Episode 9.12 "Crash, Bang, Boom!"
by Robinpoppins and AdinaRJ


Authors' Note: Thanks to wounded, Filo, and Jewels for their help; it's invaluable! Thanks also to those who helped us when we got stuck—you know who you are. Thanks for reading and we hope you enjoy!

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"For the love of God you said, got a letter from an occupant," Rory mouthed, cranking up the volume on her car stereo as the song reached its chorus. Not interested in filling the car with a cacophony of out of tune notes, she whispered the lyrics under her breath, using her steering wheel as a make-shift drum to beat out an uncoordinated rhythm. A series of trees and buildings whizzed by her windows as she drove onto the onramp of the freeway with no particular destination in mind. She eased into traffic and set her cruise control, raising one leg up to rest on the dash as she made herself comfortable for the drive, though she had no idea how long it would take. Recently, she had discovered that taking a drive helped rev up her mind whenever she had severe writer's block, and today, she had only written two sentences for an article before immediately deleting them.

After a few more minutes of singing along, her face lit up in inspiration, and she pulled out a spiral note pad from her bag on the seat next to her, and a pen from her cupholder. Carefully balancing the notepad on her steering wheel, she jotted down a quick note, and then replaced the item in her bag, returning her hand back to the steering wheel.

Traffic became heavier, and she assessed the freeway silently, discovering that surprisingly enough, the far right appeared to be moving the fastest. She turned on her blinker, and changed lanes, quickly maneuvering around a slow-moving semi. Settling into the flow of her lane, Rory reset her cruise control and moved her left foot back to its resting spot.

Her iPod shuffled, and another song flooded her speakers and she stopped drumming. Wrinkling her brow, she picked it up, and pressed the skip button, listening to the beginnings of several songs before settling on Tokyo Police Club with a satisfied smirk. She resumed drumming, now tapping on her leg instead of her steering wheel as traffic slowed and she found herself trapped in her lane. Rory bit her lip, looking for an opening into the next lane, but unable to find one. Just then, her phone jingled, signifying she had a text. She picked it up, and flipped it open, seeing that it was from Tess.

"Missing something?"

She looked around at the traffic around her, noting that it had slowed considerably. Flipping open the phone hesitantly, she responded, typing with one hand: "I don't know. Am I?"

A few seconds later, her phone rang again: "Big, heavy, says Rory Gilmore in the front cover. Ring any bells?"

"Oh," she said to herself, now realizing what she had left behind: "My Oliver Sacks book!"

Seeing an opening in the next lane, she turned on her blinker, but then her phone pinged with another message, so she picked it up, staying in her lane.

"That's the one. You're lucky, I almost reshelved it."

"You better not have," she typed back, "Or I—"

A car honked behind her and she looked up just in time to see herself veering off the road, almost completely on the shoulder. She attempted to swerve back into the other lane, but the car behind her had sped up to take her spot. "Jerkoff," she muttered under her breath, slowing as she looked for an opening back in her lane, her eyes trained on her rearview mirror. Her phone rang, but she ignored it, turning almost completely around as she slowly drove along the shoulder, blinker on, hoping for some kind soul to let her in. A car slowed, and a man waved to let her in, and she waved back, speeding up. However, when she looked back towards the front, she saw that she was about to ram headfirst into a small mile marker.

"Sh—" she began, but wasn't able to finish this exclamation. She had rammed into the metal spike, her neck jerking violently on impact and the awful gnashing of metal on metal filling the air.

She took a few shallow breaths, shocked, attempting to assess the situation, and figure out what she should do next. She closed her eyes, putting a hand to her heart to hear it hammering in her chest. She reached over to unbuckle her seatbelt, and then the airbags deployed.

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"Hello, hello, hello," Liz exclaimed as she made her way into the diner, arms loaded down with huge plastic sacks. TJ and Doula filed in behind her, TJ holding onto so many sacks that his knuckles were turning white, and Doula hugging a scraggly stuffed rabbit to her chest.

