Episode 9.09 "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Catastrophe"
by Robinpoppins and Grizzly


Authors' Note: This episode would basically cease to exist without sosmitten, our coordinator, and Filo and Jewels12, our betas. We would also like to thank our readers for sticking with us so far and hope that you'll be on the lookout when we come back in January.

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 "Of all the Christmas movies in existence, you pick this?" Rory exclaimed as she held the DVD case in question between her thumb and forefinger, disgusted.

"Oh, come on! What's wrong with it?" Lorelai crossed her arms.

"In theory, nothing. But, potentially, you had every Christmas movie in the world to choose from and you chose this?"

They were seated on the couch in Lorelai and Luke's living room, a smorgasbord of Christmas delicacies spread out before them on the coffee table. Lorelai picked up a piece of fudge from a tin and bit into it, smiling in delight.

"I don't really see the problem with it," Lorelai declared, her mouth still full. "You used to love this movie."

"'Used to' being the operative words here."

"I dare you to name a better movie," Lorelai challenged as she reached for a candy cane with one hand, and dipped it into a container of caramel sauce. Rory arched an eyebrow at this. "What?" Lorelai asked with a shrug. "The baby's hungry."

"Uh huh," Rory snorted in disbelief. "And I can name a few better movies: Holiday Inn, White Christmas, Meet Me in St. Louis, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story—"

"Now, to be fair," Lorelai interjected, "we always watch the A Christmas Story marathon on Christmas Day, so that's not exactly a valid choice."

"Okay, good point."

"Hot chocolate's done," Luke announced as he entered the room with three steaming mugs in his hands. "What are we watching?"

Lorelai grinned, snatching the DVD case from Rory's lap and waving it for Luke to see. "You, my friend, my husband, love of my life, are in for a treat."

Luke stopped short of the couch and squinted as he read the title. His eyes widened in recognition. "Muppets? Jeez."

"Thank you!" Rory said, her expression triumphant.

"You two have no sense of child-like wonder and whimsy," Lorelai exclaimed with a pout. "I don't understand all this hostility. It's The Muppet Christmas Carol! A Christmas Carol with Muppets! Kermit is Bob Cratchit. He's married to Miss Piggy. They have frog and pig children. That doesn't amaze you? And Gonzo as Dickens? Classic... Oh, and Michael Caine! Michael Caine does not pick bad movies. He's a legend."

"Jaws: The Revenge," Rory mused after a short pause, grabbing a cookie from a plate in front of her.

"Wasn't that in 3D?" Luke asked, amused, ignoring Lorelai's sneer. "Oh, and he was in the Bewitched remake you dragged me to," Luke stated as he set the mugs down in between the bowls on the coffee table.

"Miss Congeniality."

"That Austin Powers movie," Luke chuckled.

"Get Carter!" Rory exclaimed, bouncing in her seat slightly and grinning at Luke.


"Okay, okay, okay!" Lorelai yelled, exasperated. "I get it. Michael Caine has been in the occasional terrible movie, but he has been in more good movies than bad, and according to the law of cosine squared... that trumps all the bad movies. So there. We are watching it."

"Get any of that?" Luke asked Rory.

"I got lost somewhere between the cosine squared law and Donald Trump."

"Just put the movie in," Lorelai sighed, handing the movie to Luke.

"And I get to put it in. Goody," Luke deadpanned, walking over to the TV.

"Well, you were up." Lorelai shrugged. "And don't forget to push the input button for me, hon."

Luke inserted the disc into the DVD player, pushed the button, and walked back over to the couch. He took a seat next to Lorelai, and she immediately placed her socked feet in his lap. He rolled his eyes, but squeezed her foot anyway. The DVD menu came up on the screen and Lorelai pressed play. Just then, the doorbell rang, and Lorelai and Rory both stared at Luke.

"You're closer," Rory said.

"And my ankles are swollen. Because I'm pregnant. And I shouldn't be on my feet."

"Sure, I'll get the door," Luke sighed, lifting up Lorelai's feet and getting up from the couch with a groan. "Whoever it is can wait, because it's probably a solicitor or something."

"It's nice to have a man around the house," Lorelai said, grinning at her daughter.

"You are totally playing the pregnancy card for all it's worth," Rory pointed her finger at Lorelai accusingly. "Your ankles look fine."

"I only get nine months to play the card, so yeah, I'm going to milk it." Lorelai and Rory turned toward the TV as Luke made his way into the foyer and to the door.

"You do realize that once this kid is cooked, you will probably watch this movie more times than any person ever should, thus causing it to lose all its wonder and whimsy," Rory remarked as she picked up the bowl of popcorn and placed it in her lap.

Lorelai reached in and grabbed a handful. "All the more reason to watch it now, pre-child."

From the living room, Lorelai and Rory heard a knock at the door and Luke grumbled, "Hold your horses, I'm almost th—"

Luke opened the door without finishing his sentence, and before Lorelai and Rory knew it, the door slammed.

"Unbelievable!" Luke yelled from the foyer. "Unbelievable!"

Rory whipped around. "What? What?"

A few moments later, a faint refrain of "Angels We Have Heard on High" could be heard coming from outside.

"Oh, carolers!" Rory chirped, setting the bowl on the table and scooting forward on the couch. She glanced at Lorelai, taking in her wrinkled brow and narrowed eyes, and realization hit. "Oooh, carolers."

"Yep," Lorelai said with a nod.

"And they still sing. Unbelievable!" Luke griped as he reentered the room. He began to pace.

"Third time this week," Lorelai said to Rory in a low voice.

"So, I take it that there hasn't been a resolution to The Great Luke/Taylor Feud of '08 since the frozen turkey incident on Thanksgiving."

"Taylor's retaliating for that. Which means, it's now Luke's turn to get him back, but he always takes a few days to rant and gripe about what Taylor is doing, like he's not going to do anything about it, because he thinks it's stupid that they are even arguing to begin with. But you know that Taylor will irritate him to the point that he just wants to do something to piss him off, and the vicious cycle continues."

"What did we ever do for entertainment before this war happened?"

"I cannot remember a time before this. It must have been a dark, dark place."

"Let's just ignore it, please," Luke said, returning to his seat next to Lorelai. He took the remote from her and pressed play, the opening credits scrolling across the screen. Still hearing the carolers outside, he punched up the volume, and Rory grimaced at Lorelai. When it sounded as if the carolers were even louder, Lorelai turned, and spotted Taylor directing the group to the window. She nudged Rory, who suppressed a gasp when she spotted them. "What?" Luke asked, turning to see what Lorelai and Rory were staring at. "Unbelievable!"

"What are you gonna do about it?" Lorelai asked, egging him on with an excited grin on her face.

"I'm going to close the shade, that's what I'm going to do."

Luke stood and walked over to the window, where Taylor was smiling as he continued to direct the carolers. "It's not enough that I have to look at your store through the window that you put up without my permission all day every day. And it's not enough that you've turned that very store into Santa's freakin' workshop, like you are the man yourself, and now I have to stare at that all day. But then, you have to come to my house, the only place I am free from you and your lunacy and you expect me to put up with it? Think again, Doose." And with his tirade finished, Luke tugged on the shade, only to have it snap right back up. He groaned, pulling on it again, and it rolled back into place. "Damn it, Taylor!" he yelled, turning his back on the windows. "I'm going to bed," he told Lorelai and Rory, and marched up the stairs.

"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas," Lorelai sang, as she wrapped her arm around Rory and turned her attention back to the movie.

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Rory rummaged around in her purse, taking out the contents one by one as she searched for the item missing in action. "iPod, iPod, iPod," she murmured, as she took out her wallet and her keys. Giving up the search in her purse, she replaced all the articles on the table and began to walk around the apartment, quickly discovering that the iPod was still connected to her speakers, where she left it the day before. As she unplugged it, she heard a knock at the door. Dropping the iPod back where she found it, Rory peered into the peephole, and unlocked the door.

"Hey," she said to Tess on the other side of the door. "What are you doing here?" She grinned at her friend, gesturing for her inside. Tess entered, her arms loaded down with tote bags, taking in Rory's apartment.

"Wow, you certainly sound happy to see me, and here I am, the bearer of food."

"Well then, come on in. I would never treat the bearer of food so poorly."

"Nice place you got here," Tess said as Rory led her into the kitchen. "Kevin's smells like boys live there."

