Episode 9.07 "Blame Canada"
by Jewels12 and Mags


Authors' Note: We'd like to thank wounded, Filo, and sosmitten for their fantastic beta skills. Without them, Luke may have had three hands. Of course, that may not have been entirely bad... Special thanks to the entire Virtual Season 9 Team for their dedication and hard work, this is truly a team effort. And last, but certainly not least, a giant 'THANK YOU' to you, our readers. You make this fun, and this writing team in particular is all about the fun. We hope that you enjoy reading this episode as much as we have enjoyed writing it!

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The front door swung open and Sookie beamed at them as she bounced on the balls of her feet and squealed, "You're here!"

Lorelai blinked and stepped back, stunned by Sookie's exuberant greeting. "We're here," Lorelai said with a cautious smile.

"Come in!" Sookie grabbed Lorelai's arm and pulled her into the house, smiling at Luke as he stepped cautiously over the threshold. "I'm so excited!"

Lorelai's eyebrows shot up and she glanced at Luke nervously as Sookie took both of their arms in a firm grip and steered them through the living room toward the kitchen. "We're excited too."

"It's been so long since we've had a totally grown up night. Just the four of us! Too long!" Sookie proclaimed.

Luke held out the foil covered plate in his hand and then paused, gaping at the massive amounts of food covering every surface of the kitchen. "I brought pie, but I don't know why," he said blankly.

"Because you're a poet, Doll," Lorelai said as she gently took the plate from his hands and placed it on the counter, scooching the other dishes aside to make room for it.

"I'm making sopapillas!" Sookie said as she clapped her hands together. "Oh! And margaritas!" She hurried over to the freezer and pulled out a pitcher. "We're doing this whole 'South of the border' theme tonight. I made Jackson buy the good tequila, not the cheap stuff. It's not every day that we're footloose and fancy free!" Sookie picked up a margarita glass, turned it upside down in a bowl of salt, and then poured a generous amount of the pale green slush into the glass.

"Oh, well, yay, and olé!" Lorelai said as she shot Luke a panicked look. "So, your parents took all three kids for the weekend?"

"Yes, God love them," Sookie said dramatically. "I must have really sounded like I was going for the Ginsus, you know? My mom just called up and said that they wanted them this weekend, and we packed their little bags."

"You would never use a Ginsu. Oh, thanks," she said as Sookie shoved the glass into her hand and turned back to the fridge.

"No, a Henckel is about as low as I'll go," Sookie agreed. "We have beer, Luke," she called over her shoulder as she rummaged through the packed refrigerator.

"Great," Luke answered as he tried to puzzle out the signals Lorelai was trying to give him with her eyes. "What?" he mouthed.

"Drink some of this," she hissed in his ear as she pushed the glass toward him.

"I hate tequila," he hissed back.

"If I don't drink it, she'll know," Lorelai whispered.

"Dump it," Luke whispered back.

Lorelai rolled her eyes at him as Sookie popped up from the fridge holding a bottle of Dos Equis. "South of the border beer!" she crowed triumphantly.

"Thanks," Luke said as he took the bottle from her.

"Gracias," Lorelai corrected.

Luke rolled his eyes as Sookie bustled toward the counter. "I think you need an opener for those," she said as she started opening drawers and pawing through the contents.

Luke watched for a moment and then said, "Oh, I can get it." He dug his keys from his pocket and using two of them, pried the lid from the bottle.

Lorelai eyed him appreciatively and murmured, "I love it when you go all MacGyver on me." She turned to Sookie and asked, "Did you pack Jackson's bags too?"

"Jackson?" Sookie asked as she looked up with a quizzical frown.

"Tall guy, grows vegetables, sleeps in your bed," Lorelai said leadingly. "You ship him off too?"

"Oh! No," Sookie giggled. "We didn't have any sour cream, so he ran to the market." She turned to the counter and started to pick up pieces of dough she had already rolled out.

Lorelai leaned over to Luke and said through clenched teeth, "I am never getting to that sink."

"Fine," he grunted as he reached for her glass and winced as he took a healthy slug of the margarita. He handed the glass back to her, his eyes wide and watering. "Do not even breathe that," he gasped into her ear.

Lorelai covered by asking brightly, "So, if you two have the whole house to yourselves, why are you asking us over for dinner? Can't you find anything better to do?"

Luke sputtered and choked as he tried to rinse the taste of the margarita from his mouth with his beer, and Lorelai reached over to pat his back with a smirk.

"Better?" Sookie asked blankly as she stared at Lorelai with dough hanging from her fingertips.

"Better," Lorelai said with a naughty wiggle of her eyebrows. Without thinking, she lifted the glass to her lips, tasting the salt as she heard Luke clear his throat meaningfully.

When Sookie looked over at him, he shook his head and said, "Frog in my throat." He lifted his beer bottle again, giving Lorelai a stern look as he drank.

Sookie shook her head and asked, "What do you mean? Isn't this fun?"

"Never mind," Lorelai said quickly.

Sookie turned toward the stove, and Lorelai elbowed Luke, waving her glass at him again. Luke sighed, put down his beer and took the glass, gulping back another healthy swig and pressing his fist to his chest as he handed the glass back to her.

Sookie began dropping dough into the oil she had heating on the stove and then yelped, "Oh my God!"

"Sookie!" Lorelai exclaimed as she set her glass on the counter. Luke dove for the sink, turning on the cold water and holding a dishcloth under the faucet as Lorelai demanded, "Did you burn yourself?"

Sookie turned to Lorelai wide eyed and said, "You're right! What the hell was I thinking? We should totally be running around naked!"

"Did somebody say naked?" Jackson called as he closed the front door.

"Aw, jeez," Luke groaned as he turned off the water and handed the towel to Lorelai.

"Well, maybe after we leave," Lorelai told Sookie with a nod.

"Hey Luke," Jackson said as he strolled in with a Doose's Market bag in hand. "Picked up another six pack of beer while I was there, nice and cold," he said as he pulled a Corona from the bag and offered it to Luke.

"Oh, I'm good," Luke tried to wave him off as he held up his half full bottle of beer.

"Chug it! We're having a fiesta," Jackson said as he stared at him challengingly. He watched with a satisfied smile as Luke lifted the bottle and guzzled down the rest of the Dos Equis. Jackson pulled his keys from his pocket and opened the Corona bottle using the same method Luke had used minutes before. Jackson slapped the bottle into Luke's hand. He accepted it with a nod, blinking his eyes rapidly as Jackson turned toward the fridge.

"Uh, what are we having?" Lorelai asked. "Aside from the mondo margaritas and the splashy sopapillas, I mean."

Jackson pulled a dish of marinated meat from the fridge and said, "I'm grilling steak and chicken."

"And we're building our own fajitas," Sookie said with a nod. Jackson started to head for the door, and Luke tried to follow him, but Lorelai grabbed his arm, glancing pointedly at her glass. "I have seasoned chicken and carne asada, peppers and onions, rice, beans, homemade guacamole, salsa," Sookie began to list. Luke closed his eyes and ducked down slightly to hide behind Lorelai as he reached for the glass and bolted back the rest of its contents. "Oh, and homemade tortillas, because the ones in the package..."

"Are crap," Lorelai and Luke answered at the same time.

They shared a look and then Lorelai leaned in to kiss his cheek softly. "Go be a grill guy," she said with a wink. She watched as he pulled the back door closed behind him and swayed slightly, before steadying himself by placing the hand holding the Corona bottle on the doorframe and taking a deep breath.

"Here, let me get you another drink. Good, huh?" Sookie asked as she took the pitcher from the freezer and filled Lorelai's glass again.

Lorelai looked out the back window, watching Luke stand in the midst of the Tiny Tykes equipment that littered the back yard. She ran her fingertip along the rim of the glass and pressed her finger to her lips as she smiled softly. "So good."

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Nearly half the town had gathered on the forlorn-looking front lawn of Kirk's summer-long project. His goal of making a dream home out of the dilapidated building had all but crumbled, along with his pride. The house looked a trifle worse now than it had before he began the flip.

"Man, that's a shame," Gypsy muttered from the sidewalk; the safest place to stand.

"Is this some kind of joke? Are we being Punk'd?" Andrew asked on behalf of more than a few puzzled townspeople.

Lorelai and Sookie pushed their way to the front of the crowd to get a better view.

"Oh my," Lorelai said, looking away in disgust. "Are those lime green shutters?"

Sookie nodded in dismay. "This could have been such a great house to raise some kiddies in. Now it looks kinda like... death."

"Yeah, this house definitely had kid potential," Lorelai agreed, her eyes shifting nervously as she contemplated the 'k' word. "Hey, Sook?"


She hesitated, realizing that the congested lawn of Kirk's failed experiment was hardly the place to tell her the news she'd been aching to share. "Uh, never mind."

Sookie gave her a questioning glance. "What is it?" she asked again.

Lorelai shook her head. "It's... it's nothing. I just... man, that is a really ugly house," she finished lamely, her eyes returning to the architectural disaster.

"I know." Sookie giggled. "I feel like breaking in and writing REDRUM all over the walls."

"If Kirk actually put locks on this house, he was wasting his money," Gypsy sounded from behind them.

"The locks on this house are impenetrable," Kirk said defensively as he appeared out of nowhere.

Gypsy smirked. "Good. Why don't you go inside and we'll test them out." The statement earned her a few chuckles.

Kirk glared at the mechanic. "Just for that, you aren't invited on the tour of the interior."

"He wants us to go in the house?" Babette hollered from a few feet away, clearly in shock.

"It's called an Open House for a reason," Kirk rebuked. "I made cheese and crackers!"

"You made it?" Jackson asked in concern.

"Well, I put it together," Kirk clarified. "On a platter. It has a rainbow on it."

"And didn't you also put this house together?" a random townsperson asked, inserting himself into the conversation.

"Yes." Kirk nodded. With that simple confirmation, the population on his lawn decreased by majority.

Lorelai noticed Luke out of the corner of her eye and waved him over. "Hey, you sneak out to join in the festivities?" she asked when he arrived next to her.

He rolled his eyes. "No sneaking. I have no customers. They're all in Amityville."

Lorelai giggled.

After failing to entice the escapees into sticking around for the ribbon cutting ceremony, Kirk rejoined the small group of people that still lingered on his property. He smiled, noting Luke's appearance.

"Kirk, what kind of yahoo did you hire as your contractor?" Luke demanded.

Kirk swallowed nervously. "I, uh, didn't."

"What? I thought I told you to hire someone."

"I tried. But I figured I could save some money if I did the work myself. I wrote down all the tips that you and the rest of the town gave me. I went to Home Depot, I even watched a little Holmes on Homes."

"Kirk, I never once told you to do it yourself."

"Well, you were supposed to help me."

