Episode 9.10 "Dates, Baits, and Movie Greats"
by sosmitten and OliviaJane


Authors' Note: It's been awesome working together to bring VS9 back from hiatus. We would like to thank our rocking coordinator, Jewels, and our amazing betas, Filo, and Lula Bo for keeping us in line. A special thanks to the usual suspects for the usual reasons, you ladies rock as always.

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"Rory, your mother tells me you've been doing some computer dating. How is that going?"

Rory could sense the effort her grandmother was making to be open-minded, but didn't miss the disdainful sniff she made when putting the words 'computer' and 'dating' together. She glowered at her traitorous mother, who simply smiled innocently and said, "Yes, Rory, do tell us about the computer dating. Any good prospects?"

Rory sighed, relieved that April, Luke and Richard were engaged in a conversation across the room. "Not really, but I did have another date a few days ago."

Lorelai leaned in eagerly. "Ooh, details! We want details!"

"Okay, well, he was a history major at Wesleyan. He's been working for a few years with the Connecticut Historical Society, but he's thinking of going to law school."

"And?" Lorelai pressed. "That sounds pretty harmless."

"And, uh, he loves reading and music."

"Well, he sounds delightful. Do you think that you'll see him again?" Emily asked.

"Umm, doubtful."

"Why ever not? What possible objection could you have?"

"I bet it's good!" Lorelai said, leaning in. "What's wrong with him? Michael Bolton hair? Fish breath? Really bad puns? Peg leg?"

"No. Worse," Rory said grimly. "He's into boy bands."

Lorelai cringed. "Into? How into?"

"He collects memorabilia. In fact..." Rory couldn't help but grin. "He just completed his set of New Kids on the Block action figures."

"He told you that?"

Rory looked sheepish and admitted, "I had to pretend I was impressed so that I could find out the true extent of his dorkitude. Unfortunately, then I had to listen to a description of his most treasured possessions, which includes the socks that Isaac Hanson wore during one of the Hanson tours. It was painful."

"Well, we've all been there," Lorelai said sympathetically. "Bad dates are the worst."

Both Rory and Lorelai turned in surprise as Emily let out a little chuckle of agreement. Eyes wide with laughter, Lorelai pressed her, "Okay, Mom, spill."

Emily pursed her lips as if debating, but then relented, "One of my worst dates was with your father's roommate. He turned out to be the most boorish man." She shuddered at the memory. "I could never return to Amalia's after eating with him there. I tried to plead out of the rest of the date, but he insisted that we go to a party for at least a little while."

Rory giggled. "Does Grandpa know about that?"

"Does Grandpa know about what?" Richard asked from across the room.

Lorelai grinned at him. "Mom's horrible date with your neanderthal roommate."

Richard let out a booming laugh. "Of course, I rescued her from that date."

"Dad?" Lorelai sputtered in surprise. "You stole Mom from your roommate? Isn't that one of those super-secret fraternity taboos?"

"Well, it wasn't highly encouraged, but Emily wasn't complaining," he said with a smug smile. "Besides, I was on a pity date with the stultifyingly dull sister of our house treasurer. Emily was a welcome respite."

"Look at you, Lothario," Lorelai said, eyeing her father warily. She glanced sideways at Luke. "Okay, your turn."

"My turn?"

"You must have a terrible date in your past somewhere."

"Umm," he said slowly, shrugging it off. "I think there might have been a blind date in there somewhere."

"You went on a blind date?"

"I was coerced. They wouldn't leave me alone."

"Oh God," Lorelai gasped in realization. "Did you let Miss Patty and Babette set you up?" When he didn't deny it, her eyes widened, and she turned to Rory. "Luke let Miss Patty and Babette set him up."

Rory tried to restrain a grin. "Yeah, Mom, I'm sitting right here."

"They wore me down," he insisted, giving her a pleading look.

Lorelai covered her mouth with her hand, stifling a laugh. "You are so going to tell me more about this later."

"Oh, goody," he said wearily. "I can't wait."

"Ooh, I've got one," April jumped in. "President of the Chess Club. Sooo boring."

Luke's head snapped around from where he'd been glaring at Lorelai. "Dating?" he demanded, holding out his hand toward April in dismay. "You are not supposed to be dating. You cannot date." He punctuated the last words with pointed jabs toward the floor, then crossed his arms tightly across his chest, taking in and letting out a few breaths before looking over at April and asking gruffly, "He didn't try anything did he?"

"No, Dad. He didn't try anything." April grimaced and looked over at Lorelai, "Probably should have counted to ten before speaking, huh?"

Lorelai shrugged. "Well the cat's out of the bag now. Should we start packing up for the convent tonight?"

April dropped her face into her hands as Luke just shook his head slowly back and forth.

"Well, that was certainly enlightening," Lorelai joked, "but I think I've got you all beat. Just one word: Actuary."

"Oh," Rory said, remembering. "Is that the really boring guy who said he could predict the date of Grandma's death?"

"The very one," Lorelai laughed, "but he was a death-predicting tease. All talk and no follow through."

Emily gave them a disapproving look. "You girls are crass." She tilted her head to Rory. "If this computer dating venture doesn't work out, I know some gentlemen who are both respectable and interesting."

"Run, Rory! Run, far, far away," Lorelai whispered urgently as Emily sighed.

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It was eight minutes past seven when the maid announced that dinner was ready. Rory saw Emily look at her watch and open her mouth as if to reprimand, but then she glanced over at April and Luke and set her lips in a firm, thin line.

"Well, what are we waiting for? Let's eat!" Lorelai said, standing and shooing everyone into the dining room. Off a stern look from Richard, she gave a little pout, pleading, "Baby's hungry." His expression melted into one of paternal indulgence as he ushered April in ahead of him and reached to lead Lorelai in as well.

Rory leaned toward her mother and whispered, "Just how long are you going to play that card?"

Lorelai flashed a grin back at her daughter. "As long as it works, Hon. As long as it works."

Rory was still shaking her head in amusement when Luke came over and asked quietly, "Rory, can I talk to you for a moment?"

She frowned in confusion, but hung back as the room emptied. "What's up?"

"Well, I just," he started, oddly nervous. "I just, well I should have talked to you before, but I didn't get a chance..."

"What is it?" Rory asked, growing concerned.

"Well, I wanted to make sure it was alright that April's here. Your grandparents have been away, so we haven't had a dinner since she's been staying with us, but I know this is really you and your mother's time with them—"

"Luke," Rory cut in. "It's fine." His expression was uncertain, so she added, "Really. Besides..." She gave an evil smile. "I think she's helping keep Grandma on her best behavior."

"Yeah?" He chuckled. "Okay, well good then."

He turned to head into the dining room and Rory stopped him. "Luke?" He nodded. "It's really thoughtful, but you don't have to run stuff like that by me. She's your daughter."

He smiled gratefully, but was interrupted by Lorelai's voice. "Hey Luke, Rory. What's the hold-up? Mom's got the food in escrow until you get here."

Luke rolled his eyes. "I guess we're being summoned," he said, motioning for Rory to go in ahead of him.

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"So, Luke," Richard said, after everyone had served themselves a pork chop. "You and April were talking about the fishing you've done from your boat. Do you do any freshwater fishing as well?"

"Actually, most of the fishing I've done is freshwater. Just short little weekend trips on local lakes and streams." He glanced over at Lorelai. "Well, not so much recently."

Richard followed his glance and nodded with understanding. "Ah, I see. Lorelai was never big on adventure."

Lorelai gasped in offense. "I'm not big on adventure? When's the last time you were camping, Dad?"

"It has been quite some time," Richard conceded. "Well, Luke. What do you say? Shall we make a weekend of it?"

Luke gave Lorelai a pained look and managed, "Uh, sure, we could do that sometime."

"That sounds wonderful," Richard enthused. "How about next weekend? Do you have plans?"

"Next weekend?" Luke stammered. "But I don't usually..."

His voice trailed off, overpowered by simultaneous responses from around the table. Lorelai's gaze was pinned on her father's, as if to call him on his sudden interest in 'adventure.' "We don't have any plans."

At the same moment, Emily burst out, "Richard, surely you don't mean to sleep outside. In the winter!"

April and Rory just looked at each other and tried to restrain their laughter.

Richard went on as if no one else had spoken. "What do you say, Luke?"

"Richard, you can't possibly—" Emily turned to Luke and pleaded, "Luke, tell him it's a ridiculous idea."

Luke paused a moment, trying to determine the safest response. Taking a breath, he started slowly. "It is January, and I haven't done a great deal of winter camping." Looking up, he saw Richard's face fall and added diplomatically, "But there's no real reason that it can't be done, with the right cold weather gear."

"So, we're on then?" Richard asked with an enthusiastic smile.

"Uh, sure... I guess," Luke answered hesitantly.

Lorelai tugged eagerly on Luke's arm. "Ooh, can you take a video camera?" she asked, earning another round of giggles from their daughters. "This is something I've got to see."

He glared at her with one of his patented 'you're not helping' looks. Chastened, she folded her hands in her lap primly and made a show of zipping her lip.

In the resulting quiet, Emily tried one more plea, "Richard, are you sure this is safe? Maybe you should give this more thought."

"Nonsense," he answered. "The fresh air will be wonderful. In fact, we should bring the girls along." Lorelai started to protest and Emily looked horrified, but Richard continued, "April, Rory, why don't you join us?"

April stammered, but quickly remembered plans she'd made with a friend. Rory hesitated, but finally blurted out, "I have a date!" Luke watched her cringe as Emily's expression brightened and she launched into a new surge of questions.

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Lorelai sat in her office in the Dragonfly, taking a breather from the day's activities. After a few minutes of perusing her email's inbox, she picked up the cell phone and dialed Rory's number, on the off chance her daughter would be available for a mid-afternoon chat. She grinned as Rory answered on the third ring.

"I know, I know, I don't call, I don't write, I don't send up a smoke signal," Rory said in greeting.