"I'd worry if it didn't."

"How crazy is it that of all the apartment buildings in this neighborhood, he moved into yours?" Tess said as she set the tote bags on Rory's counter, rummaging around in the cabinets above her head.

"Make yourself at home," Rory teased, observing Tess moving about the kitchen.

"Bowls?" Tess asked, ignoring her.

"Over there." Rory pointed to a cabinet to Tess' left and Tess walked over there, taking out two ceramic cereal bowls. Rory pulled out the contents of Tess' tote bags, examining the Tupperware containers carefully. "This looks great."

"Oh, it is, trust me. My mama is the best cook around." Tess took the largest container from Rory, and poured stew into the bowls, popping them into the microwave next to her. "How do you work this thing?" she asked, her brow furrowed as she began pushing buttons.

"I got it. How long?"

"Three minutes, I'm thinking," Tess said as she arranged the rest of the food and opened drawers to find silverware.

"So, what exactly are we eating, if you don't mind me asking," Rory said, leaning on the counter with her elbows.

"Well, nuking up in the microwave, moqueca de camarao, which is basically a shrimp stew, and I have to boast that Mama makes it better than anyone I know, but I could be biased. Then, here's some cheesy bread, and some créme de abacate, which is—"

"Avacado?" Rory questioned, wrinkling her nose as she stirred the green concoction with a fork uncertainly.

"You know Portuguese?"

"Not at all, but it's green, so that was a safe assumption."

"You'll love it," Tess assured, sticking a spoon into the avocado dish and eating it. "It's a dessert. Brazil is the only place I know that sweetens their avocado."

The microwave beeped, and Rory pulled out their two bowls, placing them in front of stools across the island. They both took a seat at the counter, and Rory dug into her stew.

"We need tunes," Tess remarked, abandoning her stew as quickly as she sat down.

"My iPod is next to the speakers over there."

"I'm on it." Tess walked over to the speakers and plugged the iPod in, scrolling through Rory's artists. "Ooo, Voxtrot!" She pressed play, turning the music down low enough for an acceptable conversation level. "Good, huh?" she asked as she sat down again.

"Great! Anytime your mom wants to cook for me, tell her to feel free."

"Yeah, but we can't tell her that this was supposed to be Kevin's food, okay?"

"What?" Rory exclaimed, choking on her soup.

"He wasn't home and I had to endure two hours of 'you should really cut your hair, Tess,' 'that shirt is not flattering on you, Tess, 'why don't you have boyfriend, Tess' to get this food, so he'll have to deal."

"Good enough reason, I guess. We should probably make it up to him, though."

"Eh, what he doesn't know won't kill him."

"So, your mom," Rory began as she brought the spoon to her mouth. "Brazilian food aficionado?"

"I don't know how aficionado you can be when you are Brazilian."

"Really? How did I not know this?"

"Did I not mention that I was half-Brazilian?" Tess asked, dipping the bread into her soup. "Huh."

"Huh is right. We are friends now. Life details are essential."

"Now's probably a good time to tell you that I'm going there next week, right?"

"Really? Where? Why? How will I ever survive without you and the free stolen food?"

Tess giggled. "Let's see, we are going to Sao Paulo, where Mama is from, and we go every year around Christmas to visit her family. It's really great, because Mama is off the critical warpath because she's happy to see her siblings, and Kevin and I and our sister, Izabel, get to brush up on our Portuguese, and my dad always drinks way to much with Mama's brothers on Christmas Eve and shares embarrassing family secrets during Midnight Mass."

"What else do you do over there?" Rory asked, dipping a bit of bread into her stew.

"Eh, it's pretty much like it is here, I guess, just... I don't know, Brazilian. We do Secret Santa and Midnight Mass, and nativity scenes, and Papai Noel, or Santa, it's just... with a twist."

"Wow, could you be more vague?" Rory joked. "What kind of twist?"

"Right leg on blue, left arm on red kind of twist?"


"I don't know!" Tess stated defensively with a laugh. "I haven't spent too many Christmases at home, so I don't really remember what's the same and what's different. I guess you just have to be there."

"Oy, the work," Rory sighed. "There better be pictures."

"There always is," Tess said, scooping some of the avocado dessert onto a dish. "I have a crazy thought: You should come."

"What? No," Rory said, shaking her head.

"Seriously. It'll be fun, and I'm always trying to convince someone to go with me. Kevin, Izzy, and I always take side-trips with some of our cousins and, hey, there's always more food like this."

Rory laughed, unsure of how to respond to such an impulsive invitation. She stirred her stew thoughtfully, admitting to herself that the idea was tempting. But, seeing the small pine tree that her mother had bought the week before for her apartment, Rory was hesitant.

"I'll think about it."

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"Good morning, Michel," Tasha called out, giving him a perky smile as she walked into the lobby. She carried a stack of papers in her hand, and when she reached the desk, she plopped them down on Michel's collection of winter-themed post-it notes. "Got a sec?"

Michel eyed the stack of papers warily, lifting up the corner to view his post-its and gently shoving the papers to the side of the desk. He then glanced at his computer screen, minimizing the Versace website before Tasha could spot the extravagant ties he was looking at. Noting that the lobby was empty, he finally responded, "I suppose."

"Great! I just wanted to go over a few of the new holiday treatments for the spa with you, in case a guest had a question." She handed one of the papers over to Michel. "Okay, so I put down short descriptions, and a list of ingredients, in case there were allergy concerns. First, we have the Eggnog Body Wrap, which is pretty self-explanatory. It's basically our traditional mud wrap treatment, with the eggnog aroma added in. I tried it on my arm earlier, and you have to smell this. It's heavenly." She sniffed her left arm, and with a nod of confirmation, pressed her forearm to Michel's nose.

He jerked his head back and his eyes widened in surprise. But Tasha smiled as she continued to hold her arm out in front of him. Quickly getting over the initial shock of her gesture, he leaned in and sniffed. "Hm, it is... heavenly."

"I knew you would think so!" Tasha exclaimed as she retracted her arm. Giving it one more sniff for good measure, she continued. "And then we have this fabulous Shiradora facial treatment that just came in this morning, which I like to call our Hanukkah-Christmas harmony package, with a little bit of hot oil created by this spa near the Dead Sea that is completely relaxing, and a candy cane scrub that Emily found from one of her suppliers in London to finish it off. Here, feel my hands." She grabbed one of Michel's hands over the desk and placed it on top of one of hers. "Pretty nice, huh?"

Michel apprehensively traced a finger on her hand and then quickly took it away. "Yes," he said, clearing his throat. "Very."

"Smells good too." Tasha picked up one of the lists. "Let's see, what am I forgetting? Oh, well, there's the red and green apple massage, which is a revival of the one we offered in September, per Lorelai's request. She loves that one, and we figured that no one would really notice unless they are spa regulars, and we really don't have many of those. And then we have the Snow Wonder mani-pedi, which is the last thing on the list. It's a hot cream soak with a sugar plum scrub, and we just hired a new nail tech that paints the cutest little poinsettias on the nails. I should show you my feet, hold on."

"Not necessary," Michel interrupted as Tasha lifted up her foot to remove her clog. "I will take your word for it. I'm sure your toes look very... nice." He grimaced at his choice of words.

"Okay, well, that pretty much covers it. I'll leave a stack of papers up here with you, and then give the rest to the head maid so that the staff can put them in the rooms. Got any questions?"

"No." Michel shook his head. "I don't believe so."

"Thanks, and I guess I will see you around then, Michel. Although, probably not until the staff Christmas party, because with how busy it's getting here and in the spa, I feel like we work on two different planets."

"Sometimes, yes, it seems like that."

"Hey, I have a crazy idea," she said, leaning on the desk, propped up by her elbows. "You look like a man who enjoys a good facial."

Michel touched his face defensively, brow furrowed. "Occasionally."

"Oh, come on, I'm in the biz. You don't have to lie to me. I can tell you get one regularly. You have great skin."

"Thank you," he beamed, now rubbing his cheek in circles with pride. "Most people do not appreciate the work that goes into keeping my skin so clear."

"Well, I have a proposition for you, as a man and a facial lover," she said with a grin. "I have yet to try the Shiradora treatment on anything but my hands, and while they feel great, it's not quite the same as trying it on a client's face, especially a male client, since their skin tends to be slightly more sensitive. So I guess what I'm asking here is would you mind terribly being my guinea pig?"