Luke sighed. "I've been kinda busy with—" he hesitated when he caught Lorelai's eye. "Life. Life got in the way," he concluded.

"I know all about life," Kirk said in understanding. "This flip was supposed to land Lulu and me on easy street. And now we'll be stuck on Ocean Avenue."

"Where is Lulu, anyway?" Lorelai asked.

"Lighting a match, I hope," Gypsy snidely remarked.

"She's waiting inside for the tour to start," Kirk corrected. "Are you all ready?"

Luke and Lorelai exchanged an anxious look. "Uh, we'd love to stick around, Kirk, but we're, um..." Lorelai struggled to explain

Luke picked up the reins. "On our way to..."

"My house!" Sookie blurted.

"And I'm helping them get there," Andrew said.

"Because their car broke down," Gypsy added. "So I obviously need to fix it," she reasoned as she slowly backed away, alongside everyone else.

"Morey, get it in gear," Babette urged her husband through clenched teeth as the crowd quickly dissipated.

"Fine!" Kirk shouted after them. "More cheese for me!"

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"Was it really that bad?" Rory asked her mother, her cell phone pressed to her ear as she entered her apartment.

"Rory, what have I told you about underestimating Kirk?"

"That I shouldn't?"

"Exactly. We all know what he is and isn't capable of. Does 'A Film By Kirk' ring any bells?"

Rory shuddered in acknowledgment. "Point taken."

Lorelai sighed. "You have no idea how close I was to telling Sookie about the pregnancy."


"It's so hard trying to keep this to ourselves, but I just think it's for the best, at least until we get a little further along."

"I think that's smart," Rory said, moving into the kitchen. She opened the refrigerator door and was met with a barren wasteland. "Jeez," she muttered.

"That sounded like a bad 'jeez'. What's up?" Lorelai asked, concerned.

"Um... I'm out of milk," Rory replied unconvincingly, closing the door.

"Wow. You suddenly buying into that whole Vitamin D propaganda?"

"I blame Sally Field."

"Yeah, damn her, and that Wilfred Brimley, too. Although, he makes me want to have diabetes, just so I can say it like him."

Rory chuckled. "Liberty makes it easy."

"We are so going to hell," Lorelai giggled. "God, I'm starving," she said in the next breath

"Me too," Rory let slip before she could stop herself.

"Do you have groceries?" Lorelai asked pointedly.

"Yes," Rory answered.

"You have food in the house?" Lorelai continued to press.

"Yes, Mom, I have food in the house." Rory eyed the few stray edible items in the kitchen, all bearing a generic label.

"Okay, but do you have any good food? Luke took all my junk food and replaced it with all this healthy crap. I might die, Rory."

"You'll survive. Hey, you might even live longer."

"Bah!" Lorelai grumbled.

Switching the phone to her left hand, Rory grabbed a notepad from the countertop and started writing out a rough list of grocery items. Bread and Cup-O-Noodles headed the list. "Oh, pizza," Rory mumbled distractedly, jotting the word down.

"Yes, pizza!" Lorelai responded enthusiastically. "I'll see if Luke will pick some up on the way home. I'll even let him put some olives on it. They're healthy, right?"

"You're asking the wrong person," Rory said. "Hey, I gotta run. I'll call you later."

"Olives are totally healthy. Talk to you later, Sweets. Olive juice!"

"Olive juice," Rory said back, smiling. She clicked her phone shut, folded her list into her pocket and gathered her purse as she made her way back outside, choosing to walk to the grocery store.

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Luke paced the room as Lorelai sat on the edge of the exam table in her gown and socks, swinging her legs. "I guess I don't have to ask if you're nervous," she said dryly.

"Nah, I do this every day."

"I'm kind of nervous too," she confessed.

Luke let out the breath he hadn't realized he was holding and asked, "You are?"

Lorelai shrugged. "Well, yeah. This is big. Plus, I've only seen this doctor a few times. My old doctor took off with Doctors Without Borders a couple of years ago," she explained.


Lorelai nodded. "She referred her whole practice to this one, and I just picked the name I liked best."

Luke scowled and said, "That's not how you choose a doctor, Lorelai."

"That's how I choose one," she retorted.

Luke narrowed his eyes and asked, "What was her name again?"

"It's Doctor Kravitz," she answered with a grin. "She went to Harvard Medical, so I think we'll be in good hands."

"At least it's not a guy named Leonard," Luke groaned.

"That would have been so cool." Lorelai grinned. "No, but it was listed as G. Kravitz, so I knew I had to pick her."

"Why?" he asked as he began to pace again.

"I was hoping that her first name was Gladys."

Luke frowned and asked, "Gladys? Do I even want to know?"

"Bewitched, Doll, Gladys Kravitz? Nosy neighbor?" she said as she grabbed his hand to stop his pacing. She smiled up at him and said, "Your first visit to the lady doctor."

"Stop saying that," he grumbled.

She squeezed his hand and said, "Everything is going to be perfect, I know."

"Yeah," he answered gruffly.

"I'm so excited."

Luke's smile was warm, his eyes crinkling at the corners as he said, "Me too." He frowned and asked, "Is it Gladys?"

"Gail," Lorelai answered as they heard a discreet knock on the door. "Come in."

Doctor Kravitz opened the door slightly and asked, "Are we ready?"

"We're ready," Lorelai said as she shot Luke a giddy smile.

"Well, you've had a little time for things to sink in now. How are you feeling?" Doctor Kravitz asked Lorelai.

"Great! Good, nervous, excited," Lorelai babbled, unable to keep the grin from her face.

The doctor turned to Luke and asked, "And you, Dad?"

Luke laughed self-consciously and said simply, "What she said."

"Good answer," Doctor Kravitz replied with an approving nod. "Get used to saying that," she advised as she scanned Lorelai's file. "Today I'm going to do a full exam and there are some things I need to discuss with you both, but first, a few questions."

When Lorelai nodded, she slipped a pair of bright red reading glasses onto her nose. "Okay. Any symptoms? Morning sickness? Tenderness?" Doctor Kravitz asked as she scanned Lorelai's file.

"Not really. At least, nothing bad so far," Lorelai answered, glancing up at Luke, who shook his head also. "Some foods are not agreeing with me. Smells and stuff, but nothing major."

"You're eating well? Getting plenty of rest? Drinking a good amount of water?" she asked.

Luke smirked as Lorelai gave his hand a warning squeeze and said, "Well, I'm trying."

The doctor nodded and asked, "Have you been taking the pre-natal vitamins that I gave you at your last visit?"

"Yes, every day," Lorelai said with a nod.

"Good, they're lousy with folic acid. We want to be sure that this little guy or girl gets lots of the good stuff," she said as she made a note in the file. "Okay, you were thinking that the date of your last period was August 20th. That gives us a due date of somewhere around May 27th. We should be able to pinpoint that a little better later with an ultrasound." She smiled and said, "We're going to take a listen on the Doppler to see if we can hear the heartbeat, hopefully we can pick it up."

"Ooh Doppler! Call Kimmie at Live at Five, I am the perfect storm," Lorelai told Luke.

"Combination tornado, hurricane and tsunami," Luke said with an indulgent smile.

Doctor Kravitz looked up and nodded as she took her reading glasses off and said, "Okay, Lorelai, Luke, there are some things that we need to discuss."

"That doesn't sound good," Lorelai muttered.

No, I just want to talk to you about some things that we like to pay a little extra attention to when you are over the age of, say thirty-five or so," she said diplomatically.

"Or forty," Lorelai said, a worried frown creasing her brow. Luke squeezed her hand, and then covered it with his other hand for added support.

"It's true that once you reach a certain age, there are slightly elevated risk factors," Doctor Kravitz said calmly. "Of course, these risks are there with any pregnancy, but with our older mothers, we like to monitor things a little more closely."

"What risks specifically?" Lorelai asked.

Dr. Kravitz raised one shoulder and said, "Some factors can include miscarriage, preeclampsia, which is a blood pressure related disorder, gestational diabetes, and possibly pre-term labor. I'm not trying to scare you, I just want us to be able to discuss your health openly," she explained as she looked from Lorelai to Luke and then back again. "In most respects, pregnancy is no different at your age than it was in your twenties."

"Or teens," Lorelai muttered.

Doctor Kravitz smiled blankly and then spotted the date of Lorelai's previous delivery on her chart. She looked up again and winked at Lorelai as she said, "Okay, maybe not your teens, but really, most of this is purely precautionary. We just want to make sure we're keeping a close eye on things. These first 12 weeks are always the riskiest, and you've almost sailed through them. We just want to keep the finish line in sight."

Luke rubbed his thumb over the back of Lorelai's hand as he nodded and turned to her as he said, "That's good. Makes sense, right?"

"Right," she answered weakly.

"Your biggest decision, and you have plenty of time to think about it, so you don't have to make up your minds today," she said as he held up her hand to caution them. "Your biggest decision will be whether you choose to test for chromosomal issues."

"You mean like amniocentesis?" Lorelai asked.

"Yes," Doctor Kravitz answered with a nod.

Luke frowned and asked, "Isn't that the thing with the needle?"

"Yeah," Lorelai answered softly.

Doctor Kravitz nodded slowly as she said, "There are studies that show that older mothers have an increased risk of carrying a child predisposed to genetic anomalies. It's not a huge increase, but still enough that many mothers give serious consideration to going through with the amnio for their own peace of mind. There are blood tests for high Alpha-fetoprotein levels, which can be an indicator of possible abnormalities, but the amnio has proven to be the most accurate."

"Genetic anomalies?" Luke asked.

"Down's Syndrome," Lorelai said softly.

"Among other things," Doctor Kravitz was quick to add. "We can also detect chromosomal links to other conditions; Spina Bifida, Tay-Sachs, and Cystic Fibrosis for example."

Luke glanced down at Lorelai and saw the panic filling her bright blue eyes. He squeezed her hand again, running his thumb over her knuckles soothingly. "How..." he croaked. Luke stopped and cleared his throat gently. "How do you do it exactly?"

"It is usually done when the mother is sixteen to twenty weeks along. We insert the needle under ultrasound guidance, so there's no risk of injury to the fetus," Doctor Kravitz assured them. "Now, many people know that amniocentesis has been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage, so you do need to factor that into your decision."

"Yeah. Okay," Lorelai said as she looked straight ahead, not daring to look at either the doctor or Luke.

"I'll be giving you some literature about the procedure today, other testing options, as well as some recommended guidelines on decreasing your risk level for some of the other issues. I want you to take them home, read them carefully, and we can discuss any and all of your questions on your next visit," she said as she made another note in Lorelai's file.

When Lorelai didn't respond, Luke said gruffly, "Uh, yeah, we will."

Doctor Kravitz looked up at their tense faces and did the only thing that she knew would make them feel better at that point. "What do you say? Shall we get on with this? Maybe hear your baby's heartbeat?" she asked enticingly.