"Well, I guess there's nothing left for me to say then," Lorelai replied, lounging back in her chair. She briefly considered propping her feet up on the desk, but rejected the notion, realizing she probably didn't want to see how puffy her ankles were anyway.

"I'm sorry, I had a deadline," Rory sighed. "Talk, please."

"Okay," Lorelai said. "Hello, fruit of my loins. How is your day going?"

"First of all, don't call me that," Rory said. "Secondly, it's going much better now that I've got my submission... submitted."

"Wow, they teach you that kind of vocabulary at Yale?" Lorelai giggled. "You got screwed, kid."

"I used up all my vocabulary in the article," Rory said sheepishly. "Now it's all pops and buzzes."

"Should I use small words?" Lorelai asked.

"Yes, please," Rory said.

"Mommy say hi," Lorelai said. "Mommy see if baby want to play."

"Okay, not quite that tiny," Rory sighed. "What exactly are you asking me to do?"

"Well," Lorelai said. "April will be at a sleepover at a friend's house, and Luke and your grandfather are going on their fishing expedition this weekend, what I like to term 'A River Runs Through It, Part Deux'. I was just wondering if you wanted to do an old fashioned girls' night out on Saturday."

"Wow, they're really going?" Rory asked. "I can't picture Grandpa in a fishing vest."

"Me neither," Lorelai snorted. "Luckily, it's winter. Which means normal winter coats. No little lure thingies stuck into hats."

"God, I want pictures," Rory said.

"So what do you say?" Lorelai asked. "Movie night? Shopping? Major pigout at Luke's?"

"Why go to Luke's if Luke isn't going to be running the grill?" Rory asked.

"Slightly inferior cheeseburgers are acceptable if Luke isn't around to monitor the health level of the junk food I'm eating," Lorelai explained.

"Ah," Rory said with a laugh. "Is someone turning into a vegetable Nazi?"

"To say the least," Lorelai grumbled. "Yesterday he actually tried to make me eat asparagus."

"I'm assuming you just laughed?" Rory asked.

"I laughed, then leapt on a box of Ding Dongs," Lorelai said.

"Atta girl," Rory said.

"I can usually fend him off by insisting the baby wants it," Lorelai said.

"He's going to catch on eventually," Rory pointed out.

"Yeah, yeah," Lorelai said. "Don't destroy the illusion. So are you in?"

"I wish I could," Rory said, sighing.

"Oh no," Lorelai gasped. "You're going to leave me all alone?"

"I have a date, remember?" Rory said. "It's already set in stone. Backing out would be a horrible online dating blunder, punishable either by death or being flamed in a blog. I can't remember the specifics."

"You really have a date?" Lorelai whimpered.

"I mentioned it at Friday Night Dinner," Rory reminded Lorelai.

"I thought that was just your way of dodging the great outdoors bullet," Lorelai said.

"Sorry," Rory said. "I really do have a date. If it weren't for that, I'd come over."

"Dump him, change your account name, then re-woo him for another night," Lorelai said. "It can be done, you know."

"That's a lot of work," Rory replied. "I can barely woo as it is, why would I force myself to re-woo an already wooed man?"

"You're right, that's an awful lot of wooing," Lorelai said. "You're really busy?" she asked, disappointed.

"I'm sorry," Rory said. "I really am. Maybe Sookie is free, did you check with her yet?"

"Of course not," Lorelai said. "I thought my daughter, my best friend, my bosom buddy would be available, but that was before I found out she was a selfish wooer."

"I'll make it up to you," Rory promised. "Besides, with the luck I've been having, it will only result in another laughable disaster that serves only to entertain you at a later date."

"Well, if it's any consolation, I hope he's a winner," Lorelai said.

"Thanks," Rory said. "I appreciate the thought. Keep your fingers crossed."

"I will, Babe," Lorelai said. "Talk to you later." Lorelai disconnected the call after Rory said her goodbyes. She scowled at the wall for a moment, disappointed. "Okay," she said to herself. "Strike one. Next batter up, Sookie." Lorelai got to her feet and made her way to the kitchen of the Dragonfly.

"Sooookie," Lorelai whimpered as she wandered over to the coffee pot and poured a fresh cup of java.

"What is it, Sweetie?" Sookie asked, whizzing around the kitchen as she prepared for the lunch rush.

"Rory is going on a date on Saturday night and doesn't have time for Mommy," Lorelai said, slumping against the counter and taking a sip of coffee. "This is decaf," she added, frowning into the mug after sniffing it suspiciously.

"It's partial decaf," Sookie said while she chopped vegetables for salad. "Mostly high test, with a little something to cut down the impact for you."

"I don't want you to cut the impact," Lorelai groaned.

"How many cups of coffee is that now?" Sookie asked, pointing her knife in Lorelai's direction.

"It's just my second cup," Lorelai said. "Honestly, Sook, I'm not going to drown my kid in coffee here."

"Okay," Sookie said, eyeing Lorelai warily. "And what's so bad about Rory being busy on a Saturday night, anyway? It's good that she's getting out, right?"

"Yeah, it is," Lorelai said. "But not when it means I'm home all alone."

"Oh," Sookie said. "That's right. Fishing trip. No hubby."

"No hubby, no April, no Rory," Lorelai sighed. "It's all very pathetic."

"Maybe you could use the night to yourself," Sookie suggested. "Take a long bubble bath, get some candles burning, a little glass of wine... um... apple juice," she said, glancing at Lorelai's belly as she carried a bowl of greens past Lorelai toward the sink.

"I could do that," Lorelai nodded. "But I just really wanted to hang out with Rory. Somebody. Anybody. I feel neglected."

"Poor baby," Sookie said in sympathy.

"How about you?" Lorelai asked. "Any chance you'll be free on Saturday? We could go out and treat ourselves to a nice dinner somewhere, flirt with single boys at the bars."

"Single boys out looking for a mother of three and a pregnant lady?" Sookie asked.

"Exactly," Lorelai smiled. "You're not free either, are you?"

"I'm sorry," Sookie said, heaving a sigh. "How did you know?"

"You did the same avoidance technique Rory did," Lorelai said. "Forgot to answer the question."

"It's just that I promised Jackson he could have a night out with the boys," Sookie explained. "It's been a while, and I just thought he could use a night off, and I don't think you're up to having the kids crawling all over us while we're out picking up all the hot single boys."

"It's okay," Lorelai said. "I just thought I'd give it a shot. I can do the bubble bath. It will be nice, actually."

"I'm sorry," Sookie said again. "If I make you a pot of pure high test, will you forgive me?"

"It's a start," Lorelai said, feigning a pout as Sookie pulled a bag of coffee beans from the cupboard. Sookie poured some in the coffee grinder and looked uncertainly at Lorelai. "Man, I'm going to be so lonely," Lorelai added, jutting her lower lip out a little further.

Sookie sighed and poured some more beans in the grinder. "This is blackmail," she noted.

"You know what?" Lorelai grinned. "It really is."

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Lorelai stood at the door to the Crap Shack and looked down at the bag of food she had picked up at the market on her way home from work. She had suddenly decided she really needed a bag of tortilla chips and two pints of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, having come to the conclusion that nothing could compare to the blissful combination of Chunky Monkey and Vermonty Python.

She had spent the remainder of her drive home contemplating if it was possible to fashion a crude ice cream cone out of the tortilla chips and cursed herself for not buying a bottle of chocolate Magic Shell topping to cement any potential cone construction.

The only problem was that she hadn't considered the likelihood of a good, old fashioned Luke lecture about her junk food intake, and she was now trying to figure out if she could somehow tuck the ice cream somewhere discreet long enough for her to sneak it into the kitchen without arousing suspicion. She shrugged it off and unlocked the front door. "Sometimes you just have to fight for the right to tortilla chips," Lorelai muttered as she entered the house.

"Lucy, I'm home," she called. She heard faint music drifting from the bedroom, and figured April was off mulling over her schoolbooks again. Lorelai headed for the kitchen.

"Luke?" she said, looking around the corner. Lorelai put away her chips and ice cream, and glanced at the backdoor, hearing activity on the porch.

Lorelai opened the door. "Hey, you," she said, watching Luke as he hunched over the bottom step, replacing the board. "Epic fail on the stairs?" she asked.

Luke glanced up. "It was warped," he said with a shrug.

"You're not making headless cherubs again are you?" Lorelai asked, furrowing her brow in concern.

Luke shook his head. "No, I'm not," he said, sighing. He stood up, wiping dust from his jeans and coat.

"But you're thinking," Lorelai noted. "I can see it."

Luke nodded guiltily and climbed the steps, sitting down on the porch edge. Lorelai lowered herself into a sitting position next to him. "Spill," she said.

"It's nothing big," Luke said, wrapping an arm around Lorelai to shield her from the cold. "My brain just started doing..."

"What your brain tends to do," Lorelai said, finishing the thought.

"Yep," Luke said.

"What about?" Lorelai asked.

"I really like April being around," Luke said, sounding hesitant.

"Is there a 'but' lurking around in there?" Lorelai asked.

"I'm a little worried," Luke confessed.

"About April?" Lorelai wondered.

"I just don't know if it was wise, starting her out at Stars Hollow High," Luke said.

"I'm not sure I'm following you," Lorelai said. "What are you concerned about here?"

"Well, don't you think that could be bad?" Luke asked, worry creasing his face. "She was uprooted when Anna moved them down to New Mexico to be close to her mother. Now she's been uprooted again to come back here while Anna gets things in order. And she's only going to be uprooted once more when Anna decides where they're going to settle down. I don't like the idea of all this bouncing around. It isn't good for her."

"That's pretty valid," Lorelai said in agreement. "It's not healthy for a kid of any age to have to keep moving around."

"I don't want her to get into a routine here and have to start all over again and make new friends somewhere else," Luke said.

"I wouldn't want that either," Lorelai said, rubbing Luke's leg sympathetically. "No wonder you brought out the power saw, Hon."