"You want to give me a facial?" he asked, incredulous.

"Yes. I would be a great way for me to try it out, and you would get a free facial out of it. What do you say? I could probably fit you in Wednesday. When do you get off?"

"Six," he answered, unsure. "But, I am on a strict regiment with the woman who normally does my facials. It's taken us years to find the right products for my skin."

"Well, I hear you there, but please? I promise I'll make it up to you. I am dying to test this stuff out."

"Well, fine, I suppose," he agreed after pondering it a few moments. "But my face typically needs to air after you put on the mask for twenty minutes. And I despise music with tribal flutes."

Tasha laughed. "Done and done. You crack me up. Thanks so much. See you Wednesday, then!"

She walked out of the room, flipping her wavy hair behind her, and leaving Michel to wonder what he was getting himself into.

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"Order up," Caesar called out for what seemed like the one thousandth time that day to Luke. The diner was packed, and Luke and Zach were scrambling, doling out orders and refilling coffee mugs in a pace that could only mean that it was the lunch rush.

"Got it," Luke yelled to Zach, picking up two plates from the window as he deposited more order slips on the shelf. "Two more for you, Caesar."

Caesar wiped sweat off his brow with his forearm and picked up the slips. "Okay, boss."

Luke delivered the plates to their rightful owners, narrowly avoiding a head-on collision with Zach, the decaf coffee pot in hand.

"Sorry, Luke," Zach said as he zoomed past and refilled the mugs on the table to his left.

Luke weaved in and out of tables and chairs quickly, making his way back to the counter to grab the regular coffee pot. No time for sentences longer than two words, he yelled out to the crowd, "Refills?" holding the pot high. Several customers raised their hands, and he started with the ones at the counter, starting with Miss Patty, who was quietly sipping soup next to Babette. He hit everyone at the counter, careful not to slosh the coffee around in the glass container.

The bell above the door rang, and a group of five made their way inside, brushing the dusting of snowflakes off their coats. "Sit where you can," Luke said to them as he passed, "I'll be with you in a moment."

"Another order!" Caesar yelled. Luke sighed, passing the group of five again, who were still looking for a table.

"Hold this," he told one of the men, handing over the coffee pot. "I'll be right back with mugs. And sorry." He saw Zach running to grab the order behind the counter, deftly avoiding the woman who suddenly pushed her chair back to stand. Luke followed Zach, walking around the woman.

"Oh, hey," she said, catching sight of Luke. "Do we just pay here, or do we have to go to the register?"

Luke heard the phone ring, looking in the direction of it, nearly too distracted to answer the question. "I, uh..." he stammered, attempting to figure out how he could answer the question and still make it to the phone in time. Luckily, he saw Zach lean over to the phone, two plates somehow balanced with one hand, and pull the receiver from the cradle. Luke turned back to the woman. "If you have the exact change, just go ahead and leave it on the table. If you need change, I'll meet you at the register."

"Can we have that table?" the man with the coffee pot asked, gesturing with the glass pot to the table the woman was standing at.

"Yeah, just... Gimme a sec. I'll get some more chairs and clean it up."

Luke turned, making his way to the store room, feeling nearly frazzled from all the activity in the diner, when he heard Zach bellow, "Luke, it's for you."

"Take a message."

"It's April's mom," he said, the receiver pressed against his shirt. "She said it was important."

He sighed again, walking behind the counter and taking the phone from Zach. "Do you mind getting more chairs from the back, and then giving the people who just came in coffee on the house... In fact, just give everyone coffee. That should keep 'em happy until Lane gets in here to help us out."

"Sure thing, boss."

"Hello," Luke said, picking up the receiver as he watched Zach deliver the orders he was still holding.

"Luke, hi, am I catching you at a bad time?" Anna asked, sounding about as stressed as he felt.

"It's busy, but I can talk for a minute."

"Sorry, I tried to call your apartment number, but then I realized that you no longer lived there, and I know I have your house number somewhere, I just... can't find it... I'm sorry."

A man from across the room caught Luke's eye, and waved his hand. He realized he was still holding the man's check and then noticed the woman from before, standing patiently at the register. "Anna, is there any way I can call you back in a couple hours? We're swamped... April's still flying in on Wednesday, right?"

"Actually, that's why I called. I really need to run something past you."

"She's not coming?" Luke questioned, suddenly feeling a sense of panic wash over him.

"No, no, she still is... It's just... My mother died Saturday, and the funeral is tomorrow, and April wanted to call you to let you know, but I wanted her to hold off until I could talk to you first, but things are just happening so fast, and I'm feeling myself being stretched thin, between all the last minute funeral arrangements, and selling my house and business, and finding a way back to Connecticut, and—"

"Whoa, Anna, slow down," Luke said, unable to follow her rapid train of thought. "What happened?"

"My mother died."

"Oh, jeez, I'm so sorry."

"Yeah, well, it wasn't completely unexpected, but you know..."

"It's still hard," Luke said, his voice soft.

"Yeah. It really is." Anna paused. "So, anyway, I really—"

"Sir, do you mind ringing me up?" the woman at the counter asked, distracting him from his phone call. "I'm sorry, I just have to go."

"Yeah, sure," Luke responded to the woman, collecting her change and punching in numbers in the register.

"Wow, that was a fast," Anna said, and Luke realized that Anna had clearly continued their conversation without his knowledge.


"A fast decision. I didn't think you would agree so quickly."

"Crap, I'm sorry, Anna, the diner is packed, and I was helping a customer, so I—"

"You missed what I said. That's okay, I understand. I was just wondering if you were willing for April to extend her visit with you."

"Oh... okay. For how long?" Luke asked, after handing over change to the woman at the counter.

"Um, basically until I am able to sell my house and move back to Connecticut."

"Which means it could be awhile."

"Exactly," Anna agreed. "Look, I know we haven't always been on the best of terms here, and I know I haven't always been willing give up this sort of time with April, but... I've been thinking about this, moving back home, for awhile now, and I knew that if I was in a position that I had to send April ahead of me and it was best for her, I would do it. I don't want her to have to switch schools mid-semester, and she... well, she loves you, so this is a good solution."

"You want her to stay with me until you can officially move back?" Luke questioned, incredulous.


"I uh... wow... I need to run this past Lorelai first, but—" A loud crash rang out from the dining area and Luke jerked his neck up to see Zach picking up the tub of dirty dishes he just dropped. "Crap, Anna, I really need to go. Can I get back to you later?"

"I really would prefer to know one way or another before I talk to April about it. I know we still have a lot of details to hammer out, but—"

"You need an answer right away," Luke sighed, rubbing his fingertips. "Yes, of course she can stay."

"Thank you, Luke. You really just took a load off."

"Glad I could help... And I'm sorry about your mother."

"Thanks," Anna said after a long pause and then hung up the phone.

Luke replaced the receiver on the wall, walking around the counter to help Zach with the dishes. Taylor chose that very moment to walk into the diner, whistling as he jingled keys with his fingers.

"Taylor, get out," Luke shouted.

"Lucas, you can't just—"

"I can, I will, and you really don't want to screw with me today, so get the hell out of here. "Luke picked up a plate and waved it at the older man, who impulsively ducked. Aghast, Taylor turned and walked out the door, muttering under his breath. "And don't call me Lucas!" Luke called out to his retreating back.

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"Hey!" Lorelai said as she flipped open her phone.

"Hi," Luke responded, hesitantly.

"Oh! I'm glad you called. Remind me tonight that we need to buy some stuff for the downstairs bathroom," Lorelai requested. "I am sure that April will bring whatever she needs, but it's good to have some on hand just in case, and it's not like I've had a visit from Auntie Flow for a while."

"I can do that," Luke volunteered. "There's a bit of a lull at the moment, I'm sure Caesar can handle it."

"You want to buy girlie products?" Lorelai laughed in disbelief.

"I didn't say I wanted to, I said I would," Luke huffed.

"Luke? What's going on?"

"Nothing's going on. I've bought them before," he protested.

"I know you have honey, but not voluntarily and not when they are the only thing on the shopping list. And even if you had have, you never volunteer to go to Doose's if you don't have to."

"I wasn't going to go to Doose's," Luke disputed. "They're probably cheaper at the drugstore anyway."