Lorelai, who was sitting at the counter, swiveled around in her stool and turned to face the small crowd entering the diner. She grinned as she saw Liz. "Hey! Lemme guess... you robbed a bank."

Liz laughed. "I told TJ that the big dollar signs were a dead giveaway." She made her way across the diner, and Lorelai stood, hugging Liz when she approached. Liz pulled back quickly, putting a hand on Lorelai's stomach. "Look at you! You're getting so big!"

"Yep, I think it's time to cave and be the girl standing next to Valerie Bertinelli in those Jenny Craig commercials," Lorelai said, patting her belly.

"Oh, stop. You look fantastic. Doesn't she look fantastic, TJ?"

TJ cocked his head to the side, looking Lorelai up and down. "Sure. I still wouldn't kick her out of bed."

Lorelai's eyes widened, but she kept her mouth shut, looking around for Luke. "So, Babies 'R' Us, huh?" she asked distractedly as she pointed to the bags, not spotting Luke in the dining area. "Oh wait, your surrogate! She's due soon, right?"

"This week," Liz beamed, grabbing Lorelai's hand. "Oh, Lorelai, you have no idea how jazzed I am. I can hardly sit still." Liz allowed her bags to fall to the ground next to a table, taking a seat in front of Lorelai and pulling Doula into her lap. "Time for baby shopping slipped away from us and it certainly didn't help that we had already given away most of Doula's things when she outgrew them. Now there's so much baby stuff we have to get."

"Oh, don't even get me started. Luke and I have nothing but a registry and a prayer right now," Lorelai responded, putting a hand on her stomach. "I can't get over how fast this pregnancy went by."

"Yeah, always faster when you aren't the one who's pregnant." Liz winked. Doula responded in muffled babble, any attempt at speech blocked by the rabbit foot stuck in her mouth.

Lorelai laughed. "And your surrogate? How is she doing?"

"Fine, as far as I can tell. We've been to see her every day this week, and if she's tired or uncomfortable, she's certainly not showing it."

"And you still don't know if it's a boy or a girl?"

"Still don't know. It's driving me crazy, but we decided not to find out. TJ is convinced it's a boy, though."

"Have a feeling," TJ said with a nod, pointing to his stomach. "In my gut. It's been that way since I accidentally swallowed that nickel six years ago. Told me that Doula would be a girl. It also tells me when it's going to rain."

"Scientific," Lorelai mused, biting her lip.

"Plus, it has to be a son. Gotta have someone to carry on the name, the looks, and the legacy."

"God help the kid forced to bear that responsibility," Luke piped up, coming into the diner from the back room, carrying a tub full of clean coffee mugs.

"Hey, big brother," Liz called out as she picked up Doula's free arm to wave to him.

Luke waved back the best he could while still carrying the tub. "What's going on?"

"Our surrogate is due this week. We just stopped by to ask you if you and Lorelai would come to the hospital with us when the time comes. Oh, and April too, of course."

"Wow, that was fast, huh?" Luke set down the tub on the counter, squeezing Lorelai's shoulder.

"I know, right?" Lorelai agreed.

"Call me when she goes into labor, I'll be there." Luke said, smiling at Liz.

"You're a good brother." Liz looked down at her watch. "Oh, TJ, we gotta dash. Need to hit that baby store in downtown Hartford before it closes."

"Thanks for stopping by, Liz," Lorelai said, watching as Liz and TJ frantically gather up their bags.

"We've been meaning to stop by since after Christmas, but we've just been so busy with all the baby prep, that we haven't had the time... Oh, and that reminds me." Liz let one of the straps of her purse fall open, and she rummaged around with one hand, pulling out a binder with "Baby Day Procedures" printed on it. She handed it to Lorelai. "TJ made this up for all the people we asked to come to the hospital. Just a few essentials, like directions to all the local hospitals and a phone tree and such."

Lorelai began to leaf through it. "Thorough."