"I just... the brain started whirring," Luke muttered.

"It's understandable," Lorelai said. "But can I offer you a different perspective?"

"Sure," Luke said.

"What makes you think things will change so much once Anna gets settled?" she asked. "Do you think it'll just go back to holidays and scheduled visits?"

"Well, yeah," Luke said. "That's the way the custody arrangement is."

"But there's a good chance that Anna will lay down roots close by," Lorelai said. "She's still a local girl. And April is older, and as April continues to get older, she'll have more access to you just because she'll have a driver's license," she added.

"Doesn't mean she'll use it to come see me," Luke grumbled.

"Oh, Babe," Lorelai said. "She will. She kind of likes you," she added, nudging Luke with her shoulder and smiling encouragingly. "She'll be around."

"I don't want to go back to the status quo," Luke confessed. "It feels like it's more than just a visit right now. I don't want to give that up."

"I don't either." Lorelai nodded. "But, you know, the status quo is appropriate for New Mexico. Maybe you and Anna need to revisit the terms of your custody agreement now that she'll be so much closer to home."

Luke recoiled slightly. "That could get ugly very easily," he said.

"Things are different," Lorelai said reassuringly. "You and Anna, you're more at ease with each other. She sees that you're here to stay. She sees that April loves you, and that you love April. I'm sure you can go to her peacefully and talk this out."

"You really think so?" Luke asked.

"This is something all three of you should have a say in," Lorelai said. "I think that would be best, don't you? Less threatening. You and Anna and April sitting down together and getting everyone's thoughts on the matter. Or at the very least just having April's opinion known when it happens. I'm sure Anna will consider how April feels about her new school when she's deciding what to do next."

"I don't want to swoop in and turn everything upside down," Luke said. "I just want to see my kid some more if she's going to be close again. I just want to have the chance to spend the day with her without having to consult a legal agreement. I want her to be around so she can get to know this one," he added, reaching over and gently touching Lorelai's belly.

"I think that's a fair request," Lorelai said, smiling as she covered his hand with her own.

"So, if I do this, you're really on board?" Luke asked. "You're okay with the idea of maybe having April in our lives more?"

"Of course I am," Lorelai said emphatically. "I want her around. She's your daughter. She's my step-daughter now. She's family, Luke. I want April here in our lives as much as you do."

"Man, this could go very wrong if I don't handle it right," Luke said. "You know, if I do this."

"Just tread lightly," Lorelai advised. "Go in with the olive branch. Just ask Anna to hear you out. I really think she'll be open to you this time around. You aren't asking for much. There's no threat here."

"I hope not," Luke said, sighing.

"But you really want to try, huh?" Lorelai asked.

Luke grinned sheepishly at Lorelai. "I really do."

"Then I'm with you," Lorelai said. "I support this completely, Babe."

"Thanks," Luke said, relieved. He leaned forward and kissed Lorelai softly.

"You've got yourself quite a wife," Lorelai murmured against his lips.

"I really do," Luke chuckled.

Lorelai gently broke their kiss and pulled back slightly. "So when I start making a tortilla chip ice cream cone, you'll remember that thought?"

Luke grimaced. "If you can figure out how to actually accomplish that feat, I'll keep my mouth shut for a change."

"You're the best." Lorelai grinned, and leaned in for another kiss.

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Rory poked her head into the inn's kitchen, just missing Sookie, who was careening around the table toward the stove.

"Uh... hey Sookie."

"Oh Rory! Hi," Sookie said, flinging droplets of water off the wooden spoon in her hand as she waved it toward her. "What are you doing in the Hollow?"

"I had to run some errands near here and I thought I'd see if Mom wanted to catch some lunch. Do you know where she is?"

Sookie wrinkled her brow in thought as she lifted a pot of what looked to be pasta and dumped it into a strainer in the sink. "I think she said she had an appointment with someone from a local tourist organization." She gave Rory a sheepish smile. "I tend to tune out the things that aren't related to food. But this is perfect timing. You can try my ravioli." She swung around to the sink and back again, this time passing a steaming mound of pasta to Rory.

Rory took a bite as she bounced it from one hand to the other to avoid burning herself.

"What do you think?" Sookie asked eagerly. "I'm trying a new sauce for the butternut squash ravioli today. Ooh," she added in sudden realization. "You have to try it with the wild mushroom sauce!" She dipped a spoon in another pot and drizzled the sauce over the ravioli in Rory's fingers.

"Ah, Sookie!" Rory said, gesturing to where the sauce was dribbling down her fingers and onto the table.

"Right, plate. Got it." In a moment a plate appeared underneath her and in another moment a fork materialized as well.

Taking the utensils as an invitation, Rory pulled up a stool and settled in for another bite. "Sookie, this is really good. Just don't tell Mom I'm voluntarily eating vegetables."

"Okay, but that kind of secrecy will cost you. You'll have to try my potato leek soup. And the almond torte I made for dessert."

"Well..." Rory pretended to deliberate, "if you insist." In truth, she'd been planning to tag along with Lorelai to Luke's, because even though he hadn't let her pay in ages, she felt better about mooching off of him when she was with her mother. This visit, however, was quickly turning into a multiple course meal, as Sookie dropped a bowl of soup in front of her, followed by some sort of appetizer involving filo dough, all the while chattering away.

"Your mom's been telling me about some of your internet dates. How is that going?" She turned suddenly and looked at Rory in alarm. "Wait, it's possible I wasn't supposed to mention that she told me."

Rory sighed. "That's fine, she's been telling everyone else." She let out a weary breath. "Not that there's anything to tell."

"That good, huh?"

"Worse," Rory moaned.

Sookie patted Rory's arm sympathetically. "Your mom told me about the boy band guy. He sounded a little strange."

"Well, he was a gem compared to yesterday's date. I just met this guy for coffee and it was this whole production, because not only is he trying to reduce his carbon footprint to zero, but he evaluates the social and environmental consciousness of a company before he buys any product. It was exhausting trying to figure out where and when we could meet so that neither one of us had to drive and so that we didn't contribute even one penny to the wrong company." She dropped her head in her hands. "I just don't think I should have to feel like a heathen for eating a hamburger once in a while."

"Of course not," Sookie said indignantly, looking offended at the very idea.

Rory slumped further, collapsing onto her folded arms. "I'm beginning to wonder if this whole internet thing was just a terrible idea all around. I haven't been on this many bad dates... well... ever."

Sookie looked thoughtful for a moment and then, in an uncharacteristically sober voice, said, "Well, your mom might be better at dating advice than me, because I'm certainly no expert. I've been on some terrible dates in my life, and they weren't fun, but they did help me figure out what I was looking for. By the time Jackson came along, it wasn't just that we clicked. It was also that he was right in some of the ways that the others had been so wrong." She shrugged. "It just made it easier to see all the things that I liked about him."

Rory chuckled ruefully. "I'd just like to meet someone who is at least a little bit interested in what I think. We don't have to like all the same things or want to do the same things, but I'd like to think that it mattered to him that I had opinions."

"See!" Sookie said, pointing, her enthusiasm returning. "You're figuring it out!"

Rory raised an eyebrow, but agreed reluctantly, "I did kind of decide over the holidays that if I was going to do this, I should commit to giving it a real try."

"That's the spirit!"

"Well I know who to complain to when I fall into a pit of despair over the failure of my entire social life," Rory teased, as a smile slowly returned to her face. "Now did you say something about an almond torte?"

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"Well," Richard said, putting the car in park and peering at the bait shop through the windshield. "This is rather... rustic."

"It's a rat trap," Luke said, unbuckling his seat belt and opening the passenger side door. "But it's a rat trap with a good selection. Just need to get the basic supplies. We should be just a few minutes in here."

"Fair enough," Richard chuckled as he got out of the car and activated the car alarm.

Luke looked at him, eyebrows raised. "Gotta watch the squirrels in these parts," he said. "The carjacking rate is ridiculous among rodents lately."

"You can never be too careful, son," Richard chided as they headed toward the bait shop. "I've been in the insurance business for far too long to leave anything to chance. Now this place," he said, gazing at the dilapidated building they were about to enter. "I suspect just walking inside will be enough risk for one day. Thank you," he added as Luke held the door open for him.

Luke took a calming breath as Richard came to an abrupt stop just inside the entrance of the bait shop, critically eyeing the warped ceiling overhead. "How's it going, Mack?" Luke asked the old man leaning on the counter nearby while shooting him a quick wave.

"Not on your usual fishing schedule," Mack said in reply, looking up from the small black and white television set that was propped up on the counter. "Finally gonna take a crack at the ice on Bantam Lake?"

"Doubt it," Luke said with a casual shrug. "Too much work. We're just taking a couple days to relax. We'll probably lay down camp at Bantam, but I was thinking we'd hit the Marshepaug. This is my father-in-law, Richard Gilmore, by the way. Richard, this is Mack."

"Ah, the proprietor," Richard said, nodding in greeting.

"Not me," Mack said, shaking his head. "That would be my old man."

Richard blinked in confusion, as the man behind the counter clearly had to be in his mid to late seventies. "I see," he replied.

"Why bother?" Mack bellowed at Luke.

"Why bother with what?" Luke asked, raising his voice to be heard over the crackling television set.

"The Marshepaug," Mack cackled. "Only thing you're gonna catch out there is frostbite or pneumonia, Butch. Your father would laugh his fool head off if he heard you were wasting your time going anywhere without an auger in January."

"I'm sure we can flush out a panfish or two," Luke said, shaking his head. "We're going to go get geared up."

"Panfish," Mack muttered, turning his attention back to the television set. "Kid is touched in the head."

"Butch?" Richard murmured, smirking at Luke.

"Don't ask," Luke sighed. "And Mack? Third generation Mack, at least. There's been a Mack behind the counter as far back as I can remember, and I honestly couldn't tell you when or why the last Mack disappeared. Some things are better left unexplained." Luke gently prodded Richard further into the store, then watched as his father-in-law slowly turned around, attempting to process the tiny establishment and its haphazardly stocked shelves.