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Luke flexed his fingers and them drummed them softly against the steering wheel. He glanced over at Lorelai nervously as she sat still, staring blankly through the windshield of the truck. "So, uh, the heartbeat thing, wow," he said at last.

Lorelai turned to look at him and said, "I don't want to say anything to anyone else about the baby for a few more weeks. I just want to be sure."

"O-kay," Luke answered slowly.

"I mean, the family knows, but I don't want everyone to know. At least, not for a while."

"That's fine."

Lorelai offered him a shaky smile as she said, "It was cool though. The heartbeat."

Luke reached for her hand, and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Very cool," he said in a gravelly voice.

Lorelai nodded but turned her attention back to the road ahead of them. Luke chewed the inside of his cheek, and shifted slightly in his seat. "I'm going to be so careful," Lorelai said quietly, her eyes glued to the center line in the road.

Luke turned to look at her and smiled reassuringly as he said, "I know you are."

"I mean it," Lorelai said, her voice growing stronger as she turned to look at him again. "I'm going to do everything right. Eat better, even vegetables, no coffee, stop hanging out in cigar bars, you name it, I'll do it."

"Lorelai," Luke tried to interrupt.

"Luke, I promise, there is nothing I want more than this baby."

"I know, me too," he said as he glanced over at her worriedly. "I know that you do. I know that you'll be careful." When she didn't say anything, he pulled her a little closer to him on the bench seat and pressed a kiss to her temple as she leaned against him. "Lorelai, nothing is wrong. They just had to tell us that stuff."

"I know," she answered softly.

"And the rest of it, well, we'll figure it out as we go," he assured her.


"It'll be fine."

"So, you're okay with not saying anything?" she asked.

Luke shrugged and said, "Who am I going to tell? We called April. Liz knows, and I'm sure she's already blabbed to Jess."

"I'm going to be so careful," she whispered.

Luke turned his head and pressed a kiss to her forehead. When she glanced up at him, he checked the road and then turned back to her as he said, "You might want to start with wearing your seatbelt."

Lorelai shot him a glare as she sat up and scooted back over to her side of the seat and clicked her seatbelt into place. Without taking his eyes from the road, Luke reached over and took her hand again, lifting it to brush a soft kiss over her knuckles before resting their joined hands on his thigh.

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Lorelai entered the Dragonfly kitchen on Tuesday morning to the tune of Paul Anka's 'You're Having My Baby'. She watched as Sookie and her culinary team sniffed back tears, the lyrics seemingly hitting them full force.

Lorelai shook her head, chuckling at the scene. It didn't matter where she was, she couldn't escape the baby subject. She'd been battling her conscience for weeks about whether or not to tell Sookie the news. And now, due to a combination of hormones and Paul Anka's soothing voice, she finally decided to end the war and come clean to her friend about the pregnancy.

She tapped Sookie on the shoulder and said, "Got a sec? I need to talk to you in my office."

Sookie nodded in agreement. "You go on ahead. I'll be there in a few minutes."

Five minutes later, Sookie walked through the open door to the office, pausing to take in Lorelai's form. She sat on the edge of her desk with her hands clasped between her legs, and her face plastered with a gigantic smile.

"Hey Baby!" Lorelai chimed in greeting.

"Hi!" Sookie returned enthusiastically.

Lorelai gestured for Sookie to sit in the neighbouring chair. "Baby, I need your lovin'," she said a moment later.

Sookie leaned back further in her chair and replied with, "O-kay."

"Hit me baby, one more time."

"Uh, where am I supposed to be hitting you?"

"Ba ba ba ba baby, don't forget my number."

"Why do you keep saying baby?" Sookie asked nervously.

She grinned. "Why do you think I keep saying it?"

Sookie frowned in confusion as she muttered to herself in thought. Suddenly her eyes popped open. "Oh my God!" she gasped. "Am I pregnant?"

Lorelai laughed. "God I hope not. I don't think the Dragonfly can stand two hormonal women." She smiled, looking at Sookie expectantly.

Her jaw dropped open and both hands smacked against the armrests of her chair as she leapt to her feet and smothered Lorelai in a hug. "Oh my God!" she cried. "I'm so happy!" She slowly stepped out of the embrace in need of further confirmation. "You're really pregnant?" she asked.

"I'm really pregnant," Lorelai said, giggling as Sookie enveloped her in another hug and pulled her to a standing position.

"How many weeks?" Sookie asked, wiggling Lorelai's shoulders from side to side.

"About nine and a half," she said, celebrating the moment for a little bit longer before she jerked back and leveled her eyes with Sookie. "Hey, you gotta promise me something. This stays between us. Luke and I want to keep things quiet until we're through our first trimester."

Sookie smiled and replied in a deep voice with, "Don't worry, baby." Lorelai smirked. "There are so many good songs with the word 'baby' in the title," she realized, her voice elevating with excitement.

Lorelai nodded. "'Baby Love', 'Baby Elephant Walk'..."

"'Baby Come Back', ooh, 'Give It To Me Baby'," Sookie shouted, her body taking her on a rhythmic journey around the room as she broke into the lyrics, "Give me that stuff, that funk, that sweet, that funky stuff."

Lorelai laughed, grabbing Sookie by the shoulders and directing her towards the door. "Okay, Rick, time to go back to work."

"Yes, duty calls," Sookie agreed, turning around for one last hug. "I'm so damn happy!" she said as Lorelai gave her a gentle push into the hallway.

"Try to contain that a bit, Sook. I'm beggin' ya."

"Right," she said, pretending to zip her lips shut as she walked away.

Lorelai could hear her squealing all the way back to the kitchen. She sighed, slumping into her chair.

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Later that morning, Jackson dropped by the inn to make his veggie delivery. Sookie held the back door open as he stepped inside, carrying several crates of produce. After he unloaded the goods, he paused, finally taking in his wife's appearance.

"Sookie, have you been cutting onions again?"

"No," she said, her eyes glistening with the moisture of fresh tears.

"Oh, I see what this is about," Jackson sighed. "You're still mad that I didn't clean the knives properly after cooking for you last night." He used air quotes around the word properly for dramatic effect.

"No, I'm not mad about that anymore, although you should have known better. You're supposed to use the chamois first, then the cleaning oil. One of the most important elements of owning a knife is knowing how to take care of it, and that means keeping it clean," Sookie reminded him.

Jackson rolled his eyes. "Fine, Sookie. I'll go right home and reacquaint myself with the owner's manual," he replied sardonically.

"I'm not crying about the knives," Sookie said in effort to prevent a tirade comparable to the evening before. "These are happy tears."

"Okay. Uh, is it the vegetables? It's been a refreshingly robust crop of turnips this season, hasn't it?"

Sookie giggled. "The vegetables are fabulous, Sweetie. But this isn't about the turnips.

"Then what is it about?" Jackson asked.

She grabbed him by the arm and pulled him into the pantry. As soon as they were out of sight she narrowed her eyes and said insistently, "You have to promise you won't tell anyone. Do you promise?"

He nodded, his eyes lighting up in anticipation of a dose of gossip.

"Oh my God," Sookie squealed. "I can't even contain myself. Promise you won't tell?"

"Yes, Sookie, yes. Just tell me!" Jackson said impatiently.

"Lorelai's pregnant! Ooh, can you believe it?"

Jackson's face broke into a huge grin. "Wow, I'm amazed. This is such amazing news. We're all going to be raising kids together. I feel so much closer to Luke all of a sudden."

"Jackson," Sookie stressed, "don't say a word."

He raised his hands in surrender. "My lips are sealed."

"Good. Now let's go look at those turnips again." She smiled suggestively.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

On his way back through town, Jackson stopped in front of Luke's to make small talk with another one of his customers. After they parted ways, he noticed Luke making his rounds in the diner. Gypsy walked up next to Jackson, staring at him in question.

"Hey there, Gypsy," Jackson said in effort to break the awkwardness.

"Are you crying?" she asked.

He swallowed nervously. "Uh, no."

Gypsy leaned in closer to him. "Those look like tears to me."

Jackson released a frustrated sigh. "They're happy tears," he confessed, wiping at his eyes with his shirt sleeve.

"What are you so happy about?" she probed further. "No, never mind, I don't wanna know."

"Oh, this is something you want to know, trust me," Jackson said enticingly. "Uh, but I can't tell you," he quickly added.

Gypsy's jaw dropped in protest. "Come on! You can't say something like that and not tell me. You're a gossip tease."

Jackson was visibly bruised by the accusation. "All right, fine," he conceded. "I'll tell you, but you've got to promise to keep it secret."

"I swear on a stack of tires." Jackson eyed her curiously. "Just a little mechanic humor," Gypsy explained.

"Oh, sure. Well, the news is about Luke and Lorelai." Gypsy's eyes lit up. "They're expecting," he said quietly, but with a frightening level of enthusiasm.

"Really?! Lorelai's pregnant?" Her eyes welled with tears before Jackson could even confirm.

He smiled and nodded vehemently. "Hey, are you okay?" he asked a moment later.

She turned her head away. "I'm fine. My eyes always water when I'm hungry," she told him as she hurried up the steps to the diner.

Jackson chuckled. "Enjoy your lunch," he said to her. "And remember, this is our little secret." He attempted to give her a foreboding expression, but it came out looking rather pale and harmless.

She waved in acknowledgment, and entered the diner, sniffing back any remaining tears.

♫   ♫   ♫  

Inside Luke's establishment, a table of familiar faces waved Gypsy over to join them.

"Heya, Gypsy!" Babette rasped.

"Got a spot for me?" Gypsy asked.

"Sure, Sweetie, pull up a chair," Patty said. "There's always room for Gypsy."

"And jello," Andrew added, receiving several curious stares. "There's always room for jello."

Gypsy grabbed a chair from the next table and sat down amongst her friends.

"So, has anyone seen Kirk lately?" Andrew asked.

Patty smiled knowingly. "He's honeymooning, dear."

"Kirk mentioned somethin' about wantin' to take Lulu someplace exotic, but the most exotic place he could afford was Canada," Babette said, chuckling.

Gypsy snorted. "That house flip was a genius move."

"There's nothing wrong with Canada," Morey supplied. "Great jazz talent, great bacon."

"My God, I love bacon," Babette said. "And scotch."

"Poutine, maple syrup," Andrew listed.

"And those sexy Mounties," Patty purred, her focus shifting to Luke behind the counter. She grinned naughtily.

"Don't forget the toonies and toques, eh?" Gypsy cut in. She wrinkled her nose in distaste. "I can't believe I just said 'eh'."

"Well, I need to get back to the bookstore," Andrew informed the group. "Um, I'm not going to miss anything important, am I?" he asked Patty and Babette specifically.

Both women chuckled. "That's all the gossip we have for today," Patty assured him.