"Luke? What are you doing?"

"What do you mean, 'What am I doing?' I was offering to help," he pointed out.

"Nice as that was of you, you did not call to discuss the need to buy bathroom supplies with me. Yet as soon as I mentioned it, you were on to it like a flash. Which means you are trying to avoid telling me whatever you called to tell me about."

Luke sighed in defeat. "Anna called."

"Uh oh!" Lorelai's voice held fear and disappointment.

"It's not 'uh oh!'" Luke reassured her. "Or at least, not all of it. Anna's mother died," he said.

"Oh hon, I'm sorry. How's she doing?" she asked. "How's April doing?"

"She's doing okay, I think," Luke replied. "I'm not really sure, I haven't talked to her, but Anna seems to think she is coping well. It wasn't unexpected, so she's had some time to get used to it."

"Does she need anything? Is there anything we can do? God! I feel like an idiot, blabbering on about bathroom supplies. Why didn't you stop me?" she asked.

"April's staying with us until the end of semester," Luke blurted out again.

"What?" Lorelai was caught off guard.

"I'm sorry I didn't run it by you first. I was going to, but then it clicked that Anna had just lost her mom and I had to agree on the spot. But I know that this is the kind of big decision that we are supposed to talk over together and..."

"Luke, it's okay," Lorelai assured him.

"It is?" Luke's voice rose slightly.

"Of course," Lorelai replied. "She's your daughter. You do whatever you need to. You know I love April and that she's always welcome in our house."

"I know, I just thought that agreeing to have her come and live with us for the foreseeable future was something I should have run by you. But I just really felt for her, you know? And I just sensed that she needed an answer right away."

"Luke, it's okay," Lorelai repeated.

"So you don't mind having April living with us for a while? It won't be too much for you? I know you've been feeling really tired lately."

"Are you kidding?" Lorelai laughed. "April is so excited about the baby; I think I'll have my own personal slave at my beck and call. Plus, this way it will be four against one when we choose whether to have Paul Anka open his gifts before we open ours or afterwards on Christmas morning."

"Four against two?" Luke questioned.

"Baby gets a vote," Lorelai informed him.

"Of course," Luke readily agreed. "But what if the baby doesn't care about dog either?"

"For the next few months at least, baby doesn't get a choice. What Mommy wants, baby wants." She laughed. "Besides, you love Paul Anka."

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"So, do you think you are going to have enough room in the house when April gets here?" Sookie asked, picking up a cookie from the plate she set before Lorelai. They were in the kitchen, both seated on stools as they watched Sookie's kitchen staff beginning to prepare for lunch. "Manny," Sookie called out. "Radishes should be red. Look before you cut!"

"Well, we've done it before, with Rory still living at the house, but with Rory moved out, we should be fine," Lorelai said, swirling the mug of hot cocoa in her hand.

"How's April doing?"

"Luke says she's a little sad, but otherwise excited to be moving back here."

"Well that's—"

The conversation halted as Michel entered the kitchen, face beet red with several bumps and welts covering his cheeks. He calmly walked over to the coffee pots, picking up a mug from the stack and pouring himself a cupful. He added a little skim milk, and took a sip, while Lorelai and Sookie looked on, dumbstruck.

"Oh my God," Lorelai finally managed to get out. "What the hell happened to you?"

Michel set his mug down on the table. "Nothing. Nothing is wrong."

"But, Michel," Sookie chimed in. "Your face is a little..."

"Tomato-like, Bob," Lorelai finished.

"No, my face is fine. I look fine," Michel insisted, taking another sip.

"Honey, that is anything but fine," Sookie said, standing up to get a closer inspection of his cheek. "This is really bad."

"Not to mention that your face totally doesn't coordinate with that shade of aubergine on your shirt," Lorelai snickered.

Sookie shot her a look, and Michel's hands around the mug tightened, his knuckles white. "I do not know what you are implying."

"What exactly did you do last night? Fall asleep in a bed of poison ivy? Play a little too much Wii Fit?"

"Stay up too late singing 'I Drove All Night' into your hairbrush?" Sookie added with a giggle.

"If you'll excuse me, some people have more productive uses of their time than sitting around and snacking on cookies all morning."

"Oh, hon, you can't go out there like that," Lorelai said, nearly unable to keep her composure. "Not without a paper sack, or a white mask or something."

"Maybe play a little organ music, while you're at it."

"Or, Michel, if you really are that self-conscious, we could always have you switch shifts with the night manager."

"Didn't Tobin say to call him whenever we were in a bind and needed help?" Sookie remarked.

"Oh, I think you're right. The guests would love Tobin."

"I hate you! I hate you both!" he responded, covering his face with his hands and walking out of the room.

"I am not an animal!" Lorelai yelled to Michel's retreating back, finally releasing a long repressed laugh.

♫   ♫   ♫  

Michel stormed from the kitchen, Lorelai's and Sookie's laughter ringing in his ears. When he reached the foyer, he spotted Emily out of the corner of his eye as she said her farewells to a client she had been chatting with in the library.

"Emily," he called.

"Oh! Yes Michel, what is it?" Emily barely glanced up from the notes she was making, but then caught a glimpse of his face. "Oh my God! What happened to your face!"

Michel flinched, having convinced himself that Lorelai and Sookie were exaggerating and that it wasn't as bad as he feared. But he considered Emily his equal in style and grace, so her reaction was critical.

"I wanted to talk to you about the spa," he said, ignoring her outburst. "I want to complain about those stupid new packages that Tasha has created. I would talk to Lorelai but she is mean."

"What is it, Michel?" Emily asked with icy politeness, her back stiff.

"I refuse to be a guinea pig any longer, while Tasha tries out her cheap imitation products on me. I demand that you fire her at once and order some quality products to replace them. Also, you can inform Lorelai that I will be taking the rest of the day off to visit my dermatologist to see if there is anything that he can do to fix this horrendous mess that Tasha has made of my face."

"Michel." Emily's tone was biting. "I am not your messenger and I will not be treated as one. If you wish to have some time off, you will seek permission from your employer and you will give her the respect that she deserves. You will not calmly decide to take yourself off in the middle of the work day. And as for the spa: those cheap products that you referred to, are ones that I have used personally for longer than I care to remember. Perhaps it was the cheap nylon threads of your suit that reacted with the mask, causing your face to develop such ugly hives." She turned on her heel and stalked away, leaving Michel standing there stunned.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"I need to know when you are doing your Christmas thing with your dad and Gigi," Lorelai said without preamble as soon as Rory answered her phone.


"I need to know when you are doing your Christmas thing with your dad and Gigi," Lorelai repeated.

"Um, I'm not sure yet. Why?" Rory asked, looking up from her laptop to stare unseeing at the shelf of books in front of her.

"There's so much going on already, I need to be sure I don't double book you," Lorelai exclaimed.

Rory was slightly taken aback. "Oh!"

"Unless, of course, you want me to double book some things," Lorelai continued. "I mean, some things are not to be missed, like the ceremonial decorating of the house, and the Stars Hollow Christmas Pageant, and the traditional Luke-Taylor confrontation about whether to hang lights outside the diner.  I've bought the popcorn already. But maybe you'd prefer not to listen to Mama Kim's annual 'Put The Christ Back Into Christmas' sermon or attend Taylor's seminar on the most environmentally friendly way of wrapping gifts. Or I could double book you to get you out of Grandma's Christmas party early if you like. It is the same night as Miss Patty's Christmas recital. However, I think that we would both agree that we can't miss Sookie's Christmas bake off, and timing how long Kirk lasts before some kid pees on his lap when he volunteers as Santa at the Lions Club party."

"Wow!" Rory's voice was stunned, but held little excitement.

"So find out what your dad's plans are, because I also need to book us in for the Christmas package at the spa, and April wants to go to the arboretum; I'm not sure what that has to do with Christmas, but I just added it to the list."

"So you've got it all mapped out, huh?" Rory asked.

"No, well not quite, that's why I'm calling." Lorelai's voice was giddy with excitement.

"So what if I already had plans?" Rory asked, upset at her mother's presumption.

"Well I figured you would have mentioned them. But just let me know when and I will block out the time."

"I meant, what if I had plans for all of Christmas?" Rory asked, catching sight of Tess out of the corner of her eye.