"I was a Boy Scout." TJ stated proudly, puffing out his chest slightly.

"Explains a lot," Luke muttered under his breath.

"TJ, we really gotta go. Bye guys." Liz leaned over and gave quick, half-hearted goodbye hugs, which were made even more difficult with Doula in her arms.

"See you on B-Day," Lorelai called out as they made their way out of the diner. Once outside, Lorelai looked down at the binder. "TJ's clearly never heard of MapQuest."

"What the hell is a phone tree?" Luke asked, picking up a loose piece of paper and scanning the list of names and numbers. "And why am I on there?"

"Yeah, guess you didn't spend a lot of time around PTO meetings, huh Butch? That's going to change soon."

"I'll let you deal with all the paperwork." Luke dropped the binder in front of Lorelai, picked up the tub of mugs again and gave her a smirk. When he turned around to shelve them under the other counter, Lorelai picked up the binder and smacked his ass just before he was out of reach.

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"Dragonfly Inn, Lorelai speaking."

Rory wrapped a strand of hair around her finger while she held the phone with the other hand. "Hi, Mom," she said, slightly guilty. She glanced around the repair shop and walked a little to a slightly quieter spot where the electric jack wasn't going.

"Hey, babe!" Lorelai greeted her brightly. "How is my favorite daughter?"

"I'm... I'm okay," Rory replied hesitantly, looking over at her car.

"That doesn't sound good. What's wrong, hon?" Lorelai's tone turned serious.

"Well..." Rory began. "Are you sitting down?"

"I'm five months pregnant, Rory. Of course I'm sitting down," Lorelai reminded her.

"Okay," Rory said, taking a deep breath. "Here we go. I got in a small accident this morning."

"A car accident?" Lorelai clarified.

"Just a little one!"

Lorelai's breathing quickened and Rory could hear the panic in her voice. "How little is little? Where are you? Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," Rory assured her mother immediately. "I'm at the garage. The car's... not so great, but not so terrible."

Lorelai sighed in relief. "What happened?"

Rory paused. "It was stupid. I was looking in the rearview mirror and the road kinda curved at the same time..." she trailed off.

"Did something furry run into the road again? Were there any rampant deer this time?"

Rory chuckled in spite of herself. "No, not this time. The animal world has learned to steer clear of me."

"Are you sure you're okay?" Lorelai demanded. "Do you have any bruises? Whiplash? Do you need to go to the hospital? I can come get you and bring you to the hospital," she offered.

"I'm fine!" Rory said a little louder than she expected. She looked around to make sure no one heard her. Luckily, the mechanics were all busy on the cars and no one was paying attention to her. "I also got a ticket."

"A ticket?" Lorelai repeated. "What for?"

"For 'destroying government property'," Rory said. "It's so dumb."

"And the car?" Lorelai asked. "You're at the garage; that sounds better than the junkyard."

"The car is fixable," Rory affirmed. "I should have it back in a few days, maybe a week."

"That sounds like a long time," Lorelai worried. "Do you want to stay here for the time being?"

"No, no," Rory said with a small sigh. "I'll be fine here. Stop worrying."

Lorelai laughed. "That's like telling your grandmother to stop firing maids. I'm your mother; it's my job to worry. Especially when my baby tells me she was in a car accident."

"But I'm fine!" Rory reiterated. "No broken bones, no sprains, no whiplash, nothing," she listed, rubbing the back of her neck. It did hurt a little, but it wasn't that bad and she wasn't about to tell her mother that.

"Well, do you want me to come get you and drive you back to your apartment?" Lorelai offered.

"No. It's fine, Mom, really. I already called Tess. She's closer and she was running errands in this part of town anyway," she fibbed.

"Okay, but call me when she gets there. Ooh, and call me when you get home!"

"I might not go right home," Rory tentatively suggested.

"Well, whenever it is. Just keep me posted."

Rory smiled. "You're difficult."

"But loveable," Lorelai reminded her. "And I think I could take you in a fight. So, I win."