Andrew's face took on a crimson hue. "I don't care about gossip," he said, chuckling nervously as he rose from his chair.

Gypsy eyed him suspiciously, then turned to her remaining tablemates. "So, you guys are never gonna believe what I heard..."

Andrew checked his watch and casually returned to his seat offering an innocent shrug. "I have a few minutes to spare," he said.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"So, anyway, Taylor was talking about having the whole house condemned, but the county inspector said that it was structurally sound, just unbearably ugly, so it looks like it's going on the market," Lorelai said, tucking the phone under her chin as she unlocked the front door. She tossed her purse and keys down on the table and walked through to the kitchen.

"Yeah, but would anyone really want to buy it?" Rory asked incredulously.

"You never know, Hon," Lorelai said as she pulled a bottle of water from the fridge.

"Well, um, good for Kirk," Rory said as she frowned at the balance in her checkbook.

"Enough about that." Lorelai sat down at the table and unscrewed the cap as she began firing off questions, "How are you? What have you been up to? Have you met anyone around the neighborhood? Have you gotten any new assignments? Are you eating? Do you miss Mommy?"

Rory laughed. "Uh, I'm fine, I've been writing, well mostly, I have met a couple of people, and yes, I have two new assignments," she reported. "I have been eating," she said and then stuck her tongue out at the empty Cup-O-Noodles container on her desk.

"And what about the last one? That was the most important question," Lorelai said pointedly.

"I keen and wail every night just before I cry myself to sleep."

"Good girl," Lorelai said with a pleased smile. "So, are they from Salon?"

"What?" Rory asked distractedly as she punched numbers into her calculator.

"The articles," Lorelai prodded.

Rory sat up a little straighter and glanced at her laptop, scanning the emails in her inbox. "Um, no, not Salon. Just a couple of short articles for different magazines."

"Which ones?" Lorelai asked.

"Which what?" Rory replied evasively.

"Which magazines? I need to know so that I can subscribe today," Lorelai said in an exasperated tone.

"Oh, nothing you would want to read," Rory said as she got up and walked into the kitchen. She opened a cabinet and frowned when all she saw were a jar of peanut butter with about a tablespoonful left and two more packages of the dreaded Cup-O-Noodles. "I was just between assignments and I thought I'd take these, you know, to keep busy," she said casually as she opened the fridge and pulled out a foil wrapped bundle. She pulled the edge back cautiously, made a face as she eyeballed the leftover frozen pizza, and then resolutely unwrapped it.

"I want to read everything that you write. I'm your biggest fan," Lorelai said in her best Kathy Bates voice.

"Well, uh, I have one that is supposed to focus on how more senior citizens are becoming more technologically savvy," Rory said as she dropped the pizza onto a paper towel and placed it into the microwave.

"That sounds good. What magazine is that for?"

"Um, AY Magazine?" Rory said quickly, the squeak in her voice giving away her discomfort.

"AY? As in Active Years?" Lorelai asked with a laugh.

"Oh, you know it?" Rory asked, cringing at what she was sure to come.

Lorelai started laughing and said, "Are you kidding? The Dragonfly is AARP approved! We even made their top ten New England inns list last year. The lobby is lousy with copies of AY Magazine." She snorted and said, "I can't believe my young, hip, happenin' daughter is going to be writing articles for the American Association of Retired Persons!"

"Well, it's about technology," Rory said defensively.

"I know, I know," Lorelai said as she tried to control her laughter. "I just," she gasped, struggling to control her laughter. "Hey, if you have to interview people, take them to a Denny's, I hear they do the senior discount every day."

"Ha ha," Rory muttered as she opened the microwave to retrieve her sad looking pizza.

"Or, if you go before 4pm, you can get the Early Bird special at most other restaurants," she added.

"I'm going to hang up now," Rory said in a warning tone.

"No! No! I'll be good," Lorelai said quickly. "I'll just talk really soft so that you have to turn your Miracle Ear up to hear me."

"You are a hoot, aren't you?" Rory said as she dropped down into her chair and stared at the pizza dolefully. "Bye, Mom."

"No wait! I'll stop! Tell me about the other one, what's it for?" she asked.

"Um, one of the magazines put out by the National Wildlife Federation," Rory hedged.

"Really? Wildlife? Will you be stalking mountain lions with Marlin Perkins?" Lorelai asked excitedly.

"Um, I think he's dead," Rory said as she picked a piece of pepperoni from the pizza and popped it into her mouth.

Lorelai's shoulders slumped as she said, "You're right, he is." She picked at the label on the bottle and said leadingly, "So, wildlife. Not the kind that takes place in after hours clubs, huh?"

"It's an article on urban wildlife," Rory said as she rolled her eyes.

"Oh! So it does take place in clubs," Lorelai said with a grin.

"No. It's, you know, the kind of animals that live in cities, but not what you would expect."

"Like alligators in the sewers?" Lorelai asked.

"Yes, and other things. Raccoons, opossums, beavers," Rory listed.

"Beavers," Lorelai snickered.

"Mom," Rory groaned.

"Hey, was that opossums with an 'o' or a 'p'?"

"Anyway, that's what I'm working on," Rory said, anxious to change the topic.

Lorelai nodded and said, "Well, it sounds cool, Sweets. Kind of like the stuff that they used to have in those Ranger Rick magazines you used to get in grade school." When Rory didn't respond for a moment, Lorelai's hand flew to her mouth to stifle a laugh. "Oh no!"

"Mom," Rory said with an exasperated sigh.

"You're not!"

"Bye, Mom."

"Rory, are you writing for Ranger Rick?" Lorelai demanded.

"Tell Luke I said hello," Rory replied.

"You are! I'm so excited!" Lorelai said as she clapped her hands happily.

"Have a good night."

"And proud, I'm so proud," Lorelai said as she pressed her hands to her heart with a big grin.

"Byyyyye," Rory sang into the phone.

"Aw, bye, Hon," Lorelai said in a softer tone.

Rory closed her cell and tossed it down onto the cluttered desk. She scowled at the petrified pizza stuck to the paper towel and then at the cursor blinking on her screen. With a sigh, she placed her fingers on the keyboard and began to type, 'Many cities have large park lands and forest preserves set aside, which are a haven for deer and other woodland creatures right in your own backyard!'

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Lorelai walked briskly through town, her list of errands growing shorter by the minute. On her way past the dance studio, she noticed Patty taking a stress break, cigarette in hand.

"Lorelai!" the heavyset woman called. "Come here, dear. Let me look at you." She quickly discarded her freshly lit cigarette, and smiled anxiously.

"Um, okay," Lorelai said, caught off guard. She warily climbed the steps until she stood next to Patty.

Patty looked her over from head to toe, beaming. "You are gorgeous!"

Lorelai shrugged nervously. "Guess that newlywed glow hasn't worn off yet."

"Oh, you're glowing all right," Patty gushed. "God, I would kill for that glow."

"Well, you know, it's all about proximity, Patty," Lorelai said teasingly. "I have a spa at my fingertips. Nice business perk."

"Dear, they couldn't bottle your brand of glow," Patty told her in a low voice.

Before Lorelai could respond, there was a loud crash that sounded from the interior of the dance studio.

Patty sighed. "Amateurs," she muttered.

"You better get in there," Lorelai advised her.

Patty nodded in agreement, sliding open the door to the studio. "Roberta! Step away from that pole!"

Lorelai's eyes shot open, and she hurried down the stairs before Patty had a chance to enroll her in the class.

Her next destination was Luke's. As she neared the diner, another distraction in the form of Babette appeared.

"Lorelai! How ya doin', doll?"

"Hey, Babette. Where are you off to?"

"Yeast," the stout woman said. "Morey's makin' his famous bread, and we're outta yeast."

"He's a man of many hidden talents," Lorelai remarked.

"You got that right, sugah," Babette replied in a suggestive tone.

"So, um, what kind of bread is he making?"

"Norwegian," Babette said without missing a beat. "He's got a couple loaves on the go. Oh, and buns. I forgot about the buns in the oven." Her breath hitched. "Buns in the oven," she repeated, her voice shaking with emotion. "Oh God," she cried, tears filling her eyes.

Lorelai frowned in concern. "Uh, are his buns not good?" she asked.

"Oh, Morey's got great buns," Babette disputed. "Real tight." She swallowed back her tears. "I gotta go."

"Okay," Lorelai said in confusion, watching as Babette took off down the sidewalk. She shook her head and closed the remaining distance to Luke's. When she entered the diner, she noticed Luke leaning on the counter, a tired expression on his face.

"Do you ever get the feeling that we're living in a bubble?" Lorelai asked, taking a seat on the stool across from him.

"Sure, every day," he answered flatly. "Coffee?"

"Please." He pushed himself off the counter, filled a large mug with decaf, and slid it to her.

She smiled in appreciation. "I'm telling you, something very strange is going on in this town. Patty wouldn't stop looking at me; Babette broke down crying in front of me. Very peculiar."

"I know what you mean," Luke said, lowering his voice. "Bootsy touched me."

Lorelai almost chocked on her coffee. "What?"

"He gave me a pat on the back," Luke clarified.

"Okay, hon, give me the whole story next time," Lorelai told him. "I was about to call Protective Services." Luke rolled his eyes. "Why did Bootsy give you a pat on the back?"

"How should I know?" Luke said in annoyance. "I only made the guy a grilled cheese."

"Did you use cheddar or jack?"

He sighed. "I'm not talking about this anymore."

"Was it a firm pat, or a... sensual pat?" she asked, giggling.

"I'm going now," he warned.

"No, wait," Lorelai said. "I need a kiss."

He leaned across the counter and pecked her softly on the lips. "Don't you have some shopping to do?" he asked after pulling back.

"Yep. I'm on my way to Doose's."

"No junk food," Luke told her seriously.

"I know," she said dramatically. "See you back home." She gave him a cunning smile as she slid off her stool.

"And don't try to hide any in your underwear drawer," he accused knowingly.

Lorelai pointed to herself innocently. He glared back. "Spoil sport," she muttered as she made her way to the door.

"Or the glove box," Luke added.

"Bye!" she shouted over her shoulder.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Lorelai breezed into Doose's, snagged a shopping basket from the stack by the door, and hooked it over her arm as she hummed her way toward the snack aisle. She dropped a box of Pop Tarts and a package of marshmallows into the basket and turned to survey the selection of chips. She reached for a bag of Cheez-Doodles and sang to herself, "It's all changed, she's having a baby..." She released the bag of chips and murmured, "Not so healthy." She returned the box of chocolate fudge Pop Tarts to the shelf. Tapping her finger against her lips, she perused the selection again and then smiled. "Strawberry, much better." She grabbed the box and placed it in the basket, and then frowned at the marshmallows. She shrugged and left them in the basket as she made her way to the produce section.