The walls of the bait shop, at least the portions not covered with product, fishing trophies, and random metal signs that dated back to the 1950s, were a faded olive green. Unexplainable sooty smudges abounded, and where there was no smudging, roughly spackled cracks added to the ramshackle appearance.

"This is... very quaint," Richard offered weakly as Luke strode past him and headed toward the back of the store. He grimaced at a stuffed otter sitting at the base of a stack of fishing creels before falling into step behind Luke.

"Need to get you a rod first and foremost," Luke said, leading Richard to a rack filled with fishing poles of varying sizes.

"My goodness," Richard breathed, pulling the largest rod available from the stand and eyeing it uncertainly. "This is rather unwieldy, don't you think?"

"That's for saltwater fishing," Luke explained. "It's appropriate for the caliber of fish you'll pull in there, but we won't need anything close to that. We're aiming for bluegills mostly, so you don't need much hardware. This..." he said, pulling a more reasonable looking rod from the rack. "This should be about what you need to start out."

Richard took the pole from Luke and awkwardly pantomimed a cast. "I'll have to take your word for it, considering you're the expert here," he conceded, handing the rod back to Luke. Luke pointed the rod down toward the floor and gently scraped the tip across a crack in the tile.

"What is it that you're doing there?" Richard asked curiously.

"Testing sensitivity," Luke said. "The fish will be biting light at this time of year. They're sluggish." He inspected the reel for a moment before giving a satisfied nod. "Feels good. Similar to what I have, I think this will work just fine. If we find anything else, you can use one of my heavier rods."

"Find anything else?" Richard asked.

"Never know," Luke said as he checked out the other rods to ensure he had chosen well. "Could stumble on a few largemouths that don't mind the cold as much as the others. It happens."

"I see," Richard said. "Very well then. Is there anything else we should purchase?"

Luke turned away from the rods, handing the one he had chosen to Richard. "Should get a couple of crank baits to be safe," he said. "I don't have any deep divers at the moment, I usually fish in summer."

"I assume the fish behave differently in the winter?" Richard asked as he followed Luke down an aisle.

"They follow the warmer waters in winter, which is down low," Luke said, stopping to pull a few packaged plastic lures from the peghooks. "There's a million variables mixed in there, but basic rule of thumb is to go deep in winter."

"Ah," Richard nodded. "Look for the proverbial deeper well. Should I have a tackle box?" he asked, stopping to look at the various boxes stacked up on a bottom shelf.

Luke cocked his head and looked at the boxes. "Do you want a tackle box?" he asked.

"I don't know," Richard said. "Do I?"

Luke sighed and shrugged. "I guess it can't hurt. We'll get you started with a basic setup. Grab one you like." Richard considered the selection and chose a tackle box, holding it open as Luke proceeded to fill the opened box with sinkers, hooks, a few more lures, a pair of pliers and extra fishing line. "That should do it," Luke said, taking the tackle box from Richard and heading toward the counter to cash out.

"Is this really all we need?" Richard asked. "There doesn't seem to be very much here."

Luke smiled weakly at Richard. "I'm not a fan of the Cabela's boys. I tend to pack light."

"What is a Cabela's boy?" Richard asked, mystified.

"Chain store," Luke grimaced. "Mass marketed outdoors. Not my scene. You've got everything you need here," he assured Richard, patting the tackle box. He politely declined Richard's insistence on paying the bill and quickly whipped out his wallet as Mack slowly began to ring up the sale on his ancient cash register.

"It just doesn't seem like enough," Richard murmured. He paused and stared at a selection of Styrofoam containers on the counter. "What on Earth?" he gasped.

"What?" Luke asked, following Richard's gaze to the containers.

"I could have sworn something moved in there," Richard said, shuddering slightly.

Luke reached over and picked up the container and gave it a shake. "Crickets," he explained matter of factly. He turned the cup around and pointed to a shakily written label that indeed said "Crickets" and set the cup back down on the counter.

"Crickets?" Richard asked, aghast as the container's residents reacted to Luke's disturbance by jumping around and bouncing off the inside of the lid that held them inside.

"Live bait," Luke said.

"You use them while they're alive?" Richard pressed.

"Well, I'm sure they're not alive for long once they hit the water," Luke chuckled. "You want fresh bait. Fish are particular, you know," he said, pocketing his change and bidding Mack farewell. "We'll stop off and pick up some bait on the way to the campground, it's too early to buy any yet."

"Crickets," Richard muttered. He picked up another container and quickly slammed it back down on the counter, taking a step back. A look of horror washed over his face.

Luke picked up the fishing pole and the bag containing their supplies. He headed for the door and held it open for Richard, smiling knowingly. Once outside, he turned to Richard. "Maggots or bloodworms?" he asked.

Richard shook his head and closed his eyes. "I'd really rather not acknowledge that question. Let's just carry on as though I never looked at that cup, shall we?"

Luke gave Richard a comforting pat on his shoulder as they headed for the car. "What cup? I didn't see a cup," he agreed.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"Lorelai, may I speak to you for a moment?" Emily asked, stepping behind the front desk of the Dragonfly and standing next to Lorelai.

"What did Michel do now?" Lorelai murmured as she reviewed an order she was about to place on the computer.

"Oh, nothing in the last half hour," Emily said with a wave of her hand. "I wanted to discuss something else with you."

"What's that?" Lorelai asked, glancing up from the computer screen.

"Luke and Richard will be occupied this weekend, traipsing around through the woods and doing God knows what." Emily sighed.

"Fishing," Lorelai said, smiling. "They'll be fishing, Mom."

"I thought perhaps we could go to the city," Emily said hesitantly. "Since the men will be away. Perhaps we could go on a weekend shopping trip?"

Lorelai looked at Emily suspiciously. "You want to buy baby things, don't you?" she asked.

"Not specifically," Emily said, rolling her eyes. "Just a weekend getaway for the two of us."

"I don't know," Lorelai said, wracking her brain for an excuse that would get her out of spending a weekend following Emily around stores as she power shopped and brought sales associates, trembling, to their knees.

"Oh, never mind," Emily sighed, trying not to show her disappointment. "I should have known you would be instantly opposed to the idea."

"Now wait a minute," Lorelai said, holding up her hand. "Hear me out."

"All right," Emily said.

"I meant that a shopping trip just doesn't float my boat right now," Lorelai said, deciding to go for honesty, instead of blurting out a lame excuse. "I'm tired," she said quietly.

"Is everything all right?" Emily asked, glancing downward at Lorelai's belly. "Is..."

"Everything is fine," Lorelai said. "I'm just... really looking forward to a weekend off my feet," she confessed. "I'm starting to really feel pregnant, you know?"

"Yes," Emily said, softening. "I do know. You're right. A shopping trip would only wear you out, and you should take any opportunity you have to rest."

"Thanks," Lorelai sighed in relief. "If it weren't for the baby, I'd go, Mom."

"I understand." Emily nodded. "Well, I will let you continue with whatever you're doing there," she said, gesturing at the computer.

"Ok," Lorelai said, watching as Emily started to walk away. "Hey, Mom?" she called.

"Yes, Lorelai?" Emily asked, turning back to her daughter.

"You could... well, why don't you come over to our place on Saturday?" she asked. "Rory has a date, and April will be at her friend's house, so I'll be all alone. I could, you know, use the company," she added.

"Are you sure?" Emily asked.

"Of course I am," Lorelai said. "You're long overdue for your first official movie night at the Crap Shack, after all."

"Movie night?" Emily asked. "What sort of movie?"

"Depends." Lorelai shrugged. "Rory and I usually go for a theme night."

"What kind of theme?" Emily asked, her curiosity piqued.

"Well, one of the more successful themes was the Kevin Smith marathon; Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy," Lorelai said, grinning at the blank expression on Emily's face. "He's not your cup of tea, I assure you," she said. "We can figure out a theme that we can both handle. What kind of movies do you like?"

"Oh, I doubt there are many you would like," Emily said. "I enjoy musicals. The classics. I'm an absolute fool for a good Cary Grant movie. Anything romantic would be perfect for me."

"So no chance of a Nightmare On Elm Street marathon," Lorelai said, sighing dramatically. She laughed at Emily's dramatic sneer. "I'm kidding, Mom. I could pick dozens of movies from your specifications. Some good romantic movies would be nice. I'm in the mood for something... wintery. Snow. Love. Love in the snow."

Emily gasped. "Doctor Zhivago. I haven't seen that movie in years. Omar Sharif was so dashing."

"I'll put Doctor Zhivago on the list of possibilities," Lorelai said. "I can't even remember the last time I watched that movie."

"Wonderful," Emily said, flashing an uncharacteristically wide grin. "Are you sure it will be all right if I spend the evening with you? I don't want to intrude."

"It's fine," Lorelai insisted. "I'd like it if you came over."

"Thank you," Emily said sincerely. "I'm looking forward to it."

"Me too," Lorelai said, smiling at her mother. "It might actually be fun."

"Will wonders never cease?" Emily smirked.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Luke stood in the apartment above the diner, tapping his fingers anxiously against his thigh. He'd been putting off making the call to Anna, knowing what he needed to ask her and worried about asking at the same time. He glanced around while he waited for her to pick up. Ever since he'd moved into Lorelai's house, he only ever came up here to use the safe. They hadn't needed any of his furniture at the house, so the apartment itself was largely unchanged, if a little bare of possessions.

Anna picked up on the sixth ring apologizing with an excuse about pockets and purses, and sounding more than a little stressed.

"It's fine," he assured her. "How are you?"

She paused as if contemplating. "Fine, I guess. Considering." She sighed. "It's hard to sell a house in this economy, but I think I have a lead on a job when I get back to Connecticut, so I'm going to look into renting the house rather than selling."

"That's good. About the job, I mean."