"You win," Rory reluctantly agreed. She sat down on a nearby bench, resting her head on the wall behind her. "I'll call you later."

"That's all I ask."

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Lane's brow furrowed in concentration as she pounded out the quick beat on her drums, looking at Brian, Zach, and Gil, waiting for the cue to end the song. Zach leaned toward the microphone, adlibbed an "oh yeah," for good measure, and then nodding to Gil, he struck his final note, signaling Lane to hammer out her last measure.

They all stopped, looking around at each other as one by one a small grin crossed each band members' lips.

"Whoa," Zach said, dropping his pick in his pocket. "We actually finished together."

"Yeah," Lane agreed, bouncing in her stool slightly. "And that's only the second time we've played that."

"I didn't even get short of breath," Brian added proudly, unstrapping his bass from his chest in order to stretch out.

"That's a killer song, man," Gil stated to Zach, pulling his long hair out of his guitar strap. "Maybe we should go on rock 'n' roll hiatus more often. Zach's totally found his muse."

Lane shook her head furiously. "Uh uh, no way. It's been too long since we've had a gig. We need this gig."

"I don't know if I can play my bass in front of people anymore," Brian said, suddenly stricken as he rubbed his wrists.

"Dude, chill," Zach said, patting Brian on the back. "We've been practicing for months. You'll be fine."

"We have a gig," Lane squealed, spinning in her stool. "I'm just so jazzed right now. I don't think I'll be getting any sleep tonight."

"Tell me about it," Gil sighed. "I was beginning to think that we wouldn't be able to break into the biz again. I was even thinking about expanding my sandwich shop and buying a space in Litchfield. So wasn't looking forward to being tied down to that."

"Can we run through 'Come Back to Me, Boris Yeltsen,' again?" Zach asked, intently studying the set list in his hand. "I still feel like the bridge is off."

"We gotta think about shortening that title," Brian said, putting his bass back on.

"Hey, it's got nothing on 'Peeing in the Desert, Missing the Rain'," Lane added, putting herself back in position to play. "Ready for me to count it off?"

"What's with you and deserts?" Brian asked Zach, nudging him with the neck of his bass.

"They're desolate and lonely and good for songwriting, man."

"Guys, come on," Lane yelled, her drumsticks poised.

"I'm ready," Gil said. "Count us off."


"Aghhhhh," came a yell from the next room as Kwan came tearing into the living room, completely naked except for underwear on his head. Steve soon followed, his pants still on, but his underwear mysteriously on his head as well. Macon, Gil's son, and every bit his clone with long, blond, stringy hair, came tearing in after them, hands reaching out to grab them but always coming up short.

"I'm on it!" Lane shouted, jumping up from her stool and dropping her drumsticks on the ground, joining in the chase as she attempted to block their course in the kitchen.

"Let's take 5," Zach said, unstrapping his guitar to help.

"Aren't they too young to be potty trained?" Gil asked Brian, watching the two adults and Macon chasing after the giggling twins.

"It's Mrs. Kim's 'Potty Trained By Two' plan," Brian said, taking off his bass again. "Clearly it's working."

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"Well, the front fender needs replacing," the mechanic started. "The bumper too."

Rory fiddled with the cord on the phone as she listened to the list of damages on her car. "Uh-huh," she said, slightly worriedly.

"The grill needs fixing, the hood is dented, the side door is pushed back, and the airbags need to be reset," he continued.

"Okay," Rory said, picturing each item with several dollar signs stacking up next to it.

"You're lucky there was no damage to the engine," he told her, "but all in all, it's going to run you..." he paused and Rory could imagine him looking over the car. "Somewhere around $1000. Give or take," he added.

Mostly give, Rory added mentally. "Wow," she said. "I didn't think it would be quite that high."

"Well, you got a lot of damage," the mechanic said frankly.

"All I did was hit a little stinking mile marker!" Rory started.