"Huh?" Lorelai's voice betrayed her confusion.

"I'm thinking of going to Brazil for Christmas," Rory said abruptly.


"My friend, Tess, invited me to go to Brazil with her family for Christmas," Rory explained, her voice rising slightly as she imagined the possibility.

"What?" Lorelai repeated. "You can't go to Brazil for Christmas."

Lorelai's insistence strengthened Rory's resolve. "Why not? I'm an adult now, and it's an amazing opportunity."

"But Christmas should be spent with family," Lorelai protested."And, I don't know, with Luke and I married and April being home, I thought you would want to be here."

"I've been away for Christmas before and it wasn't a problem."

"I saved Christmas for you. And that was different. That trip was planned. You were spending Christmas with a partner you'd been dating for two years, not someone you'd just met. This is completely out of the blue, Rory."

"You never needed to put things on hold for me, I never expected you to," Rory responded. "And, what, do I need to pencil my own time in now? Reserve 2010 for a trip with my friends?"

"Fine, then. You know what? Go to Brazil! I hope you have a wonderful time, far, far away from here." Lorelai slammed down the phone.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Wednesday night, Luke attempted to open the door to his house, only to be met with resistance from something on the other side. He put some more weight on it, the door opening no more than a crack. Crouching low and putting his shoulder into it, Luke shoved, the door giving way enough for him to squeeze in. The sight in front of him was rather unexpected, and his eyes widened as he took it in.

Racks filled with ornate costumes were up against every wall of the foyer, one even blocking the arch leading into the kitchen. Boxes labeled "props" and "hats" were stacked up in every available space, to the point that Luke would have to step over them to enter the living room. He wrestled with a rack that was in his way, pushing it to the side, and stepped wide, catching himself before he fell on top of bolts of fabric stacked behind the boxes. He rolled his eyes, finally noticing the music blaring in the living room. Lorelai was seated at her sewing machine in the corner, singing along with the Christmas song as she hemmed a pair of shiny gold slacks. April was next to her in an armchair, gluing jewels on to a plastic crown and dancing to the beat of the music.

"Lorelai," he yelled to be heard over the music and the hum of the sewing machine, hopping over the bolts of fabric. Lorelai and April both looked up.

"Hey hon!" Lorelai exclaimed. "Welcome to the madness." April laughed.

"What? What's going on?"

"What?" Lorelai responded, releasing her foot from the pedal of the sewing machine.

"What's going on?" He made his way over to the sewing machine, pushing more boxes to the side.

"Kirk has a bong?"

"I'm turning the music off," he said, pushing stop on the stereo. "What the hell is all this?"

"Well," Lorelai answered, standing up and brushing off her jeans. "April and I went to the costume fitting for the pageant and Taylor was complaining about the costumes starting to look a little ragged, and I said that's because they were at least 30 years old, and he said that something should be done about that, and..." she trailed off, catching the irritated expression on Luke's face. "Well, skipping to the end, I was sick of his whining, so I volunteered to give some of the costumes and props a bit of an overhaul before Saturday."

"And you think that's a good idea?"

"There's some great stuff in these boxes that haven't been used in years, so... yeah. I thought so."

"And have you seen some of these props up close?" April added, placing one final jewel on the crown she was working about. "They've certainly seen better days."

"You've just been really tired lately," Luke pointed out. "And not getting that much sleep."

"Eh, I'll live," Lorelai said, brushing it off. She finished off the seam in the pants she was working on, and took it off the machine. "These are done, April."

"Okay," she replied, picking up a clipboard from under her chair and writing something down. "So, that means one wise man down, two to go."

"It just pisses me off that Taylor would pawn this off on my pregnant wife three days before the pageant."

"He didn't pawn it off on me, babe. I volunteered. I'm actually really excited about this."

"Me too," April added. "Because Kirk in those pants? Priceless."

"I'll just go start on dinner," Luke said, knowing he had already lost this argument.

"Thanks, Dad."

"Can you turn the music back on, please?" Lorelai asked, picking up a large tunic and fitting it into the machine.

"Sure," he relented, rolling his eyes. He pushed a button on the stereo and music flooded the living room once more, Lorelai and April resuming their tasks like they hadn't been interrupted.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"A little to the left, Kirk," Taylor dictated from his position across the street with a megaphone, watching Kirk on a ladder in front of the Soda Shoppe, hanging up a strand of colored lights. Kirk tugged the strand to the right, causing most of the light display to lean.

"Left, Kirk, left!"

"Your left or my left?" Kirk asked, picking up a megaphone of his own and letting the light strand fall.

"Your left is my left."

Luke walked out of the diner and turned toward the Soda Shoppe, squinting as he stared at the light display. Giant Styrofoam candy canes stood on either side of the door way as several strands of lights both inside and outside of the shop cast a neon glare on the town. "Could you keep it down out here, Taylor? I'm hoping to actually attract customers today."

"Well hello to you too, Luke," Taylor spoke into his megaphone, a big grin on his face. "Come to admire the light display?"

"No, I came out here to get you to shut the hell up. If I can hear you in the kitchen, you are too loud."

"Oh, come now, Luke, where is your Christmas spirit?"

"I don't know, Taylor. I have a feeling that it left somewhere between the construction of this monstrosity and all the caroling at my house."

"This 'monstrosity,' as you call it, will put Stars Hollow on the map. I'll have you know that a Hartford news crew is coming tomorrow night to do a story about the lights."

"Oh, terrific, more nutcases," Luke yelled back at Taylor, rolling his eyes.

"You know, it's fortunate that you have a family that is so community-minded and willing to be involved in town activities. I always hoped that a little of it would rub off on you, but maybe you are beyond hope." Taylor placed his megaphone on the ground, a self-satisfied grin on his face.

Annoyed, Luke turned around and began to walk back towards the diner, pushing over one of the candy canes as he went. Taylor sighed, picked up his megaphone and made his way back towards Doose's.

Kirk picked up his megaphone from the ladder again, arm still holding up a strand of lights. "Taylor, my arm is getting tired... Taylor?"

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"Lorelai." Emily's strident tones disturbed Lorelai's reverie and she looked up, almost grateful for the distraction. Even a run in with her mother was preferable to thinking about her fight with Rory.

"What's up, Mom?" she asked, frowning slightly as she noticed Michel disappear from his spot beside her at the reception desk.

"I need to know what you think we should do about the spa packages. Do we need to cancel them? Or maybe we could just find a new supplier, although I have sworn by them for years. And yet, look what happened. Maybe it's best to just cancel the whole thing, that way we don't run the risk of it happening to one of the guests, but I had thought it would be a nice draw with the holiday season upon us. Perhaps we need to come up with some other festive event to encourage customers?"

"Mom! Mom!" Lorelai repeated when Emily's diatribe continued.

Emily finally stopped, looking startled at the interruption.

"Mom, don't worry about it," Lorelai calmly informed her.

"Don't worry about it?" Emily cried. "How can I not worry about it? The man's face is covered in hives!"

"I know!" Lorelai snorted. "Isn't it hilarious?"

"Lorelai, he makes The Creature from the Black Lagoon look like Errol Flynn. I hardly think that is cause for laughter. What if it happened to one of the guests? Maybe we need to rethink these new products that we are using." Emily bit her lip in consternation.

"Mom, relax. It's Michel. He was probably too vain to take the product out of his hair when Tasha might see him." Lorelai smirked as she heard a muffled stamp from behind her. "You use steam in those treatments, right?" she asked.

"Yes we do," Emily confirmed, frowning as she listened to what Lorelai was saying.

"Well, the steam probably melted the product in his hair and it may have reacted with the spa treatments. It is worse around his hairline after all," Lorelai assured her. "Don't cancel the order, you got a good deal from those suppliers, we can't afford to order a whole new batch. Just check with the manufacturers about whether there are any known interactions with the treatments and talk to Tasha about getting some signs and leaflets printed to inform the guests."

"Oh, yes. That might work," Emily said, preening at the show of support. "But really, Lorelai... You need to do something about Michel."

"Oh sure, I'll just wave my magic wand and clear those hives right up," Lorelai laughed.