"Yes, I think it's a good prospect, so hopefully I'll be able to move back soon." She was quiet for a moment and then added, "I do really appreciate you letting April stay with you. It's better for her to be settled than here with all the uncertainty."

"It's no problem, really," he said, waving off her concern with an unconscious gesture. "She seems to have adjusted well. She's got plenty of friends, anyway."

"Good. That's good," Anna said hesitantly.

"She is actually... Well..." He stumbled a bit over the words. "They're about to start a new semester at the high school. New classes and everything. I was wondering." He took in a breath and then spit out his question. "I was wondering what your plans were when you return. I mean, you were living in Woodbridge."

"But that's the thing," Anna said with a touch of annoyance. "Things are really up in the air right now, so I'm not really sure."

"Okay, well, I'd understand if you wanted to move back there and I know April still has friends there. And she's a pretty adaptable kid, but I was worried about–"

"Oh," Anna said as realization dawned. "Luke, I don't want her to change schools again, especially not in the middle of the year. Honestly..." Her voice trailed off as if she was reluctant to admit it. "I don't know exactly what will happen, but if this job pans out, it's close to Stars Hollow. Maybe I'll try to find a place there."

"Uh, okay."

"I don't want to disrupt April anymore than she's already been." When she went on, Luke could hear wistfulness in her voice. "I do miss her though."

"I'm sure you do," he said with understanding, but at the same time found himself wondering how he could possibly ask about custody arrangements now. Sympathizing with the uncertainty of her position, he offered, "You know, there's a long weekend coming up. I could get April a plane ticket so that she could come see you, if you think it's still going to be a few weeks."

"That's really generous. I think, though, that I might need to come out there to make some arrangements anyway. Maybe," she started, "maybe while I'm there we could all get together – for dinner or something. It's probably time that I met Lorelai properly."

"That's a good idea," Luke said, heartened by the suggestion. "I think Lorelai would appreciate that."

"You know," she said. "Seeing you settling down and starting a new family puts me at ease."

Luke heard a touch of condescension in her tone and it put him on the defensive. "Have I ever given you reason to not be at ease?" he asked, irritated.

"Not about April," Anna admitted, "but you did break off your engagement to Lorelai rather suddenly."

He sobered, then said gruffly, "We had some things to work through."

"Well you seem very settled now, and April says that you're very happy."

Luke couldn't help but smile, and with newfound confidence ventured, "Lorelai and I were talking the other night. We've really enjoyed having April with us. It would be great if she could continue to spend time with us once you're all moved in here. I mean, more than just a weekend a month."

He heard a sharp intake of breath and a long moment of silence, but when Anna spoke it was without the kinds of barriers he was used to from her. "We should talk to April about it and see what she thinks. It's possible that with us all in the same state, that we might want to rethink the visitation schedule."

Luke let out a long breath of relief. "That would be really nice."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Thursday night Luke joined Lorelai where she was sprawled out on the couch watching television. April wandered back and forth between Rory's room, where she was staying, and the kitchen, her cell-phone glued to her ear.

"I really hope there's no truth to those brain tumor warnings," he grumbled. "She has that thing practically surgically implanted."

Lorelai shrugged. "At least you know she has friends."

"Might be better off with fewer friends and a little more studying."

She laughed as she burrowed herself into a comfortable position against his chest. "Wow, you're really going for Dad of the Year, aren't you?"

"Whatever." He glanced down at where she continued to wriggle and adjust. "You all set, or what?"

"Almost," Lorelai answered as she flung one end of her blanket down to cover her toes. "Okay, all set."

"So glad to hear it," he said sarcastically, grabbing the remote off the coffee table, and changing the channel.

"Hey! Who put you in charge of the television?" Lorelai asked, lunging for the hand that held the remote, as he teasingly held it out of her way. Before she'd managed to whine him into submission, a phone rang.

"Oh, jeez," Luke muttered. "I'll pause this while you go answer that."

"No, Hon. That's yours," Lorelai corrected, shifting so that he could get up, and stealing the remote control from him in the process.

"But..." He frowned as he stood. "You're here and April's on the phone. Who the hell is calling me?"

"I don't know, but if you don't get it, you'll have to listen to voicemail and I know how you hate that, so..."

In two more strides he reached the table, picked up the phone, and pressed talk without checking who was calling. "Hello?"

He was answered by Richard's jovial voice. "Luke, son. I hope this is a good time to talk."

Luke covered the phone with his hand and whispered, "It's your dad. How the hell did he get my cell phone number?"

Lorelai winced. "Um, that might have been me." At his groan, she held up her hands in defense. "He had questions about your male-bonding trip."

Luke continued to glare at her as he collapsed back onto the couch and said, "Sure, Richard. This is fine. What do you need?"

"Well the main thing is that I was curious where we'd be camping. I'd like to make some arrangements."

"Uh, okay." Luke hesitated. "I usually just find the first available campsite when I get there, but I guess planning ahead can't hurt."

"Yes, I'd like to take care of that ahead of time, if you don't mind. What's the name?"

Luke struggled to remember the name of the campground he rarely used–the one with the most amenities. "I think it's Algonquin Campground. It's on the north shore of Bantam. That's probably the best one for winter camping."

"Excellent. And about apparel," Richard went on, as if checking off items on a list. "I've got my man working on finding appropriate clothing. He's suggested a more rugged coat, waterproof boots, a new hat, and the like. Is there anything else you think will be necessary?"

Luke pulled at face at the idea of Richard's mention of his 'man,' but sighed and said, "It's supposed to be a fairly mild weekend. It will probably drop below freezing at night, but it could be in the forties during the day, so I'd suggest layers."


"Right, like a turtleneck, a sweater–that kind of thing," Luke explained.

"Ooh a flannel. Tell him to get a flannel," Lorelai said, poking him. "Then we can take a picture."

Luke shooed her away, just as Richard pronounced, "Of course, turtlenecks!" There was a pause during which Luke imagined Richard's list growing longer. "Okay, one more thing. My man tells me we'll need an auger. Do you have one or should I have him pick one up?"

"An auger?" Luke's brow knit in confusion.

"For the ice, of course."

"But we're going to be on a stream. We won't need—"

"Ah, very well. I'll have him cancel that."

"Okay. Uh, anything else?" Luke asked tentatively.

"No, I think that about covers it. Well, Luke, I am looking forward to this. We'll see you tomorrow at dinner."

"Yeah, see you then. Good night." He closed the phone and looked over at Lorelai in disbelief. "He has 'his man' picking out supplies for our trip."

Lorelai rubbed his arm in sympathy, then leaned in and whispered, "I hope he gets you two some matching flannels."

♫   ♫   ♫  

Lorelai settled herself against Luke again, letting him grumble about her father until he had it out of his system, thus sparing herself his complaints about her fidgeting. They'd had less than half of hour of uninterrupted couch potato time before the phone rang again.

Without moving, Luke said, "Your turn."

Recognizing the familiar trill of her phone, Lorelai muttered, "Crap," as she hauled herself to her feet and over to the hall table. She glanced at the display of her phone. "It's my mother," she hissed at her husband. "What does she want?"

"I guess you'll never know unless you answer it," he said, gesturing at the phone pointedly.

Lorelai sighed and opened her phone, summoning all of her goodwill into a cordial greeting.

"Lorelai, it's your mother."

"Yep, that's what the display told me. What do you need?"

"Are you busy?"

"Well, we're not hosting a dinner party, but Luke and I have the wild ambition of trying to make it all the way through a whole television program tonight," Lorelai quipped.

"Well," Emily huffed, sounding offended. "I can call back tomorrow if it would be more convenient."

Lorelai softened. "No, Mom, it's fine. What can I do for you?"

"Well, it's about Saturday."

"Okay, what about Saturday?"

"We haven't gone over any details. Made any plans." She paused and began again, this time sounding more methodical. "Now, where should we start?"

Lorelai shook her head impatiently. "Start? Mom, it's movie night. You show up, we watch movies. There isn't anything to plan."

"But what about food?" Emily insisted.

"There are several fine take-out options, most of which will deliver if I flirt—" She glanced at Luke, who narrowed his eyes at her words. "Uh, if I play the pregnancy card." Luke nodded his approval and Lorelai added, "So that should take care of the details, right?"

"But how many movies are we planning to watch?" Emily asked anxiously. "What time will we begin?"

Lorelai heaved a long breath and settled back on the couch before answering. "Let's plan on starting at seven and watching until we can't stay up any longer."

"Okay," Emily said, clearly dubious about the open-ended nature of their plans. Lorelai thought they were done, until her mother added, as if an afterthought, "And what shall I wear? I imagine you'll be wearing something with the word 'Juicy' on it."

"Actually," Lorelai said in mock dismay, "my 'Juicy' pants are in the laundry so I'll probably just wear pajamas and maybe a hoodie if the house is chilly."

"Pajamas. I assume that means I'll be spending the night then," Emily ventured.

Lorelai groaned inwardly at the realization and said wearily, "Yes, April will be with a friend. You can sleep in her room." She gave Luke a desperate look before asking, "Is that all?"

"Just one more thing," Emily said quickly. "How do you spell hoodie?"

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Luke climbed into bed and pulled the blankets up around his waist. "Please tell me you've disconnected the phone lines," he said.

"I think we're safe now," Lorelai laughed. "They've officially exhausted their supply of bizarre questions."

"I'm scared now," Luke muttered as he rolled toward Lorelai and laid his head on her shoulder and nuzzled her neck with his nose. "How does a little trip turn into Watergate caliber levels of secrecy and plotting?"

"Poor baby," Lorelai whispered, running her fingers through his hair. "Did big bad Richard Gilmore make you nervous?"

"Why was he asking those questions?" Luke asked. "We're going fishing. We're not signing up for the Iditarod."

"Oh Honey," Lorelai said with a snort. "Never question the way the Gilmores think. Haven't you learned that by now?"

"But, he asked... he actually... and then the... why?" Luke asked, thoroughly nonplussed.