"It's the little ones that cause the most damage sometimes," he commented. "Don't you have insurance?"

"My deductible is $1500! It won't pay until after that! I don't know what to do!" Rory cried. "I don't have a thousand dollars! I'm a struggling writer. I freelance. I barely have enough to make my rent every month. I eat Ramen more than anything else. And coffee," she added. "My diet is coffee and Ramen. And the small, regular coffees. I can't afford the fancy Starbucks ones. And I know those aren't even really coffee, but they're good. And sometimes I like to have them but I can't. I haven't bought anything other than a store brand in months. I don't remember what a real brand tastes like."

"Look, lady," the mechanic interrupted her. "I understand. We all have financial problems. Things are tough all over. But this is what the damages add up to. I can't give you a break. I wish I could, but I can't. Do you want me to fix it, or do you want to take it elsewhere? I'll warn you ahead of time, you probably won't find better prices in town."

Rory took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Yeah. I guess I have no choice."

"I'll let you know when it's done," the mechanic said and Rory was left listening to a dial tone in her ear. She replaced the phone on the hook and headed to her bedroom.

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Rory sat at her desk poring over her bank statements and planner. "Next payday is in two weeks, for the article that prints next Wednesday," she muttered. "Groceries were $30 last week, but I restocked... Maybe when I get the car back, I can go to Luke's and get a decent meal there, but that'll cost gas money..." She put her head in her hands. "Crap."

At that moment, the phone rang, startling Rory so much that she hit her toe on the leg of her desk as she jumped up. "Ow, ow, ow!" she cried. "Hello?" she said desperately.

"Are you okay?" Lorelai asked.

"Just stubbed my toe," Rory explained, sinking back into her desk chair. She leaned down to rub it, still wincing slightly. "What's up?"

"Just wanted to see how you're doing with everything," Lorelai said.

Rory looked over her bank statements and sighed softly. "I'm fine. The car is being fixed as we speak; I should have it back in a day or two. There're no problems."

"Okay," Lorelai said. "How are you getting around? Are you okay? It's too cold to walk."

"It's not that cold out if I bundle up," Rory responded. "It's not that different from Stars Hollow. And I haven't had to go out much, anyway."

"If you say so." Lorelai's tone was clearly disbelieving. "I just want to make sure you're safe."

"I can handle it, Mom," Rory insisted.

"Okay, but you know if you need anything—"

"I'm fine," Rory interrupted. "I pretty much have a handle on everything."

"As long as you're sure. I love you, sweets."

"I love you, too, Mom. I'll talk to you later." Rory hung up and dropped her head on top of her arms on the desk.

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"We sounded in-freaking-credible!" Lane cried. She still held her drumsticks and drummed on any available surface including her bandmates.

"We totally rocked," Gil agreed, sidestepping Lane. "The audience totally dug us."

"They gave us a standing ovation!" Brian said, gently putting his bass in the case. "I've never had a standing ovation for anything in my life," he commented. "Well, except when I was two and—"

"Dude, don't finish that sentence," Zach advised, grabbing one of Lane's hands and stopping her from drumming on his side. "Babe. Seriously," he directed toward his wife.

"Sorry," Lane said sheepishly but she still had a wide grin. "Can't help it." She drummed a little on the wall. "We have never sounded better than we did tonight."

"We were like The Cure and Talking Heads and Franz Ferdinand and The Sex Pistols," Zach started.

"With some Kinks and Pixies thrown in," Brian added.

"Not to mention Bowie and Ramones," Gil pointed out.

"We were better than all of those!" Lane enthused. "In ten years' time, a band will be here excited that they sounded like Hep Alien!"

There was a knock at the door just then and a man in his 40s poked his head in. "Are you Hep Alien?" he asked.

Lane's eyes widened as she looked from Zach to Brian to Gil back to Zach again. She squeezed her husband's arm excitedly.

"Yeah, that's us." Zach stepped forward to shake the man's hand. "I'm Zach; this is Lane, Brian, and Gil." He pointed to each of them.