Lorelai bagged some red delicious apples and then surveyed the rest of the fruits and veggies warily. With a heavy sigh, she added a bunch of bananas and two oranges before the flight instinct kicked in and she made a quick escape down the back aisle. As she hurried past, she noticed the cans of formula and diapers lining the shelves and stopped short. After a nervous glance around to be sure no one was watching, Lorelai scanned the shelves, her eyes widening as she noted the prices on many of the items.

"No, dear, I can find it myself," she heard Patty say as she approached.

Lorelai jumped and quickly stepped away from the baby supplies section, feigning interest in the assortment of mousetraps and home pest control items on the opposite side as Patty rounded the corner.

"Oh! Lorelai, you startled me," Patty said as she pressed her hand to her heart.

"Uh, sorry, Patty," Lorelai said with a laugh. "I was here first." She grabbed a package of mousetraps and said, "Just following orders," with a big grin as she dropped them into her basket.

"Ugh, I wish I had a mouse. Eastside Tillie stopped by yesterday with that mangy mutt of hers and now I think I have fleas in the house. I've been itching like crazy," Patty said as she crooked her arm to reach behind her, trying to scratch her own back. "Can you help me, dear?" she asked plaintively.

"Oh! Sure," Lorelai said as Patty turned her back to her. Lorelai scratched Patty's back quickly and then said, "Well, I have to run. Got a mouse in the house," as she beat a hasty path to the checkout.

Moments later, Patty sidled up to her in line holding her flea fogger and said in a low voice, "That's the worst thing about being single. No one to scratch your back."

"Oh, well, yeah, that's true," Lorelai agreed with a nod.

"Well, not the worst thing. I'll bet that man of yours scratches every itch you have," she purred in Lorelai's ear.

"Um, and then some," Lorelai answered as she flashed a nervous smile at the young girl behind the register. She waited impatiently as the marshmallows were added to the top of her bag and quickly snatched it from the girl's hands. "Gotta get home, see ya Patty! Make sure that Luke's up to scratch!"

Patty watched her go with a wistful sigh. "Oh, to be a newlywed. Again."

♫   ♫   ♫  

"Hello?" Lorelai called as she walked through the front door.

"Kitchen," Luke called back.

Lorelai placed the Doose's bag on the table and tilted her face up for his kiss hello. When he pecked her lightly on the lips, she tugged on his flannel and pulled him back to her as she said, "Do better."

Luke smiled and kissed her again, this time wrapping his arms tightly around her and trapping her hands against his chest. "Better?" he asked in a throaty voice as he pulled back.

"Much," Lorelai said happily. She watched as he reached into the bag and pulled out the package of marshmallows. Luke gave her a pointed stare, but Lorelai shook her head and said, "Believe me, those are the least of your worries, buddy."

"Oh yeah?" Luke asked as he pulled the box of Pop Tarts from the bag.

"Those are strawberry," Lorelai pointed out helpfully.

Luke snorted and said, "If it helps you sleep better to think that."

"I bought fruit," Lorelai said defensively. "Hey, hand me an apple."

Luke shook his head as he pulled an apple out of the bag, walked over to the sink to rinse it and then dried it with a paper towel. He then polished the apple to a high shine on the front of his shirt before offering it to her balanced on the palm of his hand. "What should I be worried about?"

"Shouldn't you be naked when you offer me that?"

Luke smiled and said, "Probably."

Lorelai sighed and said, "No, we can never do that again. We're already in enough trouble as it is."

"Trouble? What trouble?"

"Well, I'm in trouble, and you got me that way, and we can't afford to have this kid."

Luke scoffed, "Yes, we can."

"No, I'm telling you, you had better be prepared to sell one of your kidneys to be able to diaper this kid, because it's been a while since I had to buy baby stuff, but oh my God, it's expensive." Lorelai said as she watched Luke unpack the rest of groceries.

Luke folded the bag neatly and said, "It can't be that bad."

"Luke a tiny little package of diapers is $18.99. A jar of baby food? $2.99," she told him.

"No way," Luke said with a laugh.

"I was wandering down the aisle at Doose's and I thought I'd look. I swear, I almost swallowed my tongue. I think I may have," she added with a frown. Lorelai then stuck her tongue out and crossed her eyes in an attempt to spot it. "Whew, still there."

"Are you serious?" Luke asked, his smile fading.

"Did you not hear the part about the tongue swallowing?"

"Twenty dollars for diapers?" Luke asked incredulously.

"The small package," Lorelai clarified.

"Three bucks for a tiny jar of applesauce?" Luke asked, his voice rising. "That can't be right."

"Well, that's what they were marked," Lorelai said as she took a bite out of her apple.

Luke scowled as he jabbed his index finger on the table top and asked, "This was at Doose's? Today?"

"I just came from there," Lorelai said as she chewed.

Luke narrowed his eyes and then said slowly, "Call Sookie."

Lorelai blinked at the abrupt change of subject and asked, "Why? Did she call?"

Luke shook his head. "No, call her and ask how much diapers and baby food are, she'll know."

Lorelai laughed. "Why? You think Taylor is jacking up the prices?" Lorelai's eyes widened as she stared at him. "He is! Taylor is upping the prices on all of the baby stuff!"

"He'd better not be," Luke growled.

"He must know. But how? How would he know?" Lorelai asked plaintively.

"I don't know, he's Taylor!" Luke said as he threw his hands up in disgust. Luke crossed his arms over his chest, the muscle in his jaw jumping as he clenched it. "You snoop around, see if you can find out how much that stuff is supposed to cost, I'll deal with Taylor," he said grimly.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

At the first sign of the breakfast rush being over on Thursday morning, Luke left Caesar to hold down the fort as he took a little field trip to Doose's Market. He stormed into the building, a man on a mission, determined to put an end to the farce.

Taylor stood behind the checkout counter, wearing a nauseatingly smug smile. Luke's anger increased ten-fold.

"Taylor!" he shouted, earning the attention of every patron in the store. "We need to talk."

Taylor released a pitiable chuckle. "Luke, you may not have any customers, but as you can clearly see, the market is very busy and I simply don't have time to cater to your every whim."

Luke stomped off toward the produce aisle, picked up a plump red tomato and poised to throw it. "Last chance, Taylor," he threatened, his grip tightening.

Taylor gasped in horror. "You wouldn't dare!"

Luke tossed the fruit about a foot in the air, and let it drop unceremoniously to the floor. "Clean up on aisle five!"

"Lucas!" Taylor bellowed, rounding the counter in haste.

Luke picked up another tomato and gave Taylor a challenging look. "Are we gonna talk, or does Tommy here," he said, referring to the tomato in his hand, "join little Timmy on the floor?"

"Yes, we'll talk! We'll talk!" Like clockwork, a fellow employee took over Taylor's checkout duties as he joined Luke in the produce aisle.

"Good." Luke kindly returned the tomato to its rightful place. "Word on the street is that your prices are getting out of sight."

Taylor shrugged. "Prices do go up."

"$18.99 for a small package of diapers?" Luke argued, fighting to keep his voice at a minimal volume.

"I'm merely keeping up with the competition."

"Bull! No other store charges these kinds of prices, and you know it."

"I don't see how the price of diapers affects you in any way, Luke... or does it?" Taylor asked with an air of suspicion in his voice.

"Uh, no... it, uh, doesn't directly affect me," Luke stuttered. "I just don't want you cheating your customers, that's all."

"Well, that's very gallant of you, Luke. I'll be sure to print a 'Thank you' note in the next flyer."

"Fix your prices," Luke demanded.

"Unnecessary," Taylor retorted.

Luke clenched his jaw. "Fix your prices," he repeated.

"There's nothing to fix."

"You're impossible!" Luke growled, trudging in the opposite direction.

"Have a nice day!" Taylor sounded from behind him.

"This isn't over, Taylor!" Luke barked as he exited the store.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Emily walked into the lobby of the Dragonfly and smiled as she saw Lorelai behind the front desk. She hurried over to her and said, "Oh, you're finally here. I want to talk to you about some things."

"Mom, the place is booked solid, everything is running smoothly, and we've made a killing this fall. Can't you just relax for a moment?" Lorelai asked without looking up from her paperwork. "You coordinate events for a spa, have a massage," she grumbled.

"Well, I'm sorry if my desire to improve and expand your business is taking up too much of your precious time," Emily said stiffly. "I simply had an idea that I wanted to share with you, but if you can't be bothered, then neither can I."

"No, I swear! My hands have never been this soft. Not even when I was a tiny baby," Michel said to Tasha as they entered the lobby. "I do not know what they put in that scrub, but it is nothing short of a miracle!"

"Sea salts and essential oils," Tasha answered with a shrug.

"And the aroma! Trés magnifique! I want a case of it," Michel crowed as they approached the desk.

"Trés ridiculous, that's what this office supply bill is," Lorelai said as she waved an invoice in his face. "How many boxes of comfort grip pens do you need? Are you selling them on the black market?" she demanded.

"I have carpel tunnel!" Michel retorted, and then clamped his mouth shut, shooting Tasha a nervous glance.

"You have ten thousand different colors of post it notes. Aren't you afraid of the paper cuts, Michel? Aside from the damage to your manicure, that could cause a lot of blood loss," Lorelai shot back.

"I work my fingers to the bone!" he said indignantly.

Lorelai nodded and said, "Good, in that case, you don't have to worry about buying the fancy-schmancy manicure stuff."

"You are impossible!" Michel said as he stamped his foot and turned to leave.

"Not so fast, Madge," Lorelai called out to stop him. "You need to look these over. And then after you finish the linens inventory, you can soak in Palmolive for the rest of the day."

"Lorelai, I have a client coming in twenty minutes, and I need to speak to you," Emily insisted.

"So speak," Lorelai muttered as she sorted through the stack, and handed a sheaf of papers to Michel.

Emily rolled her eyes and said, "Well, I was reading an article in one of the spa magazines, and it was focusing on treatments designed specifically for expectant mothers." When Lorelai looked up quickly, Emily flashed her a triumphant smile. "That got your attention, didn't it?"

Tasha nodded and said, "It's a rapidly growing part of our business."

"Lord help us," Michel muttered under his breath.

"I was thinking that we could add some of these services, or modify existing ones, and then we could offer special events for Lamaze groups or through women's health practices," Emily said with a satisfied nod.

"An evening off from the huffing and puffing. I love it!" Tasha enthused.

Lorelai looked quickly from Michel to Tasha and then back to her mother. "Um, yeah, it's something to think about."

Exasperated, Emily blew out a breath. "Really, Lorelai, I would think that you of all people..." she began.

"I can't talk about it now," Lorelai said as she stared pointedly at Emily.

Emily sniffed and said, "You just don't want to talk about it because it was my idea."

"Actually, Emily, Lorelai and I had already discussed adding some of those treatments to the spa menu," Tasha said helpfully.