"That's their way," Lorelai sighed. "Come on, you heard how my mother somehow made a simple movie night slightly more complicated than string theory. It's just how they think."

"But..." Luke began.

"I'm not putting them down," Lorelai clarified. "It's a way of life I never really understood myself. But even so, when I left home, I was still a spoiled rich kid. It was hard to adjust to just scraping by. Maybe if I hadn't left home, I'd be the same way. I got a taste of the simple life before there was time for the money to really distort my views on things. Emily and Richard have been immersed in it since birth. They don't know anything else."

"It's fishing," Luke said. "You bring a fishing pole and worms."

"Not in Richard Gilmore's mind," Lorelai said.

"And a movie night is a movie night. You get a movie and maybe some junk food," Luke continued.

"Not in Emily Gilmore's mind," Lorelai said, laughing. "Bigger is better. Less is unfathomable. Packing light is not an option."

Luke reached over and caressed Lorelai's rounded belly. "I don't want this kid to be buried in excess," he said softly. "I want him to be comfortable. I don't want him to ever know what it's like to really want for anything. But damn it, I want the kid to open up his gifts on Christmas morning and be more interested in the tissue paper in the box. I don't want him to expect the most expensive things on the shelves."

"Or she," Lorelai reminded Luke. "And I get it. We can't make my parents understand that it's okay to not have it all. But we'll make sure this little guy, or this little girl, understands that sometimes less really is more."

"I just want to go fishing," Luke said.

"You can fish," Lorelai said, pressing a kiss to the top of Luke's head. "You'll just have to take a few minutes to praise any weird things my Dad presents to you first."

"I just want to fish," Luke moaned.

"You will." Lorelai giggled. "Take one for the team, Danes."

"It's just a fishing trip," Luke said. "Put hook in water, pull out, hopefully with a fish attached."

"You'll do fine," Lorelai assured him. "Maybe you'll even have a little fun in the process."

"That or I'll hurl myself into the icy depths to escape," Luke whined.

"Oh, don't do that," Lorelai said. "I love you, but not enough to deal with your frostbitten toes. Your feet are cold enough as it is."

"You're going to pay for that," Luke growled, chuckling at Lorelai's shriek as he rubbed a foot up her calf.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"Flip the bail," Luke said, stepping back as Richard cast his line into the water. They stood along the banks of the Marshepaug River, at a location Luke had always had success at during previous fishing excursions. The bank they stood on was a lightly wooded bend in the river, and Luke was directing Richard to a rocky area in the water that seemed to be deeper, and most likely to produce a few catches. Portions of the river were iced over, but this area still had free flowing water to fish in.

"The bail has been flipped," Richard intoned, concentrating intently on his line.

"Reel in the slack," Luke coached.

"How is that?" Richard asked as he followed Luke's instructions.

Luke nodded. "Looks good. Just watch your bobber, and... uh, never mind," he said, editing his thought.

"Never mind what?" Richard frowned.

"I was going to say to stay alert if you feel anything on the rod, but then, I doubt you could feel anything with the uh... battery powered gloves you're wearing."

"They're quite toasty," Richard beamed. "Now, you, my boy should stop being stubborn and actually try on the pair I bought for you. What were you thinking, wearing gloves without fingers?"

Luke held up his hand, showing off one of his knit gloves. "I always wear these."

"I don't understand the purpose," Richard said, shaking his head.

Luke shrugged. "Takes away the need to pull off gloves and pull them back on, I guess," he said. "Unless you want to do the honors," he added, pulling a worm from their Styrofoam container of bait and dangling it in the air.

"No, thank you," Richard said. "I will leave baiting the hooks to the master."

"Have at it then," Luke said. "You're doing fine." He dropped the container of worms back on the ground and turned to the massive pile of gear Richard had brought to the river with them. He stepped over a fancy aerator used to hold fish while providing oxygen through the water, shaking his head at the wasted expense. If they even caught anything, they would probably just release the fish back in the water.

Luke surveyed the scene, amused. They were surrounded by piles of outdoor gear that Richard had purchased for the trip, against Luke's advisement. Richard had acquired large quantities of artificial lures and baits, most of which were simply not suited for fishing for something as simple as bluegill, as they were. Luke had brought a bag of stale bread and cut up hot dogs as backup in case the fish were being particular about the standard baits.

Most of the gear looked like a display for an LL Bean catalog photoshoot. There was an outdoor heater, two seats with heated cushions, and a large fishing net that Luke couldn't quite figure out the reasoning behind. Richard had purchased a large backpack, hip waders, and an overly complex system of compasses, local maps, and a global positioning device. Luke had laughed heartily at the sight of the GPS unit, considering they were barely a quarter of a mile from a well traveled road.

However, Luke had to admit to himself, he was enjoying having a piping hot cup of tea available whenever he wanted it, since Richard had procured an oddly complicated portable stove. The tea he was preparing, courtesy of an outdoor kettle, was a lot fresher, and certainly hotter, than what he usually brought along with him in his old metal thermos.

Luke took a seat in one of the chairs, chuckling to himself at the surge of warmth radiating from the cushions. He sunk back in the chair and relaxed for a moment, watching as Richard practiced his newly learned fishing technique.

Richard turned and grinned at Luke. "I see you aren't complaining about that chair now," he gloated.

"There are perks to the chairs," Luke admitted. He jerked his chin toward the water. "You have some activity there." The bobber attached to Richard's line was being pulled below the surface, and the line grew taut.

"Oh my," Richard said, turning back toward the river and reeling wildly.

"Set the hook," Luke reminded him. Richard gave the pole a sharp upward tug and paused.

"Now what?" he asked breathlessly.

"Reel it in," Luke said, getting to his feet and hurrying to Richard's side. "Easy," he cautioned. "It's just a bluegill, probably. Not Jaws. Keep the pace even."

Richard reeled the line in, frowning when the hook emerged from the water without a fish attached. "What happened?" he asked.

"You lose them very easily," Luke said with a shrug. "You did a good job. I'm surprised you even got a bite considering how cold it is today."

"That sounds like an excellent reminder to put these chairs to use," Richard said, handing Luke his fishing rod and heading toward a chair. Richard lowered himself into a seat and sighed contentedly.

Luke propped the rod against a tree and made his way through the piles of Richard's gear. "Coffee?" he asked.

"Thank you," Richard nodded, zipping his winter jacket up higher. Luke poured coffee out of a coffee press that was sitting on the portable stove and carried a mug to Richard.

"Pull up a seat, my boy," Richard said, taking the coffee with a grateful nod. "That was probably the most fish activity we're going to see today, wasn't it?" he asked.

Luke smirked and nodded. "Yeah, I think we'll be lucky if we get another bite," he admitted as he sat down.

"It's a nice location though," Richard said. "Very peaceful."

"It's nice in the summer," Luke agreed. "My Dad came here occasionally."

"I see," Richard said, looking thoughtfully at Luke. "He would not be impressed with all this, would he?" he asked, gesturing at the gear he had purchased.

"My first fishing pole?" Luke said.

"Yes?" Richard asked.

"A stick off that tree there," Luke said, pointing to his right.

"And when this child is born," Richard said. "You'll break a stick off that tree and do the same thing."

Luke grinned widely at the idea. "If it's a boy, there's hope," he said. "If it's a girl, well..."

"Somehow, I believe Lorelai would insist on it either way," Richard said.

"That wouldn't surprise me," Luke said, settling comfortably back into his chair. "She's a sucker for tradition. If it's a girl, I'm sure Lorelai will just send her to the fishing hole wearing a glitter covered fishing vest while carrying a Hello Kitty fishing pole."

"That she is," Richard agreed. "You're a good father to April. This will be no different," he added gently.

"Thanks," Luke sighed. "I appreciate that."

"Lorelai may be many things," Richard said. "But she isn't a fool. Not when it comes to something like this. She chose you to be her husband and the father of her child. That speaks volumes. I've come to believe she chose well."

Luke nodded, swallowing hard. "So," he said, clearing his throat. "What do you say we take another crack at those bluegills?"

"Hear, hear," Richard said, looking around. "Now where did I put the battery pack for my heated socks?"

Luke rolled his eyes as he got out of his seat. "I'll go get your fishing pole while you get wired."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Lorelai pulled the pan of tater tots out of the oven and poured them onto a plate just as the doorbell rang. "Come on in, Mom," she called. "I'm in the kitchen."

The front door opened and closed and footsteps sounded down the hall. "What are you thinking leaving the door open like that?" Emily reprimanded her. "What if I had been a burglar?"

"Well, then I'm guessing you wouldn't have rung the doorbell." Lorelai turned to see her mother sighing in disapproval, and holding her purse and a small overnight bag.

"Do you have another bag in the car?" Lorelai asked, gesturing toward the front yard with the potholder.

Emily held up her bag in answer. "No, I've got everything I need here."

"Really? Just that one small bag? Where are the three changes of clothes and the back-up umbrella?"

"You told me pajamas were expected, so I brought pajamas."

"And they're in there?" Lorelai asked, eying the bag skeptically.

"Of course."

"Well, then why don't you go get changed in April's room, while I finish putting together our snacks."

"Now?" Emily asked uncertainly. "I can put them on later."

"Mom, you're wearing a pantsuit."

"Yes, and what is your point exactly?"

"It's movie night. Movie night requires comfortable clothes and junk food." She nodded at Emily and waved at the bedroom door, saying pointedly, "Clothes," then indicated the plate in front of her, "junk food."

Emily sighed, giving Lorelai a resigned look before turning wordlessly into the room and closing the door.

A few minutes later, Lorelai had claimed one end of the couch along with her favorite afghan. She was trying to decide if she should go ahead and dive into the food when Emily emerged.

"It's about time, Mom. The bagel bites are getting cold," Lorelai called carelessly as she looked over her shoulder. She stopped short, wide-eyed, at the sight of her mother. "What are you wearing?"

"They're pajamas," Emily said, sighing impatiently. "Or is this not what you instructed me to bring?"