"I'm Henry Sparks," the man said. "I'm a representative for Smasheasy Records. I caught your show tonight and I like your sound. You seem like you'd be a good fit for us. Have you recorded with anyone else?"

"No," Gil said. "We're actually looking for representation."

"Fantastic." Henry smiled. "We're a small group, located here in New England, looking for new local talent. Everything is our type of music; we don't have a distinctive genre. You guys would fit in perfectly." The band looked around at each other, trying to hold back their excitement. "Here's my card." He handed a crisp business card to Gil. "Why don't you call me and we'll set up a meeting soon to discuss logistics?" He shook hands with each of the band members. "I look forward to hearing from you."

When the door closed behind him, they all looked at each other in shock and excitement. "Did that actually happen?" Brian wondered aloud.

"Oh, yeah, it did," Gil assured him, placing the card on the table on the side of the room where they had gathered.

"We might get to make a record!" Lane said, her drumsticks down by her side, long forgotten. "A real record! Where we can be sold in music stores! And people will come up to the clerk and be like 'Do you have the new one by Hep Alien'?"

"Wait, guys, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves yet," Zach piped up.

Lane looked at him in disbelief. "Zach, this is big! It's a real opportunity for us. It's what we've always wanted!"

"Yeah, dude, way to bring down the mood," Gil added.

"Babe, it's just that I don't want to get all excited before we know it's really happening," Zach explained.

"Zach's right. It's too stressful and we don't even know if that guy was who he says he is, and what's going to happen when we meet with him," Brian agreed.

"It's still really cool, though," Lane said hopefully.

"Oh, totally. Even if he was a fake, that's pure rock 'n' roll," Zach said, a grin spreading across his face.

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"So, what's the plan?" Tess asked as they walked down the stoop of Rory's building, winding a purple and blue scarf around her neck tighter.

Rory rubbed her gloved hands together. "Coffee. Work. Lather, rinse, repeat."

"We're a lively bunch, aren't we?"

"Giving S and B a run for their money."

"Ooo, somebody's guilty pleasure is Gossip Girl," Tess teased, pointing her finger at Rory.

"Hey, don't mock, you don't understand," Rory scoffed, digging around in her purse for her cell phone.

"And I bet you only watch it for Lily and Rufus."

"If you know the secondary characters' names, you have no room to comment." Rory flipped open her phone, and punched in her mother's number.

"You know you love me," Tess continued, clearly pleased with herself. "X-O-X-O."

Rory rolled her eyes as Lorelai picked up. "Tess and I are leaving my apartment, and then we are going to the coffeehouse and then the bookstore."

"Ooo, Tess is there? Hi Tess," Lorelai responded.

"Mom says hi."

"Hi Rory's mother that I only know from pictures!" Tess called back loudly into the receiver that Rory put in front of her.

"Call me when you get there?" Lorelai asked when Rory returned the phone to her ear.


"Love you."

"Love you back," Rory said somewhat halfheartedly as she hung up the phone.

"Should I ask?" Tess said as they crossed the street and over to the coffeehouse.

"Mom had a minor freakout since the accident, and now wants to keep tabs on me."

"Aw," Tess cooed, tilting her head.

"It was a little cute at first, that she was worried and such, but now it's becoming annoying."

They crossed the threshold of the crowded coffeehouse and joined the queue.

"I'm thinking Costa Rican Chai today," Tess said, squinting as she perused the menu.

"You really can't order the same thing twice, can you?"

"I have an extreme case of 'liketomixitupitus.'"

Rory pulled out her phone again, hitting the speed dial and pressed the phone to her ear, plugging her other ear to block out the din.

"How do I feel about the new American Idol judge again? I can't remember," Lorelai asked upon answering.

"You like her better than Paula, but Randy is still a'ight dawg with you."

"Never, ever, say a'ight dawg again."

"Like it's any better when you say it."

Tess snorted, shaking her head as she turned back to the front of the line.