"I see," Emily said as she pursed her lips tightly.

"We're just not sure that it would be enough of a draw to spend a lot of time on it," Tasha said, oblivious to the stare-down mother and daughter were engaged in across the desk.

"Well, what do you think, Lorelai?" Emily asked in a clipped tone. "Do you think a pregnant woman would enjoy a little extra pampering? Do you think it would be worth spending some time on that?"

Lorelai laughed nervously as she looked over at Michel, who was busily attaching various colors of post it notes to the stack of invoices she had given him. "Uh, how would I know?" she said through clenched teeth.

"I would think it would be a matter of common sense, but I'm not surprised that the concept escapes you," Emily sniffed. "Would you like for me paint a picture for you, Lorelai? Imagine that you are eight months along, your ankles are swollen, your feet hurt," Emily began in a sweetly condescending tone.

"Oh, please, do not do this," Michel whined as he looked up.

"You are retaining more water than the Hoover Dam, and you need a crane to pull you out of that god awful sofa that you picked out," Emily continued, her voice rising.

"Mom," Lorelai tried to interrupt.

"Your stomach feels like you swallowed a basketball, and your husband has a business to run, so he isn't there to cater to your every whim," Emily said, undeterred.

"Mom, please," Lorelai said as she stepped out from behind the desk and grasped Emily's arm.

"Don 't you think that if it were you, you might like a little time to feel good? A nice massage? A facial?" Emily asked as Lorelai pulled her into the office.

Lorelai shut the door firmly behind them and then said through clenched teeth, "They don't know."

Emily blinked as she reared back in surprise. "They don't?"

"No! No one knows except the family," Lorelai whispered urgently.

"Well, don't you think that you should tell them? After all, you're going to be away from the inn a great deal for doctor's visits," Emily said defensively. "Really, Lorelai, it's irresponsible. You are not sixteen anymore, there's no need to hide your condition. Not that you bothered to try to hide it then either," she added snidely.

Lorelai gaped at her mother incredulously and said, "Gee, thanks Mom."

"I see that the hormonal sensitivity is in full swing," Emily muttered as she rolled her eyes.

"This is just plain old sensitivity, Mom," Lorelai said, her voice rising. She caught herself and dropped it down a notch. "We haven't told anyone else because I am not sixteen, I'm forty, and having a baby at forty opens you up to a whole boatload of problems that a sixteen year old would never have to think about!"

Emily pressed her lips together and dropped her gaze to the floor as Lorelai's words sunk in. "I'm forty, Mom, you know what that makes me? That makes me a high risk."

"But you're perfectly healthy," Emily protested, her eyes widening.

"I am, but that doesn't mean that I don't have to be a little more cautious than someone younger would be," Lorelai said as she sank down into one of the guest chairs in front of her desk. "We just want to get through this first trimester. We have to make some decisions about testing and stuff..." Lorelai wrung her hands, weaving her fingers together tightly as she stared down at them. "And, I'm scared."

Emily nodded, clearly stunned by Lorelai's vulnerability. She sat down in the chair opposite her daughter and folded her hands in her lap to keep from reaching out to her. "Everything will be fine," she said with quiet conviction.

Lorelai looked up, furiously blinking back tears as she said, "I want this baby so badly. Luke wants this baby more than anything. What if something does go wrong?"

"Nothing will go wrong," Emily insisted.

Lorelai smiled weakly and asked, "And you can make that happen by the sheer force of Emily Gilmore's word?"

Emily nodded firmly and then lifted her chin slightly. "There's no question. You are a Gilmore, and Gilmore women are incredibly strong." She smiled slightly and asked, "Need I remind you of your grandmother?"

"God, no!" Lorelai laughed.

Emily chuckled and then nodded as she pressed her hands to the arms of the chair to stand up. "Everything will be fine, Lorelai," she said again.

"Except for the swollen ankles, sore feet, and water retention?" Lorelai asked.

"Yes, aside from that," Emily said with a small smile as she opened the door. She turned back and asked, "You do remember that we are not having dinner tomorrow, right?"

"That's right," Lorelai breathed, trying not to let her excitement show. "What was it again?"

"The Noah Webster House. The West Hartford Historical Preservation Society is raising funds to restore his birthplace."

"Oh, well, have fun," Lorelai said with a smirk.

"Really, Lorelai, it would it kill you to feign even a little interest in your state's history?" Emily sniffed as she closed the door behind her.

"Probably," Lorelai sighed tiredly and covered her stomach with her hand as she slumped back into the chair. "Believe it or not, kid, your grandma may actually be a little easier than mine was, but that's not saying much." She picked up a pen from her desk and toyed with it absently as she continued to rub her barely convex stomach. "She's not so bad. Sometimes. And then there are the other times," she said as she dropped the pen and pushed herself up out of the chair. "Well, at least when I do get stuck in the couch, your dad is strong enough to pull me out."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Rory walked into Knowles Books and waved to Tess, who was busy helping a customer. She walked directly to the center of the store and dropped her bag on the armchair she had claimed as her own. After pulling her laptop from the case, she set the bag on the floor and settled into the chair, tipping her head back and inhaling the musty scent of the printed page as she waited for her computer to boot.

She re-read the articles she had finished the night before and then quickly e-mailed them off to their respective editors. She then fired off a quick message to her contact at Salon, pitching a couple of new story ideas she had conjured while laying awake the night before, trying to ignore her growling stomach.

Rory opened a new message and fired off a note to Lane, asking if she was going to be around that weekend, and making a couple of jokes about doing laundry and scoring a decent meal at home. She quickly hit the send button, visions of a big, juicy Luke's burger with onion rings and fries dancing in her head, glistening in all of its greasy, carb, and fat-laden glory. "Mmm, burger," she moaned aloud. She blinked, and shook her head quickly to clear the food mirage from her mind and focused on her screen once again.

"How'd your articles turn out?" Tess asked as she approached with an armload of books to be re-shelved.

"All done. Signed, sealed and delivered," Rory said with a nod.

"Carrier pigeon?" Tess asked with a smirk. "I hear that they thrive on urban rooftops."

"You're funny. You and my mom. I'm booking youse two at the biggest room in the Poconos. You'll kill there," Rory said as she rolled her eyes.

Tess grinned and said, "I'll be here all week, try the veal."

"Do you travel with your own snare?" Rory asked as she surfed from webpage to webpage, quickly scanning the day's events and checking for updates.

"No other way to be sure that you get a decent rimshot," Tess replied smartly. "I'm going to go grab a Coke," she said as she jerked her thumb at the back room. "Do you want something? A nice can of Ensure, maybe?" she offered.

Rory looked up with a smirk and said, "Hah. No thanks, I'm good."

Tess raised her eyebrows and asked, "Are you sure? At your age, it's important for you to get plenty of protein."

Rory rolled her eyes and said, "I'm seven months older than you." She nodded and said, "Tell you what, just bring me one of whatever you're having."

"Done!" Tess called as she disappeared into the back.

Rory opened up the Yahoo account that she used for a catch-all email address and started to clear out the junk e-mails and special offers that had accumulated. She then clicked the online dating site she had registered for and opened the inbox to see if there had been any more responses to her ad. With a quick glance toward the back room, Rory opened the first of the profiles linked there. Her eyes widened as she saw that she had four more responses to her post. She clicked on the first one, and shuddered as the photograph and profile details loaded. "Ugh, no, I'm sorry," she said as she quickly clicked the back button. She opened the next link, and burst out laughing as the new page appeared on her screen.

"What's so funny?" Tess asked as she stepped out of the back holding two cans of Coke.

"Oh, God," Rory gasped as she clamped her hand to her mouth. "I'm sorry, it's just, a friend of mine was doing this online dating thing, so I thought I would give it a try. No big deal, right?" She tipped the screen back so that Tess could see and said, "Look! It's Screech!"

Tess laughed as she handed Rory one of the cans and said, "Wow, he does look like Screech. Hey, maybe it is Screech, I think he's single again."

"Uh, no thanks," Rory said as she hit the back button again. She opened the next link, her eyes bugging as a picture of a ridiculously handsome man popped up on the next page. "Oh my," she breathed.

Tess cocked her head and said, "No way! He totally ganked that picture from some modeling agency or something. There is no way on Earth that guy can't find a date."

"Yeah, oh!" Rory cried as she skimmed the words. "Seeking someone who will allow me to love them the way that I want to be loved, and is not afraid to love me back. Oh, Lord," she groaned as she pointed the cursor at the back button.

Tess giggled and said, "Wait! I want to see if he enjoys long walks on the beach, nights by a warm fire, and getting caught in the rain."

"I'll buy you a piña colada some other time," Rory said dryly, as she clicked back to the main page again. "Here's our last hopeful," she said as she clicked the link. The page appeared, filled with a picture of a smiling man in his late fifties or early sixties.

"And that's enough for one day," Rory said as she quickly closed both pages and took a long drink of her Coke as Tess sat down in the chair across from her.

"Hey, I think that last one matched your target demographic," Tess teased.

"Ba dum dum," Rory deadpanned. She powered the laptop down and closed the lid with a resolute click. "Well, I figure it's worth a shot. It's just so hard to meet people, you know?"

Tess shrugged and said, "You met me."

"Yeah, well, that was random," Rory said with a laugh. "Who knows, maybe I'll come across a good one, you never know. Probably shouldn't hold my breath, though."

"Well, there is that old saying about kissing frogs. There's been no one even remotely interesting?"

Rory shrugged. "Exchanged a couple of emails, but not much further than that. There was one guy that I was supposed to meet for coffee, but we could never work out a time, and he just kind of disappeared. Probably met someone," she grumbled.

"Don't give up." Tess cocked her head and said, "You know, lots of cute guys come in here. You just don't notice them because you're usually working."

Rory chuckled and said, "Great, the next time a cute guy comes in, and he's done tripping over his tongue after he gets a look at you, send him my way."

"Seriously, lots of them. And they're probably more your type than anyone you'll find on there," she said as she pointed to the computer.

"You're probably right about that," Rory said as she placed the laptop back in her bag.

"What are you doing this weekend?" Tess asked abruptly.

"Uh, I was going to go home this weekend," Rory answered slowly.

"You should stay here. My brother and some of his friends are doing a pub crawl and then we're going to party at their place. They're moving out, and I guess they want to be sure that they don't get any of their security deposit back," Tess said wryly.

Rory smiled uncomfortably. "Oh, no, I can't. I need to get home."

Tess shrugged and said, "Some other time then. Kevin's friends aren't all that cute anyway," she said as she wrinkled her nose in distaste. The phone rang and she hopped up to go answer it.