"The pajamas are great, Mom. They're purple." Emily narrowed her eyes at Lorelai as she struggled to maintain her composure. "Your. Hoodie. Has. Rhinestones."

"Go ahead, have your laugh," Emily said, sitting down stiffly on the far end of the couch. "Can we just watch the movie now?"

Lorelai hesitated, lifting up the plate of appetizers as a peace offering. "Junk food first," she offered, smiling apologetically.

Emily wrinkled her nose. "What are these?" she asked, poking a tater tot suspiciously.

"Tater tots." Lorelai held the plate temptingly under her mother's nose. "Try one. You'll love it." Emily arched an eyebrow in question, but reached out an elegantly manicured finger, picking up a potato puff and taking a delicate bite.

"Hmm, that is quite good. What did you say those were?"

Lorelai laughed. "Okay, you can have your Omar Sharif now. You've been properly indoctrinated."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"Well, enough about me," Rory said, smiling nervously across the table at her latest date. He had contacted her two weeks ago, and they communicated online a few times before he asked her if she would like to meet. He seemed to have a sharp sense of humor, and so she decided to give it a shot. "There's only so many amazing anecdotes about the exciting world of free-lance writing that one person should be subjected to in one night," she added, hoping she wasn't talking too much about herself.

"It's fascinating," Ken, the man she was eating dinner with, said. "It sounds very exciting, starting out in the world with a job that isn't exactly typical."

Rory nodded appreciatively, smiling again at Ken. He was handsome, she thought. Brown hair, bright brown eyes, and he definitely worked out. Much better than she had experienced so far she thought, cringing inwardly at the shallow nature of her thoughts.

"I'll bet it's a little rough, too," Ken said.

"It can be," Rory said. "It's definitely not a career to aspire to if you want instant financial security."

"Sometimes you just have to follow your gut," Ken said. "I know what I do isn't thrilling, or destined to make me the next Rockefeller, but what can I say? I just like what I do."

"And what is that again?" Rory asked politely, knowing he had made a vague reference to his job in the emails they exchanged prior to their date.

"I install windows," Ken said. "I know," he chuckled, holding up his hands in mock defensiveness. "Not as exciting as fire jumping or being a dung beetle researcher."

"Uh..." Rory said. "Really? You think a dung beetle researcher has an exciting job?"

"Well, exciting in the sense that it's really bizarre," Ken clarified. "Seriously, who goes to school to be a dung beetle researcher? How do you write a final thesis on dung?"

"I don't know," Rory giggled, genuinely amused by the man. "And there's certainly nothing wrong with installing windows. A job is a job. What's important is that you enjoy what you do."

"I do." Ken nodded. "I work without a supervisor breathing down my neck, I can make my own hours, really, and the pay isn't too bad, even though I'm not going to be moving to a deluxe apartment in the sky anytime soon."

"The Jeffersons," Rory laughed.

"Very good," Ken chuckled. "I like a girl who can pick up a vague reference."

"You should meet my mother," Rory said, grinning.

"So soon?" Ken asked. "We haven't even discussed the dowry yet."

"Don't worry," Rory said. "I wasn't being literal. I don't expect a man to meet my mother until the second date."

"Reasonable timeframe," Ken laughed as he reached for his glass of wine.

"You know," Rory began. "Your job made me remember something from when I was a kid," she said, taking a sip of her own wine.

"Do tell," Ken encouraged.

"Okay," Rory said, clearing her throat. "My Mom tends to look for entertainment anywhere she can. When I was a kid, she rarely turned away a door to door salesman. I remember her letting in a window salesman and he had a sample pane. He did his standard sales pitch, and decided to demonstrate the durability of the double panes by jumping on the sample," she explained. "I assume this was his typical grand finale that ensured a sale. The only problem was instead of the panes actually resisting his assault, he put his foot through the glass, and my Mom and I had to drive him to the hospital because he gashed his leg pretty bad."

Ken looked at Rory blankly. She cleared her throat again, and felt a flush begin to creep up her neck. "He um... he was still trying to sell her the windows as they wheeled him into the emergency room," she added uncertainly.

Ken took a long drink from his glass of wine and stared intently at the glass as he set it back down on the table.

"I'm sure you would never do anything like that," Rory said quickly. "It just... reminded me... you know, of the story."

Ken offered her a polite, but insincere laugh. "Yeah, that's funny," he said, averting his eyes. "Uh, I don't install actual windows. I install Windows. You know, for the computer?"

"Oh," Rory gasped, feeling the flush engulf her face now. "I'm sorry. I... I didn't... You didn't mention anything computer oriented."

Ken shrugged. "It's odd. I always get that. Do I have a blue-collar vibe?"

"Um..." Rory stammered. "Um, no, you don't."

"It's just the majority of what I do," Ken said. "I just tend to avoid all the boring technical details. Maybe I should use a more specific title," he added, fidgeting nervously with his collar.

Rory nodded and focused all her energy on the remains of the dessert on her plate, trying to figure out a way to get out of the pit of embarrassment she was suddenly wallowing in.

"So," Ken said after a few minutes of awkward silence. "It's getting late."

"Yes," Rory nodded, looking at her watch and noting it was barely eight o'clock. "It's getting late."

Ken pulled out his wallet, heaving an obvious sigh. "So... want to split the check?"

Rory looked at him, astonished. "Okay," she said slowly, and reached for her purse. She dug through her wallet looking for cash. "I don't think I have enough actual cash on me," she said through clenched teeth.

"Do you have a credit card?" Ken asked.

"Yeah," Rory said, "But..."

"Here," Ken said, handing her a twenty. "That should cover my end."

"You forgot the tip," Rory said tersely.

"Oh," Ken muttered, pulling out a five dollar bill and handing it over. "I should probably go. Gotta check my ladder since I'm doing some installation tomorrow for a friend," he said, chuckling unconvincingly. He got up and gave Rory a small wave, then turned and left.

"Wow," Rory sighed, signaling for their waiter. "One tiny misunderstanding, and all bets are off. Somebody is a little sensitive there."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"Okay, take the next right," Richard said, pointing, just as the mechanized voice on the GPS unit gave the same direction.

"Yeah, got it," Luke said, turning his truck into the entrance to their campground. Mercifully, Richard turned off the GPS after it informed them that they had arrived at their destination.

"I believe from here we will need to navigate using the signs. I was told that our campsite would be C3. Ah, there it is," Richard instructed as Luke made the turn.

"Huh," Luke said, counting spaces. "That should be it, but it looks like it's already taken."

"Oh, no, that's ours. I just had Harold come out ahead of us to set up."

"Set up?" Luke gulped, realizing that the camper taking up the majority of the assigned campsite was intended for them. "So, when you said you were going to make arrangements, you weren't just talking about making a reservation?"

"Oh, this," Richard waved his hand dismissively as Luke pulled to a stop. "I just wanted to make sure that if we spent the afternoon on a cold riverbank that we had a nice warm dinner to come back to, and a comfortable place to sleep. We'll need to rest up if we're going to go after some more fish in the morning. Maybe tomorrow, we'll catch something big enough to keep. Now that would be something to show Emily." He stepped out of the car just as a man in an apron and chef's hat stepped out of the camper and walked over to lift the lid of a large gas grill.

Luke sighed and lifted his tent out of the back of the truck. "I guess we won't be needing this, then?"

Richard chuckled lightly. "I think not. Trust me, we'll be much more comfortable in there. Now why don't you have a seat and Harold can bring us some drinks." He gestured toward two chairs set up under the awning and next to the warmth of the grill.

Luke just nodded dumbly and plopped into one of the seats. Harold handed Richard a martini. "Ah, thank you, Harold. Were you able to get some beer as well?" Harold tipped his head and slipped inside the camper again, and Richard turned to Luke. "I made sure to get you some beer, son. I wasn't sure what style you drank, so I had Harold bring a selection."

As if on cue, Harold stepped out of the camper with a bucket of ice holding six bottles of beer. He held it out for Luke's perusal and Luke struggled to decipher the labels, which looked to be in French, German and possibly Italian. Spotting a single bottle with an English label, he picked it up, only to have it taken back from him immediately by Harold, who opened it and poured it into a glass from a nearby table.

When Luke had his beer in hand, Richard held up his glass. "To the fish."

"To the fish," Luke responded, lifting his glass hesitantly before taking a drink and nearly choking on the dense, heavy stout.

"So, how's the beer, son?" Richard asked heartily.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Lorelai sighed wearily and squirmed down in her seat, trying to find a comfortable position. She was sitting with her feet propped up on a pillow that rested on the coffee table, and was slowly but surely burrowing her way underneath the blanket she had retrieved over an hour and a half ago.

Doctor Zhivago dragged on, and the more time that passed, the more Lorelai simply wanted to gouge her eyes out.

She glanced over at Emily, gauging her current interest level. Emily was gazing intently at the television screen, still transfixed. Lorelai rolled her eyes and reached for more popcorn. She held up a piece and stared at it. It looked almost like a snowflake, in its own way. She narrowed her eyes at the popcorn. "Thank you for curing me of my ridiculous obsession with snow, Yuri," she mumbled quietly.

"What was that?" Emily asked, looking over at Lorelai.

"I just... forgot how long this movie is," Lorelai sheepishly confessed.

"Yes," Emily said. "Very in-depth."

"David Lean," Lorelai said, referencing the director. "Not very lean on plot advancement, huh?"

"It serves the setting," Emily said. "It makes everything so unforgettable, the intensity of each moment."

Lorelai nodded slowly. "I, for one, will never forget the compelling 'staring at the balalaikas' scene in the beginning."

Emily rolled her eyes. "It's a wonderful story."

"See," Lorelai said. "I don't remember it being so... long? Cold? Cheaty? Mind numbingly depressing?"

"Have you ever seen a movie set during the Bolshevik Revolution and believed you were about to experience a circus for your mind?" Emily countered.