"I wasn't referring to his face," Emily retorted. "Although that should remain hidden, far, far from any guests. I meant his behavior. Really Lorelai, I can't believe that you have put up with his rudeness for so long. As a business owner, you have the responsibility of ensuring that your staff behave appropriately. You could lose business due to the man's lack of civility and I know you have lost staff who couldn't bear his insufferable attitude. I will never understand why you would continue to employ someone like that. But of course, you simply criticized my staff turnover instead of learning to accept nothing but the best from your employees. And that is why you ended up with someone like Michel."

As Emily turned on her heel and strode off towards the spa, Lorelai sank down onto the stool behind the desk, rubbing her stomach gently. Hearing a sound behind her, she sensed Michel come out of his hiding space, now that Emily had disappeared. With a heartfelt sigh, Lorelai reached into the drawer and pulled out a tube of calamine lotion, silently handing it to Michel as they shared a commiserating look.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

The silence was deafening to April as she sat in between Lorelai and Rory at the kitchen table. Lorelai ripped out seams on a shepherd costume in front of her, while Rory scrubbed the doll for the baby Jesus off with a soapy rag.

"Hey, this is really coming along, huh?" April asked in an attempt to break the silence, picking up the glue gun on the table to apply more feathers to the angel wings in her lap.

"Yep," Rory said shortly, dipping the rag into the bucket on the floor and wringing it out.

"Uh huh," Lorelai replied, tugging at a particularly stubborn thread.

"And the pageant is pretty much the same thing every year, right? They don't do something different?"


"Not really," Rory said, rubbing hard on a spot on the doll's arm.

"Huh, that's interesting. You would think someone would try to mix it up a little bit."

"Mmhm," Lorelai mumbled, now attempting to break the thread with her teeth.

"Yep," Rory repeated, inspecting the doll's forehead closely.

April looked at Lorelai and Rory as conversation came to a screeching halt again. "You know what I've really been getting into on TV lately?" she asked, attempting a new topic. She was met with silence. "Those documentaries on BBC America. You know, the ones with the morbidly obese toddlers or the siblings involved in incestuous relationships. My favorite one was the one with the guy who was in love with his sex dolls."

"Interesting," Lorelai said, not looking up from her costume.

"Neat," Rory agreed, drying the doll off with a towel.

"Are you guys fighting or something?"

"No, of course not," Lorelai scoffed. "I give up on this costume. I'm going to go grab the back-up shepherd costume." She stood, tossing the costume on the table and walking towards the living room.

"I'm going to see if Babette has something stronger for this," Rory said, standing and holding up the doll. She left the table and walked out the back door, leaving April alone in the kitchen.

"Hello?" Luke called out from the foyer, announcing his presence as he shut the door. "I got some groceries."

April stood to meet him, hearing Lorelai's muffled greeting in the living room. Luke entered the kitchen, placing the bags on the counter.

"Thank God you're here," she said, grabbing her father's arm and leading him back outside to get the rest of the groceries.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Luke reached over to switch off the alarm before it woke Lorelai, and slowly sat up, rubbing his face wearily, as he mentally prepared for the effort of getting up. Sighing softly, he shifted to his feet, and with the practiced steps of someone who had walked the path a million times, he shuffled his way towards the bathroom. Except that the usual path was suddenly blocked by boxes of beads. A fact that he did not discover until he tripped over them, cursing loudly as he fell in an ungainly heap onto the floor.

"Luke?" The concern in Lorelai's voice was tinged with the fright of someone startled from a deep sleep.

Luke's cursing continued unabated.


"What is all of this stuff?" Luke gestured around him in the dark, his eyes slowly taking in the sheer volume of stuff that seemed to have taken over their room. He lifted a hand to remove the wisp of some sort of filmy fabric that was caught on his shoulder. "Where did all of this come from?" He struggled to his feet, not really expecting an answer, assuming that Lorelai had fallen back to sleep.

"Christmas," Lorelai's voice was muffled by sleep and her pillows. "Taylor."

Luke stiffened at the last word, but resolutely resumed his trek towards the bathroom, carefully negotiating a path through the mess, knowing that now was not the time to discuss it with Lorelai, who needed all the sleep she could get.

♫   ♫   ♫  

"Thanks, Pete." Luke took the last crate of bread and nodded farewell. "See you on Thursday," he said.

"See ya, Luke." Pete slammed the rear door of his truck, walking around to the driver's side, just as another delivery van pulled up in front of him, blocking his exit.

A young guy jumped out, grabbed a clipboard from the dash and headed over to where Pete stood. "You Luke Danes?" he asked.

"In there," Pete gestured towards the back door of the diner, where Luke had disappeared with the last of the bread delivery. "Hey wait! You can't just leave your truck there, you're blocking me in!" he called to the guy's retreating back. Heaving a sigh he turned to follow him through the back door, hoping to encourage him to leave quickly.

"Luke Danes?" he heard him ask again.

"Yeah," Luke grunted in response as he shifted the crate up onto the top shelf of the store room. "Hey! You can't come in here!" he exclaimed as he noticed the guy standing at the door. "Who are you?"
"I'm Dave." Luke looked at him blankly. "I've got a couple of boxes I need you to sign for."

Luke frowned. "A couple of boxes of what? I didn't order anything."

"It doesn't say what's in them sir, but I suggest you don't put them on one of you higher shelves, they are quite heavy," Dave responded.

"Are you sure you've got the right guy?" Luke asked. "I didn't order anything."

"It says here that the order was placed by a Mr. Taylor Doose, but we were advised that you would accept delivery as the only business in town open at this hour."


"So where do you want me to put them, Luke?" Dave asked. "I can unload them for you since I have a trolley. Might save you a bit of effort."

"I'll tell you where to put them," Luke growled, but found he was talking to thin air as Dave had turned around and was headed back out to his truck.

"Taylor had damn well better stay clear of me for the next month if he doesn't want to find himself strangled with tinsel from his own Christmas tree," Luke muttered. He stomped out of the store room, only to come face to face with Pete. "What are you still doing here?" he asked, not meaning to sound quite so rude but unable to keep the anger out of his voice.

"Your delivery guy is blocking me in," Pete informed him. "Do you think it will take long? I really need to get the rest of this delivery over to Woodbridge before six."

"Not long at all," Luke replied, heading out of the door. "Not long at all." He stormed over to where Dave had started to unload cartons from his truck.

"You can stop right there," he told him. "I am not accepting this delivery."

"But it's got your name on it," Dave pointed out.

"I don't care. I didn't order it, I am not accepting it."

"But I can't go back to the warehouse without delivering them. You are the designated recipient, it is my job to deliver them to you. I'm delivering." His tone was polite, but adamant.

"I'm not accepting," Luke yelled.

"Wow! And Mr. Doose said you would accept them because your family is so civic minded. Apparently they're for some Christmas function that your family is organizing?"

Luke growled in frustration and anger. "Did Taylor tell you that? My family is not organizing this damn pageant. And it may have taken over the whole damn house but, I will not let Taylor take over my diner too. So you can just take your delivery back where it came from, or better yet, find Taylor and make him get out of bed to sign for it."

"Come on Luke, just sign for them already, I'm running late," Pete called.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"Dragonfly Inn." Lorelai gratefully grabbed the phone as soon as it rang, desperate to escape Michel's whining.

"We are never doing anything for Taylor again!" Luke cut off her greeting.

"I wasn't aware we ever did anything for Taylor," Lorelai responded, a delighted smile breaking across her face as she realized that a rant was in the works if she nurtured it carefully.

"I mean it. You need to stop making those costumes and April is no longer going to help with the props. We are not helping put this damn pageant together, in fact we are not even going to see the damn pageant."

"Oh! We don't even get to watch the damn pageant?" Lorelai pouted, playing along.

"No. We are not going to watch the damn pageant. In fact," Luke paused slightly. "What's the opposite of watching? Because that's what we'll be doing."

"We're going to be in the pageant instead?" Lorelai needled him.

Luke ignored her. "For that matter, not only are we not going to help with the damn Christmas pageant, but we are no longer going to participate in any other Stars Hollow event, as long as Taylor is alive and kickin'."

"Ooh! I could play Mary!" Lorelai exclaimed, smoothing a hand over the almost indiscernible swell of her stomach.

"I mean it!" Luke continued unabated. "I've had enough of Taylor trying to run our lives. He may be town selectman, and the head of the business association, and tourist board, and honorary chairperson of the Benito Mussolini fan club, but he is not going to just take over our lives any longer. We're out. That's it! Finito! We're done."