Rory rolled her neck, trying to work some of the tension from her muscles as her mind drifted back to the thought of that cheeseburger from Luke's. She pulled her checkbook from her bag and stared at the balance recorded on the register. After a few quick mental calculations, she determined that she had enough money to spare—after what she had set aside for next month's rent and utilities—to splurge on the real Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. With a sigh, she grabbed the strap of her bag and stood up. She waved to Tess and whispered, "Going to the store. See you later!" Tess waved back, and Rory made her way to the door.

She pulled her cell from her pocket as she walked toward the neighborhood grocery. "Hey Mom! How would you feel about a little company this weekend?" Rory smirked and held the phone away from her ear to avoid Lorelai's high pitched squeal.

"Are you kidding me? Your grandmother just reminded me that dinner was canceled tomorrow night. They have a function," Lorelai crowed. "Yes, yes, come home! I just rented She's Having a Baby, the soundtrack has been stuck in my head all week!"

"Oh boy," Rory answered in a snarky tone.

"Hush you. Thank God for the Preservation of Historical Flibbertygibbets Society! No Friday night dinner and my baby home with me!"

"You aren't going to cry are you?" Rory asked suspiciously as she entered the market.

"Oh, shut up," Lorelai said in a weepy voice.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

The morning rush was in full swing, and Luke's was standing room only as Luke maneuvered his way out of the kitchen with an armload of plates. As he passed the door, the bells jangled and Taylor bellowed, "Lucas! What is the meaning of this?" as he waved the papers he had clutched tightly in his hand.

"I'm busy, Taylor," Luke growled as he continued to distribute plates to their rightful owners.

"This is almost an eighty percent rent increase!" Taylor said as he followed Luke around the diner.

"Is it?" Luke asked innocently.

"You know it is! This is an outrage!" Taylor said indignantly.

"Well, Taylor, everything goes up," Luke said as he deposited the last plate and turned to head back to the counter. When Taylor tried to follow him behind it, Luke turned and glared at the older man forbiddingly. "I know that you weren't trying to come back here."

Taylor took a prudent step back, glancing at the counter to make sure he was behind the imaginary dividing line. "I can't pay this, it'll break me!"

"Well, Taylor, I don't know what to tell you. I'm only asking for what the market will bear," Luke said as he snatched the coffee pot from the burner. He made his way down the counter, trying to hide his smirk as Taylor gawped at him like a fish.

"I'll move! I'll close the Soda Shoppe and move to another available space!"

Luke shrugged. "Be my guest. I never wanted you there in the first place."

"But, Luke!" Taylor cried as he began to follow Luke on his round of refills. "I don't want to move. I've finally gotten that space just how I wanted it, and to move now, well, I don't know how I'd do it."

"Not my problem, Taylor," Luke answered.

"It is your problem, you own that space," Taylor insisted. "You can fix this."

"It ain't broken," Luke growled. "Your lease is up, and I'm entitled to ask for the amount of rent that I think the space is worth. I checked the town by-laws, and there are no rent controls or restrictions on commercial space," he said with a nod. "That's how you make a killing on those apartments you rent." Luke brushed past him, weaving his way through the crowd and into the kitchen.

"Er, yes, but even then," Taylor said as he glanced nervously over his shoulder and then craned his neck to see into the kitchen. When Luke reappeared with another armload of plates, Taylor took up residence on his heels again. "Even then, Luke, I'm bound by what's fair and reasonable. This is not fair, and it is certainly not reasonable!"

"I think it is," Luke said stubbornly. He set the last of the plates down and turned to go back to the counter, only to find Taylor blocking his path. "Back off, Taylor," he said in a low warning tone.

"We have to be able to work this out," Taylor said desperately, pressing the lease agreement to his chest.

Luke stared him down. "You wanna work this out?"

"Yes! That's why I'm here," Taylor said, as if the answer were obvious.

"Fine, we can work this out," Luke said as he jerked his head toward the back room. "Let's take this in the back." Luke turned and began walking toward the store room, leaving Taylor in his wake.

Taylor frowned hesitating for a moment before he followed him. When he reached the store room, he found Luke leaning up against the table with his arms crossed over his chest. "Luke, really, there's no need to resort to intimidation tactics," Taylor said nervously.

Luke's eyebrows shot up. "Are you feeling intimidated, Taylor?"

"Well, er, a little," Taylor allowed.

"Good," Luke said with a satisfied nod. "Now, you want to work this out, we can work it out, but it's going to be on my terms," Luke said as he pointed to his chest.

Taylor eyed him suspiciously and asked, "What are your terms?"

"I will renew your lease with the usual five percent rent increase if you stop gouging people at the market."

"Is that all? Why do you care what I charge for diapers and formula?" he asked in a knowing tone.

"I don't care about that, I just want you to charge what's fair and reasonable. People go shop over there and then they come in here and complain. Well, you're not payin' me to be your complaint department," Luke said as he poked Taylor in the chest.

"With the kind of service you give here I would think that you would be used to hearing complaints," Taylor muttered.

"Ten percent!" Luke said as he pointed one finger in the air. "Wanna go higher?"

"No, no!" Taylor said as he waved his hands. "I'm fine with lowering my prices. Five percent it is!"

"Ten. And take a closer look at your produce too. You're charging too much for crappy fruit," Luke said snidely.

"Now, listen," Taylor began.

"Do I hear fifteen?" Luke asked.

Taylor huffed and puffed for a moment and then said, "This is extortion."

"This is what's fair," Luke said through clenched teeth. "You'll still make a profit."

"Yes, but the margins are so slim," Taylor whined.

"Was that a yes to the fifteen?" Luke asked archly.

"Ten, and I'll lower my prices," Taylor said quickly.

Luke nodded and clapped a heavy hand on Taylor's shoulder. "It's the right thing to do. Think of it this way, you lower the price on the baby stuff, people may have more kids. Increase the tax base," he said in a more pleasant tone.

Taylor snorted derisively. "I doubt that."

Luke jerked his chin toward the front of the diner. "I'll have the new lease for you on Monday. Now get out of my store room."

"You brought me back here," Taylor said indignantly.

"Yes, and now I'm telling you to leave," Luke said as he took Taylor by the arm and steered him from the room.

"Really, Luke, the way you deal with people," Taylor said as he jerked his arm from Luke's grasp and straightened his cardigan. "It's a wonder that Lorelai puts up with you."

Luke smirked and said, "Oh, she likes it, thinks it's sexy."

Taylor rolled his eyes and said, "I'll expect the new papers with the five percent increase on Monday."

"You'll have the new papers with the ten percent we agreed to as soon as I check your prices," Luke countered. "Now order or leave," he said as he strode behind the counter.

He grabbed a full pot of coffee and called, "Who needs a refill?" When most of the hands in the diner rose, Luke grumbled, "Keep your pants on." He watched Taylor bustle through the door with a satisfied smirk, and then started to make his rounds.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"Mom? Luke?" Rory called as she tugged her laundry bag through the front door.

"You're here!" Lorelai cried as she ran from the kitchen and practically tackled Rory with her hug.

Rory laughed as she clung to Lorelai and said, "You act like you haven't seen me."

"I hardly ever get to see you here at home," Lorelai countered.

"Well here I am, and I brought friends," Rory said as she gestured to the laundry bag. She noticed a stray piece of Halloween spiderweb stuck to her shoe and bent down to remove it.

"Never can get all of that down," Lorelai muttered. She stared down at the bulging laundry sack and covered her stomach with both hands as she said in a patently insincere tone, "Aw, I'd love to help you with that, but I'm not allowed to lift heavy things."

Rory rolled her eyes. "Of course not, that's what you have that big strong husband for."

"That's not all I have him for."

"Mom," Rory groaned.

"What? He's cooking as we speak," Lorelai said innocently.

"Oh. He's cooking? I was hoping for a Luke's burger," Rory said, unable to mask her disappointment.

"Tomorrow," Lorelai promise as she tugged on Rory's arm. "Leave that, I'll have the bellman haul it in later."

"Poor Luke," Rory said with a mischievous grin. When Lorelai turned Rory touched her arm to stop her and asked in a hushed voice, "Are we doing anything for his birthday?"

Lorelai snorted. "Like he'd let us."

"I got him a card."

"Be prepared for the Hallmark rant," Lorelai warned.

"I'll brace for it. Hey, maybe it's a flax seed muffin month. I could swipe one from Mrs. Kim and stick a candle in it."

"Sookie is making the usual carrot cake. I'll hear enough about that," Lorelai said as she turned toward the kitchen again.

Rory followed Lorelai into the kitchen and saw Luke standing at the stove with the phone tucked into his neck. "That must be April," she whispered to Lorelai.

Lorelai nodded and said, "He's living large, celebrating not having to put a tie on for Friday night dinner."

"Good reason to celebrate," Rory confirmed.

"Wow, well that sounds great," Luke said into the phone as he turned to wave at Rory. "April," he mouthed. "Uh huh, yeah, Rory's here. We're having dinner," he said into the phone. "Oh, okay, sure," he said as he took the phone and held it out. "She wants to talk to you."

"Me or Rory?" Lorelai asked.

"Rory," Luke said as he handed the phone off.

"Oh. Hi April," Rory said brightly. "I know, it is cool. We are cool. We're going to be the coolest big sisters ever." She listened for a moment, her eyes widening appreciatively as she said, "Really? Fingerprints? That is incredible," she agreed, nodding enthusiastically as she glanced at Lorelai.

"Hey, I always say don't do the crime, if you can't do the time," Lorelai said as she held her hands up defensively.

Rory's brow furrowed as she listened, trying to keep up with April's excited chatter interspersed with scientific terminology.

"The baby has fingerprints," Luke said as he hovered near the table.

"Baby does?" Lorelai asked, looking up at him questioningly.

"Yep, April has decided to start learning about, uh, fetal development," Luke told her as Rory continued to nod and listen.

Lorelai tugged on his sleeve and grinned as she said, "I love how you hesitate over the word 'fetal', like it's dirty."

"Wow, you have really researched this," Rory said admiringly. "Really, there's a web page? Uh, sure, yeah, send me the link." She paused for a second and then asked, "Hey, have you talked to Mom yet? Oh, well, here she is," Rory said as she held the phone out to Lorelai.

"Chicken," Lorelai said as she took the phone and stood up from her chair. She wandered into the living room as April grilled her on what symptoms and side effects she was suffering, so that they could be filled in on her charts.

Rory smiled as Luke moved back to the stove and opened the over door to check on something. "She makes me feel dumb, and I lived with Paris Gellar for the better part of four years."

Luke chuckled and said, "Well, this was good for me. A couple of weeks ago, she was doing some kind of test on lipsticks. When she mentioned the words 'kiss proof formulas' I had to hand the phone off to Lorelai."

"She's great. I love getting her e-mails," Rory said with a grin.

"Yeah, they're all over the place," Luke said as he pulled a casserole dish from the oven. He turned to her with a proud smile and said, "I made some homemade macaroni and cheese for you."