"Boris Pasternak was no Buffalo Bill Cody," Lorelai said, grinning slightly.

"I don't believe anyone every accused him of such," Emily said, reaching over and taking some popcorn for herself.

"If anything, he makes The Grapes of Wrath look like Ziegfeld Follies." Lorelai snorted.

"Interesting connection," Emily said.

"My God," Lorelai said, exasperated at Emily's mellow reception of her whining. "Even the opening credits lasted for at least forty five minutes."

"I hardly think that's an accurate statement," Emily said.

"How?" Lorelai asked, stunned. "How are you still enjoying this movie? Look at it," she wailed, gesturing at the screen. "It's snowing. AGAIN. They're miserable. AGAIN. We're two hours in, and oh my God, enough with the angst, already!"

"My word, what a violent reaction," Emily said, smiling to herself.

"Baby is cold," Lorelai grumbled, pulling her blanket up higher around her and shivering slightly.

"Would you like to stop watching the movie?" Emily asked. "We can watch another of your movies, I suppose."

"No," Lorelai sighed. "Might as well follow it through to the bitter end. Don't want to miss the heartwarming 'dead of a heart attack in the middle of the snowy street' scene."

Emily heaved a heavy sigh. "Sometimes, I just watch for the furs."

"What?" Lorelai asked, confused.

"The furs Julie Christie wore," Emily said, shrugging.

"You sit through a three hour movie to lust after fur?" Lorelai asked. "That's not an even trade, Mom."

"I just thought she was so lovely the first time I saw this movie," Emily said. "And her furs were so luxurious. I think I may have wanted to be Julie Christie."

"Wow, Lara envy," Lorelai said. "Okay, I suppose I can get behind that. Too bad the furs are long gone."

"Indeed," Emily said sadly.

"Admit it," Lorelai said, watching Emily closely. "You were in it for the Omar Sharif lust. You can't tell me a thing that happened, because you have been sitting there lusting after the man, and nothing more."

Emily looked sternly at Lorelai, then softened. She smiled wickedly. "My God, but he is a handsome man," she whispered.

Lorelai threw back her head and laughed out loud. "You've been torturing me for the sake of eye candy. I'm a little hurt, and a lot impressed."

"Oh please," Emily said, waving her hand dismissively. "Are you going to tell me you've never done the same?"

"I have my flannel man to lust after," Lorelai said, feigning indignance. "Why would I need an Omar?"

Emily gave Lorelai an appraising look. "You're happy," she said, stating the obvious.

"I'm bloated, that's what I am," Lorelai complained.

"You're happy to be bloated then," Emily said. "Because you're carrying his child."

Lorelai smiled widely. "Yeah," she said as she draped her hand over her midsection and rubbed affectionately. "I think I might be feeling a bit content here."

Emily refocused on the movie playing before them. "I'm glad," she said after a moment.

Lorelai quickly turned her head and stared at the television set as well. "Thanks, Mom," she finally said, grateful for the unexpected sentiment. She picked up a box of candy that sat on the couch cushion next to her, and held it out toward Emily. "Sno Cap?" she offered.

Emily smiled and held out her cupped hand. "Yes please," she said.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Rory walked slowly into her apartment building, rooting around in her handbag for her keys. "I just had them," she muttered to herself in confusion as she slowly approached the stairs, not really paying attention to where she was walking.

"Watch where you're going," Kevin said, trotting down the stairs toward Rory.

Rory looked up distractedly. "Huh?" she asked as her foot caught the corner of a box that was pushed up against the wall. She stumbled forward wildly, clutching for anything to stop her fall.

Kevin rushed toward her and caught her elbow as she tried to keep herself upright. "I said watch it," he chuckled, waiting until Rory had her footing again before releasing her arm.

"Thanks," Rory sighed, turning around and sitting on the steps. She reached for her right shoe and took it off.

"Did you hurt yourself?" Kevin asked as he sat down next to her on the step.

"No, but I nearly lost a heel," Rory said, inspecting the damage. "Stupid box," she murmured.

"So, it's pretty early," Kevin pointed out. "You're all dressed up, and not out painting the town red. What happened there?"

Rory grinned and shook her head. "I had a date," she explained as she slid her shoe back on her foot.

"Man, most people are just heading out for the night, and you're already done," Kevin laughed. "This guy must have been a winner."

Rory turned and leaned up against the wall in the staircase. "It started out so well," she moaned. "He was really nice at first."

Kevin frowned. "What did he do?"

"Oh, he didn't really do anything," Rory said, waving her hand dismissively.

"Are you sure?" Kevin asked. "I could hurt him for you. Okay, I could try at least. I'm not very good with the whole street fighting thing, but I'm sure I could kick him in the shin and run away. I'm a good runner."

Rory laughed out loud. "Ah, so chivalry isn't dead after all."

Kevin shot Rory a lopsided grin and scratched his chin. "Well, I don't have a cape to lay over rain puddles, but at the very least I can dish out a firm right hook if it's warranted," he said.

"Thank you," Rory said. "It was nothing like that, though."

"So, did he just turn out to be a loser?" Kevin asked.

"He installs windows," Rory explained.

Kevin quirked an eyebrow at Rory. "Blue collar guy? Not into that?" he asked uncertainly.

"See?" Rory said, sitting upright. "That's the dumbest way to explain your job."

"I'm lost," Kevin admitted.

"He installs Windows," Rory said. "For the computer? That was his explanation. No title. Just that he installs windows."

"Really?" Kevin snorted. "He didn't say he was a software... guy? Whatever they would be called?"

"If you say you install windows, people will think you install actual windows," Rory said. "God, I'm glad you agreed with me. He was completely offended that I misinterpreted his career, and that ended the date."

"Because you... thought he installed real windows," Kevin said. "Wow. I'd like to apologize for him on behalf of my entire species. That's pretty, uh... well, pathetic."

"Oh well," Rory giggled. "On to the next challenge, right?"

"So you didn't know this guy really, did you?" Kevin asked. "Blind date?"

"Essentially," Rory nodded.

"I hate blind dates," Kevin sighed.

"You need to take the blind date route?" Rory asked incredulously. "Come on, you can't possibly have difficulty getting dates."

"Well, I am a beautiful man, it's true," he said, teasing Rory. "Who knows why any of us has trouble? Sometimes the dating pool just dries up. It's a mystery, I guess."

"Let's just call it a dry spell," Rory said with a shrug. "I'm feeling the need to get back out on the market again, test the waters, be a little more proactive."

"I'm familiar with the dreaded dry spell," Kevin said. "It's so much easier when you're in school. Then you grow up, go to work every day, come home, have just enough time to pay the bills, make some Ramen noodles for dinner, and crawl into bed. It's tough being single."

"It really is," Rory sighed.

"I make such a bad blind date, too," Kevin muttered.

"How so?" Rory asked.

"Don't ask," Kevin said. "It's just a disaster."

"I already asked," Rory said. "I insist on at least one example."

Kevin groaned and ran his fingers through his hair. "I don't set out to be a dork," he said in defense of himself. "I just get nervous, and then I get clumsy, and then I say really dumb things."

"It can't be that bad," Rory said.

"Oh, it can be." Kevin shuddered. "I can't even bring myself to mention some of the idiocy I've created."

"Two words," Rory laughed. "Urine mints."

"Urine mints?" Kevin asked, scrunching up his face in disgust.

"Let's just say I was reaching for idle conversation and I came up with the worst thing possible," Rory explained. "And as a result, I never reached for complimentary mints again. I doubt the guy I was with does either, after my shocking revelation."

"I see," Kevin nodded. "That is pretty bad."

"And your contribution to weirdness is..." Rory prompted.

Kevin rolled his eyes and took a deep breath. "She mentioned she liked Superman. I'm a guy. I dig Superman. But I was nervous and took it way too far."

"You didn't try to demonstrate x-ray vision, did you?" Rory asked. "Tell her she was wearing pink undies?"

"Worse," Kevin scowled.

"You called her Miss Teschmacher?" Rory guessed again.

"Nope," Kevin said. "But points for knowing Miss Teschmacher," he said, nodding appreciatively.

"My Mom had a thing for Christopher Reeve for a while," Rory said. "The references stick after you see the movie thirty times or so. So what's worse then?"

"When you had a beer before the date to calm your nerves," Kevin said. "And then you have two more beers during dinner, and then suddenly you decide it's perfectly normal to reenact the 'Kneel before Zod' scene for the girl," he said, his shoulders slumping in defeat.

"Oh my," Rory gasped.

"Yep," Kevin said. "I really did it."

"That's bad," Rory whispered.

"I know," Kevin moaned. "I just don't get it. I get nervous and the comic book nerd comes out in force. So, at least that story should put your window installer into perspective. It could be so much worse. At least I just had bad judgment. He was a jerk for running off after something so innocuous as you not understanding his job description."

"Well, if she discounted you because of a poorly timed movie pantomime, she wasn't the one for you," Rory said. "You just have to weed through the muck until you find what you're looking for."

"So you're going to keep weeding?" Kevin asked.

"Yeah," Rory smiled. "I am."

"I have to say, I'm impressed," Kevin said. "You have a pretty good attitude about this."

"I had an attitude adjustment from a friend," Rory confessed. "She reminded me that it's worth it if you find something really spectacular in the end. It makes that final victory even sweeter when all is said and done."

"Smart friend," Kevin said, getting to his feet. "And I'm glad you aren't letting it get you down. You're good people, after all. You'll find it. The spectacular, I mean."

"Thanks," Rory said, standing up as well. She flexed her ankle and frowned. "I think my shoes have reached their expiration date. My feet need a break. I'll talk to you later?"

"Sure thing," Kevin said. "I'll see you around."

Rory watched as Kevin walked out of the apartment building and smiled when he turned around to give her a quick wave before disappearing into the darkness. Her smile broadened and she turned and climbed the stairs, a spring in her step. "Kneel before Zod," she giggled to herself and began to search in her purse for her keys again.






To be continued... 




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