"We are?" Lorelai laughingly questioned.

"Yes!" Luke tried to maintain his indignation. "I've had enough. It has to stop!"

"But I'd make a good Mary!" Lorelai complained.

"Forget it! I'm not gonna be Joseph!" Luke hung up the phone.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Making her way along the table of desserts, Lorelai frowned in consternation. The apple tarts were not in their usual spot. She'd made sure to get in her mother's house early, and yet, no apple tarts. She really needed those apple tarts.

Just then a maid entered, carrying a platter of them and she breathed a sigh of relief.

Glancing over her shoulder to see if her mother was in sight, she quickly snagged a couple, wrapped them in a napkin and stashed them in her bag. Feeling both jittery and proud of herself, she smirked slightly as she reached forward to load more onto a plate.

"You came prepared I see, bringing the big handbag." Rory's voice startled her.

"Oh jeez, Rory! Don't creep up on me like that!" Lorelai almost lost the tart she had just placed on her plate.

"Nice save," Rory remarked, nodding towards the plate, hoping to lighten the mood between them.

Eager to make up, Lorelai played along. "And who says Gilmore's aren't sporty? We just need to play the right sport."

"Saving apple tarts?" Rory raised a brow.

"Is the sport of gods," Lorelai confirmed.

"My mistake," Rory chuckled and then fell silent.

They both shifted uncomfortably for several moments, knowing that they had to discuss the fight, but neither quite willing to shatter the light-hearted moment. Eventually Lorelai took a deep breath. "So, Brazil?" she asked.

"Yeah." Rory nodded. "My friend Tess invited me to spend Christmas in Brazil with her family."

"And you're thinking about going?" Try as she would, Lorelai couldn't quite keep the displeasure out of her voice and Rory picked up on it.

"It's a great opportunity," she defended. "Not just to travel, which I've always wanted to do, but to experience the culture from the inside, not just as a tourist."

"You haven't really known this Tess for very long."

"A couple of months," Rory replied.

"Still, not very long really, not when you're going to be invading her family Christmas," Lorelai retorted, her voice becoming more acerbic.

"I'm not invading, I have been invited." Rory's face closed over as her anger rose.

"Well how are you going to afford it?" Lorelai asked. "I doubt the AARP paid you that much!"

"Well it's not like you have any room for me anyway," Rory spoke harshly.

Lorelai's eyes widened and her anger melted away. She stared aghast at Rory, devastated at the thought that Rory might feel unwelcome in their home and tried to find a way to reassure her daughter.

"Lorelai, there you are," Emily's voice cut in. "Come with me, there are some people I want you to meet. Trudie is the president of the old girl's association at her school and they have a reunion coming up that they would like to hold at the Inn."

"Mom, wait, I..." Lorelai looked at Rory, trying to work out what to say, but Rory had turned away, carrying her plate of apple tarts with her.

"Now, Lorelai," Emily insisted, and with a sigh Lorelai complied.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"Ow!" Luke's cry was accompanied by a slight thud, then the sound of beads scattering across the wooden floor. "Stupid boxes! Stupid Taylor!" he grouched as he tripped over the boxes in the hallway before he could flick the switch, lighting the way for Lorelai to enter.

Hopping on one leg, he rubbed his shin, cursing loudly, but Lorelai seemed oblivious as she headed for the kitchen, slumping down onto a chair without bothering to remove her coat.

As soon as the throbbing subsided, Luke followed, going straight to the sink to fill the kettle, preparing to make them both a cup of peppermint tea as had become their habit over the past couple of months. The ritual soothed him slightly, and he was feeling somewhat calmer when he turned around to lean back against the counter while he waited for the water to boil.

"Look, I didn't mean what I said earlier. If you and April want to get involved in town things, fine, but do we have to turn the house into a shrine to Taylorville? You can't move around in here." He turned back to the cupboard to fetch the tea.

Deftly pouring the tea, he carried the mugs over to the table and sat down opposite her, sliding one across the table to her.

"Rory doesn't think she has a place in my life any longer," she blurted out, staring blankly at the apple tarts she had secreted in her bag.

"What?" Luke jerked his head up to look at her.

"She said we have no space for her." Lorelai looked up, and he could see the worry and fear in her eyes.

"Well, it will be tight," he conceded. "But we've done it before, and it will be better once we give all of this back to Taylor."

"I don't think she was talking about the house," Lorelai confessed.

"What?" Luke was confused.

"I think she thinks that I have so much else going on in my life, with you and April and the baby and the spa, that there's no room for her in it anymore."

"No!" Luke shook his head. "I don't believe that."

Seeing the tears pool in her eyes, he sighed and stood up, shifting around the table to the seat beside hers. "I'm sure she didn't mean that, that she doesn't think that," he reassured her, rubbing his hand up and down her back.

"She doesn't want to spend Christmas with us," Lorelai hiccupped and Luke pulled her across into his lap.

"That's not true. She was just given the opportunity to travel and she is excited by it. She still wants to spend time with you. She knows that we will always have space for her. She knows." His hand moved in soothing circles over her back.

"Maybe we should move," Lorelai said abruptly.

"What?" Luke was stunned.

"Maybe we need to think about looking for a bigger place," Lorelai said. "You said it yourself, there's hardly room to swing a cat in here, and who knows where we are going to put everyone when the baby comes."

Luke pulled back slightly, so that he could look her in the eyes. "Are you sure? Is this what you want? You're not just saying this in reaction to what happened with Rory?"

"No." Lorelai shook her head. "I've been thinking about it for a while. We need more space."

"Okay then. Let's start thinking about what our options are, and maybe having a look around. We could always add on to this place again," he mused.

"The mystery Winchester house?" Lorelai laughed, feeling a little better.

"Yeah." Luke smiled, pleased that she was no longer crying.

They sat quietly together for several minutes, neither feeling the urge to move or to speak. Luke hugged her tightly, only releasing his grip slightly when he saw her reach out and break a small piece of crust off the abandoned apple tarts sitting on the table. He smiled with satisfaction and continued to hold her as she began to nibble.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"Try it again, Kirk," Taylor directed from across the town square, once again dictating Kirk's movements via megaphone. The light display, once obnoxiously bright, now completely turned off, and had been for the last few hours.

"I already tried this one," Kirk pointed out through his own megaphone, holding up the bulb. "This one is fine."

"Try a different bulb, then," Taylor stated, his exasperation evident in his amplified voice.

Kirk replaced the bulb and the light display remained off. He turned toward Taylor and shrugged. "It's not working," he yelled, his megaphone abandoned.

"Try the next one."

Luke and April stood outside the diner, joining an ever increasing crowd, watching the scene unfold before them with amused expressions. "Looks like your light display isn't working, Taylor," Luke yelled out.

"Yes, Lucas, I can see that, thank you."

"Whoa, sarcasm," April said with a smirk.

"Yeah, Taylor, you don't sound so jolly. Where is your Christmas spirit?" Luke taunted, putting his arm around his daughter.

"Heckling, folks? Really? Is that how you handle catastrophes?"

"Maybe one of your bulbs isn't working properly. You probably should have used lights with a parallel circuit," he suggested. "Or it could be faulty wiring."

"Thanks for your help, Luke, but I think I can handle it," Taylor spat back into the megaphone, one hand on his hip.

"Hope you fix it soon, I would hate to see it not working for Christmas," Luke retorted, leading his daughter into the diner. "Don't want you to disappoint all those news crews waiting to put Stars Hollow on the map."

"You did something, didn't you?" April asked, looking at Luke with an eyebrow arched as she was ushered in the door.

"Now why would you think that?" he asked her with a grin. And then, he reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a tiny Christmas light bulb, holding it up for April to see. He then placed it back into his pocket and walked into the kitchen.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Rory tried not to get too excited as she opened the mailbox to discover that it contained more than the usual junk mail, but as she reached in to grab the stack of envelopes, she prayed that she would find one from AARP. Although the Dragonfly had been decorated with copies of Active Years conveniently opened to the appropriate page, for more than a week now, she had yet to receive payment. She did find it ironic that they had contracted her to write an article about how technologically savvy senior citizens were, yet insisted on paying her by check. She wouldn't mind, if only they paid her. She needed to eat, but going home to scrounge food wasn't really an option at the moment.

