie's third freak-out of the day when Luke asked, "So, are you trying to avoid telling me about your meeting with your mother?"

"Hey," she protested. "I was living very peacefully in the suburb of procrastination very close to the metropolis of denial."

"That seems to be a theme with you tonight," Luke remarked dryly.

"Well you know what they say," Lorelai quipped. "Imagine the world you'd like to live in, and make it happen."

"And how's that going for you?"

"It was just fine until I walked in here with all of the questions, and the chopping, and the reality falling down on top of me," Lorelai said mournfully.

"So when are you going to tell me how it went?" Luke asked abruptly, glancing briefly at her over his shoulder. "We're still here, so apparently the world didn't implode as you predicted."

"Ugh, how do you think it went? I had to interview my mother. For a job."

"Yes, we've been over this before."

"I keep hoping that I'm going to wake up laughing about this ridiculous dream I had."

Luke put down his knife, reaching to wash his hands quickly in the sink before turning to face her. "You know she wants to do it, right?"

She sighed wearily. "I know."

"And she'd probably do a better job than any of the other candidates you interviewed," he said confidently.

"Oh, I don't know," Lorelai gave him a wry grin. "That perky little blonde who graduated about five minutes ago and has organized all kinds of hip mixers and formals for her sorority might be just what we need." He shot her a skeptical look and she groaned, dropping her head into her hands. Slowly, she lifted her head up and looked at him between her fingers. "I'm going to be working with her for the foreseeable future, aren't I?"

"Unless you want to keep having soufflé snafus, it would probably be a good idea." He crossed to the stove and turned on the pan to sauté the chicken. "You know," he said casually, "it's going to be a few more minutes before dinner is ready. There's plenty of time to make a phone call."

"You are really not helping. You know that? Not helping at all," Lorelai pouted. "You better be prepared for all that husbandly support I'm going to need while my mother is slowly driving me crazy."

"Now there's a short trip," he joked, even as Lorelai pulled her phone begrudgingly out of her purse.

"You suck," she said, pointing an accusing finger at his chest.

He shrugged. "You make that phone call and I'll tell you about Babette's continuing campaign for keeping our home fires burning."

Lorelai's finger paused over the 'call' button and she stared at Luke. "What did she do now?"

"Oh, she paid me a visit in the diner today." He gave her an evil smirk. "You make that call and later I'll tell you what she brought for us."

"You know," she pouted as she dialed and put the phone to her ear, "people think I'm the wicked one in this relationship. They have no idea."

When Emily answered, Lorelai took a deep breath before saying, "Mom, so about the event coordinator position..."



To be continued...




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