"Oh! Well, uh, that was sweet," Rory stammered.

"Well, I had to do something to appease your mom, I've been trying to make healthier stuff," he explained as he turned back to the stove.

Rory eyed the casserole warily and pressed her hand to her stomach. "Well, I smell some kind of onion-y meat, is there a pot roast nearby?" she asked hopefully.

Luke's shoulders slumped slightly as he turned to look at her and said, "No. I didn't even think about that, I'm sorry. I've been trying to make stuff that's a little high in iron, folic acid, that stuff," he explained.

"Oh," Rory said, having a hard time masking her disappointment. She schooled her features into a small smile and said, "You take good care of her."

"I like her," Luke admitted gruffly as he turned back to the stove once more.

"Thank God, her friend Marissa called," Lorelai said as she shuffled back into the room and dropped into the chair next to Rory. "I swear, if the science thing doesn't work out, she would make an exceptional interrogator."

"Is there such a thing? Or, are there just jobs where you need good interrogation skills?" Rory asked.

"Well, whatever it is, she's hired," Lorelai said and she slapped her palm to the table. "Are we eating sometime tonight?" she asked in a cranky tone.

A laugh escaped Rory's lips before she could stop it. When Lorelai shot her a glare, she shook her head and said, "Wow, you are quite the swinger, aren't you?"

"I'm hungry," Lorelai whined.

"Set the table," Luke answered evenly.

"But, I'm tired," Lorelai moaned.

"I'm so glad I came home," Rory said with an impish grin as she stood up and went to pull some plates from the cabinet. She glanced over at the pan Luke was uncovering. "Uh, Luke? What is that?" she asked suspiciously.

Luke lifted the skillet from the burner and answered, "Liver and onions."

Lorelai eyes widened as she gasped, "Do you think we're going to eat that?"

"Lorelai, it's really good for you. And the baby," he argued. "You don't have to eat the onions."

"It's disgusting," Lorelai retorted.

"Listen, I made the macaroni and cheese that you insisted on, but you need to eat things that are higher in vitamins and iron," Luke said, his patience slipping away.

"I'll eat a Flintstones chewable," Lorelai shot back. She sat back and crossed her arms over her chest, her face set in a mutinous expression.

Rory looked from one to the other and then stepped back over to the table with the dinner plates in hand. "Aw, Mom, it can't be that bad, Luke made it, and if there's anyone who could make liver and onions taste good, it would be Luke," she said as she flashed him a sympathetic smile.

"You know what? Forget it," Luke said as he tossed the skillet back onto the stove with a clatter. He lifted the casserole dish, carried it to the table, and plunked it down without placing a towel or a pot holder under it. He dug a large serving spoon out of a drawer and shoved it into the pasta. "There you go! Loaded with carbs and fat. I used the really good cheese, so it should clog your arteries up nice and tight, but hey, the baby will get calcium, right?" he said snidely.

"I'll eat the liver," Lorelai muttered petulantly.

"Oh no, liver is disgusting," Luke said snidely as he picked up his own plate and carried it to the stove, loading it up with liver and onions and adding some steamed broccoli. "Don't worry, Paul Anka will help me eat it. Oh wait, he only likes raw onion, not cooked, and this meat is too well done for his delicate sensibilities."

Rory sighed and carried her plate and Lorelai's to the stove. She served them both a little of the liver and onions and a spoonful of broccoli and then placed a plate in front of her mother before she sat down. Without saying a word, Lorelai placed a spoonful of macaroni and cheese on her plate, and then began to pick at her food. Luke ate mechanically, keeping his eyes on his own plate.

Rory grimaced and silently served herself a healthy portion of macaroni and cheese. She took a tentative bite of the liver and chewed thoughtfully before pronouncing, "Not bad." When Lorelai and Luke both looked up at her, she shrugged and said, "Beats Cup-O-Noodles."

Luke blinked and asked, "Is that what you've been eating?"

"I knew it! You're starving!" Lorelai accused.

"I'm not starving," Rory said with an exasperated sigh as she pushed her macaroni around on her plate. "I just, uh, realized that my cooking skills aren't quite as good as I thought they were."

"I thought that you liked cooking. I saw you cook when we were at Logan's place on Martha's Vineyard," Lorelai said suspiciously.

"I made salad," Rory said with a laugh.

"I can teach you to make some stuff," Luke offered gruffly.

"And we have a whole freezer full of food. Luke isn't very good at cooking for two, unless it's two full battalions," Lorelai said as she offered him a tentative smile.

"That's true," Luke conceded. "There's a bunch of lasagna and stuff in there. We won't eat it. Tomatoes are not agreeing with your mom."

"Aw, really?" Rory asked as she turned to Lorelai.

Lorelai nodded and pouted as she said, "Not even ketchup."

"Weird," Rory said wide eyed.

"Tell me about it." Lorelai nodded as she loaded her fork with cheesy pasta and then speared a piece of broccoli. "Look! Cheese sauce," she said with a grin as she popped it into her mouth.

"Aw, jeez," Luke groaned.

"Ooh," Rory murmured appreciatively as she followed suit.

Luke rolled his eyes and said, "There are containers of soup, chili, stew, and some chicken and rice in there too."

Lorelai nodded. "The thing is packed. I couldn't even find a spot for my teeny tiny pint of Ben and Jerry's in there the other day." She grinned at Rory and said, "So, I had to eat it instead." When Luke dropped his fork to his plate with a clatter, she looked up. "What? It was teeny tiny!"

Luke pushed his chair back and opened the freezer door to reveal a wall of Tupperware containers. He reached down into the bottom drawer, and pulled out a pint of ice cream. Letting the freezer door slam shut, he turned back to the table and placed the pint in the center of the table with a thud, and then sat back down. Luke picked up his fork and speared a piece of broccoli and pointed it at Lorelai as he said, "Dessert. Eat your liver."

Rory snorted, stared at her plate and murmured, "Can we have your liver?"

Lorelai laughed. "But I'm still using it."

"No. No Monty Python at the dinner table," Luke said as he shook his head vehemently.

Lorelai sighed heavily. "So many rules with this one."

Rory grinned and turned to Luke. "So? Big birthday blow out planned?" she asked, and then shoved a heaping forkful of macaroni and cheese into her mouth as the grumbling began.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

The diner was packed on Saturday afternoon, but people were more interested in talking than eating. Lorelai sat on a stool at the counter and watched in amusement as Luke paced back and forth, clearly aggravated.

When the bells above the door jingled, nearly every patron turned to take in the new arrivals. It had been a week since Kirk and Lulu had departed for their honeymoon, an unusually quiet week in Stars Hollow. When they entered the diner, they were nearly bowled over by the excited townspeople.

The only available seats were at the counter, so Kirk escorted Lulu like a proud celebrity basking in the glow of attention, and they sat next to Lorelai. The assemblage of curious patrons crowded around them. Luke groaned.

"So, how was Canada?" Andrew was the first to raise the imperative question.

"You went to Canada?" Luke asked, dumbfounded.

Kirk nodded in confirmation. "Yes, we went to Canada."

"Why the hell would you go to Canada?" Luke inquired further.

Lorelai smirked and said, "The beavers, obviously."

Lulu made a face, turning to Kirk in sympathy.

Kirk swallowed hard. "I had a certain run-in with a beaver. Jacques," he clarified.

"Sounds French," Patty said.

"He was," Lulu agreed. "We stayed at a French chateau in Quebec."

"Apparently you aren't supposed to approach a hissing beaver," Kirk dutifully informed his audience. He pulled up his sweater and revealed several bite marks near his ribcage.

Gasps of horror sounded from every corner.

Bootsy chuckled. "Only Kirk would get attacked by a French beaver."

Kirk frowned. "Well, there weren't any signs or anything. Or maybe there were. But they were all in French."

"Would it have killed you to buy a translation dictionary?" Gypsy asked.

"Kirk thinks that the best way to learn a new language is to immerse oneself in that culture," Lulu pointed out.

"Ah, so getting down on all fours and frolicking with a beaver is your idea of immersing?" Gypsy replied sardonically. Several people laughed.

Kirk lowered his head. "He looked friendly."

"Did you deduce that before or after you got into the rye?" Lorelai poked.

"But you also think that Taylor looks friendly," Luke said in the exact same moment.

Lorelai laughed. "Ooh, simultaneous sarcasm. We just had a simulcasm," she told Luke.

"That sounds... dirty," Luke replied.

She giggled, raising her eyebrows suggestively. "I know."

Patty and Babette nudged each other, taking great pleasure in the sexual innuendo.

"So," Kirk began, focusing on Luke, "I heard you got Lorelai knocked up."

A hush fell over the diner.

"How the hell do you know that?" Luke demanded. Every guilty townsperson diverted their attention.

Lorelai shook her head. "I blame Canada."

"Is it true?" Lulu asked anxiously. "Are you really pregnant, Lorelai?"

Lorelai and Luke exchanged a defeated glance. "Yes, it's true," Lorelai confessed. That simple admission resulted in a mad rush of hugs and handshakes all around.

"Can't keep a secret in this damn town," Luke muttered. "Or this country."

"You know," Kirk said, "Canadians aren't that different from us. They're basically disarmed Americans with health care."

"Should we call you a Canuck now?" Gypsy mocked.

"Not until I'm granted Landed Immigrant status, and Canadian Citizenship," Kirk answered seriously.

Lulu attempted to steal the unnecessary spotlight from her husband. "Oh, hey, we brought back souvenirs!" She lifted two heaping bags from the floor and started pouring out the contents onto a nearby table.

"Hockey pucks?" Andrew asked disappointedly. "We have hockey pucks here."

"Is this a broom?" Lorelai said, fishing through the loot.

Kirk nodded. "Yeah, you know, for curling. It's pretty big up there."

"Aren't there specific brooms for curling?" Luke inquired. "I don't think they use actual brooms."

"Look, maple syrup!" Lulu indicated excitedly, holding up a bottle in each hand. "Maple syrup is a good souvenir, right?" she asked, hopeful.

"Got any bacon in that bag?" Babette asked impatiently, forcing her way to the front of the line.

A few greedy hands grabbed for the syrup at the same time, resulting in a loud crash followed by a sticky mess all over the floor.

"That's it! Everybody out!" Luke ordered.

The townspeople obediently gathered up their belongings and filed out the door, whispering their apologies as Luke locked up behind them. He marched back around the counter and retrieved a mop and bucket from the kitchen.

Lorelai watched him in concern. "You okay? I'm sure it was an accident."

"I know," Luke grumbled as his mop soaked up the thick, amber liquid. "I'm fine."

"Good." Lorelai smiled thoughtfully as she said, "So they know, huh?"

He looked up at her in mild amusement and muttered, "I blame Canada." Lorelai chuckled.





To be continued...




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