Pulling out the stack of envelopes, she frowned in disappointment as she flipped through them and realized that none of them were for her. Sighing, she lifted the flap on the next mailbox, and bent over to push them inside. Catching sight of a lone envelope, she paused for a moment, biting her lip. Glancing back down at the stack in her hand, all addressed to Kevin, she debated the odds that the mailman might have delivered seven letters to the same person, but placed six in one box and one in the next. Deciding to check, she reached in to grab the solitary envelope.

"Not satisfied with stealing my moqueca de camarao, now you've resorted to stealing my mail too, Gilmore?" Kevin spoke from right behind her, just before she reached the disputed envelope, startling her so much that she dropped the rest of the mail.

"Uh! No, I..." she stammered as she dropped to the floor to collect the scattered envelopes.

"Sorry! Didn't mean to startle you," Kevin laughed as he squatted down beside her to help. "But if you're really serious about dedicating you life to crime, you need to keep a better look out in the future."

"Ha! Ha!" Rory mocked sardonically, eyeing the lone envelope in Kevin's mailbox as she handed him his mail.

"No, I am serious. Not about the mail, it's all bills anyway, but you stay away from my food in the future," he jokingly warned. "A poor, starving boy needs his mother's home cooked meals or he'll waste away."

"Oh, I know!" Rory laughed in agreement.

"So your mother cooks too!" Kevin's smile held a hint of mischief. "In that case, maybe I will steal your next care package."

Rory laughed. "You're more than welcome to anything my mother cooks."

"Huh! Somehow that doesn't sound quite as generous as it should," Kevin frowned.

"Mom rocks the Tater Tot casserole and the frozen pizzas," Rory assured him. "But luckily both her husband and best friend are cooks. I rely on them for my care packages."

"Probably a wise move," Kevin agreed. "Although I am somewhat intrigued by the Tater Tot casserole," he laughed.

"Well, that one I can make myself. In fact, I promise I'll make it for you, next time I eat your moqueca de camarao."

"Gee thanks!" Kevin responded. "But I am not sure that's a fair exchange. I love Mom's moqueca de camarao."

"Me too!" Rory smiled widely.

"You like Brazilian food?" Kevin asked.

"Oh yeah!" Rory nodded enthusiastically. "Although to be honest, I'm not sure I have ever had it before. Unless you count Al's, which most people don't."

"Well then, it's a pity you can't make it to Brazil for Christmas with us then."

"Yeah, I know," Rory sighed, slightly wistful. "It sounds wonderful. I just can't really afford it right now."

"Well, maybe some other time then," Kevin replied. "You know, some time when you no longer have to steal the food from poor, starving neighbors in order to feed yourself."

Rory laughed. "Yeah, maybe. Although I doubt I'll ever turn down free food."

Kevin smiled, shifting his weight slightly as he prepared to leave. "Well I hope you have a good Christmas, anyway. You spending it with family?" he asked.

"Yeah." Rory nodded. "Yeah, I am," she added more firmly.

"Good," he said. "Christmas should be spent with family." He paused for a moment. "Especially if it's in Brazil," he added with a laugh.

Rory laughed as he reached down into his mail box and plucked out the solitary envelope.

"Yours, I believe?" he offered it to her before turning on his heel and heading down the corridor, leaving Rory staring in a mixture of delight and incredulity at the AARP markings on the envelope in her hands.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"Lorelai, over here!" April yelled, waving her gloved hands from where she sat on a lawn chair in front of the Stars Hollow Library. Lorelai picked up her pace, hunching her head as she walked into the icy wind. She had just completed the last minute fittings on all of the biblical characters in the pageant and the processional was about to begin. As she approached April, she noticed that she was sandwiched in between the Belvilles and Gypsy. She took a seat in the empty chair next to Sookie, picking up a travel mug of coffee from the ground.

"Oooo, prime seating. You done good, kid."

"I learned from the best," April said with a grin. "Blanket?"

"Yes please, it's freezing."

"Wowai!" Wanda screeched from Sookie's lap, her face nearly indiscernible from the scarf that Sookie had wrapped around her head and neck. Wanda reached for Lorelai, practically careening out of Sookie's lap, and Lorelai picked her up, wrapping the blanket April provided around both of them.

"Well, there's my girl. Enjoying your very first pageant?" Wanda nodded and babbled, any attempt at words muffled by her scarf.

"Oh, that's right!" Sookie said, nudging Jackson in the ribs. "We missed the pageant last year. Take a picture, this would be something cute to scrapbook."

"Honey, you don't scrapbook," Lorelai pointed out, smiling as Jackson snapped a picture of her and Wanda.

"Well, I'd like to think that I'll one day have time to."

The lights in the square dimmed, and Lorelai looked around the square with a frown, Rory and Luke's absence from the event not lost on her. She looked over at April.

"Couldn't talk your dad into coming?"

"Nope," April sighed. "He was pretty adamant about the Taylor ban beginning tonight... What about Rory?"

"I don't know, hon. Doesn't look like it."

"Too bad. She'll miss all the costumes she worked on."

"Yeah, she will," Lorelai replied wistfully, tugging the blanket around herself and Wanda tighter.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," Miss Patty's voice rang out in the square. "On behalf of Doose's Market, Al's Pancake World, and The Stars Hollow Historical Society, I would like to welcome you to the The Stars Hollow Annual Christmas Story Pageant." Applause and whistles filled the square.

"Yay!" Wanda yelled as the din died down, earning laughs from the people around her.

"We will now be reading from the gospels Matthew and Luke," Patty continued, cuing the choir in the gazebo to begin singing.

"I'm bummed," April whispered to Lorelai. "It doesn't feel right without Rory and Dad here."

"No, it doesn't," Lorelai responded sadly.

As Miss Patty read Jesus' geneaology, and characters such as Abraham, Jacob, and King David started the procession, Lorelai's cell phone rang, "Christmas Wrapping" blaring loudly from under the blanket.

"Shhh!" Gypsy dramatically shushed from her seat next to April.

"Sorry, sorry."

Quickly switching her phone to silent, she flipped open her phone, seeing a text in her mailbox:

"I'm here! Where are you?"

Lorelai texted back clumsily, her gloved hands slowing her down: "Library. Where r u?"

A few seconds later, her phone vibrated again. The message read: "Patty's. I'm coming. You have room?"

"Always, sweets." Lorelai typed back.

Lorelai nudged April, showing her the text.

"She's here!"

"Yes she is. Tell Gypsy to scootch."

Rory approached from behind as Gypsy scooted her chair over, a sour expression on her face.

"Hey, have chair will travel," Lorelai commented quietly, as Rory unfolded a lawn chair and settled in between her mom and April.

"Well, you did always teach me to be prepared."

They were silent for a moment, watching as Lulu and Andrew reenacted Mary being told by the angel Gabriel that would be carrying the son of God.

"I'm sorry, Mom," Rory whispered close to Lorelai's ear. "I shouldn't have been angry at you for wanting me to stay home. Christmas should be spent with family."

"Oh, babe, you don't have to be sorry about that. I was just so worried about leaving you out this year, that I made you feel like we had no place for you. I never want you to think that, ever."

"I know, Mom... So enough of the mushy stuff? Wanna fist bump on it?"

"Eh, maybe later. I gotta get rid of the brass knuckles under my gloves," Lorelai replied, smiling at her daughter.

"This seat taken?" A low voice said from behind Lorelai, and he placed his hand on her shoulder, giving it an affectionate squeeze. Lorelai whipped around, her face lighting up when she spotted her husband.

"Hey, you made it!" April squealed quietly.

"Yeah, well, there's really no reason to keep the diner open when everyone is here, so... might as well come."

"And what about your Taylor ban?" Lorelai asked, scooping up Wanda as she stood to let Luke sit in her chair. When he got comfortable, she sat across his lap, rearranging the blanket to cover her, Luke, and Wanda.

"I don't have any New Year's resolutions yet," Luke replied with a shrug.

"Okay, no Taylor in '09. I can live with that."

Luke smiled, squeezing Lorelai's thigh on top of the blanket and kissing her on the forehead. "Good pageant this year?"

"Great pageant," Lorelai responded, grinning back at Luke. She turned around just in time to catch Kirk, the first wise man, drop his gift of frankincense, which shattered on impact.

"Okay," Luke said, stifling a laugh. "I feel much better now."





To be continued...




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