"So I take it you are there?" Lorelai asked, and Rory could hear her fiddling with something on the other end of the line.

"I'm here. I'll call you when I get to the bookstore."

"You're the best, you know. Helping ease Mommy's hobbled, hormone-infused mind."

"Yeah, yeah, schmoopy and such."

"You're schmoopy!" Lorelai said sweetly before she hung up.

"I think I like your mom," Tess remarked with a smirk as they reached the front of the line.

"You guys would get along swimmingly," Rory commented, digging her wallet out of her purse.

A few minutes later, coffee cups in hand, Tess and Rory made their way to Knowles Books.

"I'm serious, it's sweet that your mom is so concerned," Tess said, clearly continuing a conversation they had before. "I got in an accident two years ago and my mom was more concerned about how much damage I did to the car than the horrible pain in my neck. It took her a week before she thought I should see a doctor about it."

"You do realize that part of that is because you are probably too stubborn to go to the doctor yourself in the first place?"

"Yes, but that's completely beside the point."

Rory's phone chirped in her bag, and she quickly began to dig around for it, managing to pull it out before it went to voicemail.

"I'm not there yet," she exclaimed when she saw that it was Lorelai on the other line.

"Oh, I know, I was just wondering if you've seen that green sweater I bought at Target. You know, the one with the rhinestones on the buttons?"

"Is it in Luke's closet?"

"No, tried there."

"The linen closet?"

"Nope, I moved all my clothes out of there when Luke complained that he could never find clean sheets."


"Luke actually uses it. That would be a hazard."

"Then I'm out... Oh wait, green sweater?" Rory asked as realization hit her.


"That's in my closet."

"Sneak, I want it back."

"I'll give it to you on Friday."

There was a short pause, and Rory could hear the clicking of Lorelai typing something on the computer and muttering something to who she assumed was Michel.

"Do I still have to call you when I get to the bookstore?" she asked, looking at Tess with a narrowed brow.


"Mom, seriously, if no one calls you within twenty-four hours asking for my ransom, assume I'm okay."

"Hey, your eyes would bring in the big bucks with kidnappers and I don't have that kind of money."

"I'll call you when I get home." Rory compromised with a sigh, ignoring her mother's playful banter.

"Really, you're the best. I'll get you a plaque."

"Bye," Rory responded, hanging up the phone. "And my mother is officially driving me crazy."

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"Hey, remember when you were like, five, and your favorite book was House on Pooh Corner?" Lorelai asked Rory, sinking deeper into her pillows after switching off the lamp on her nightstand. She turned to lie on her side, positioning the phone so that it sat precariously on her right ear, watching Luke brush his teeth in the bathroom as she waited for him to join her in bed.

"Vaguely," Rory muttered dully.

"And then, when you went to bed, I used to tell you stories about you and Pooh, and how he liked to come visit Stars Hollow, and we would go on picnics with him, and Piglet, and Rabbit, and Tigger, and, well, the whole gang. And then you would fall asleep and beg me to continue from where you fell asleep the next night?"

"It's ringing a bell."

"Let's do that!" Lorelai exclaimed, a huge grin crossing her face. Luke turned to look at her, toothbrush still in his mouth, narrowing his eyes at Lorelai. Lorelai shrugged, as if to ask him "what?" and he shrugged back, turning back toward the sink to spit out the toothpaste in his mouth.

"Pick up where we left off on a story you told me when I was five?"

"Yes! Exactly! It can't be that hard to remember. There was Rory and there was Pooh and we were in Stars, Stars Hollow... remember how I always used to say it that way?"

"Goodnight Mom," Rory said in exaggerated tones, and Lorelai could sense she was rolling her eyes. She heard Rory turn off the TV.


"I'll call you tomorrow."

"Okay, you better. Night, sweets."

Lorelai hung up the phone, placing the receiver on her nightstand. Luke turned off the light in the bathroom and then sauntered into the bedroom, tossing his dirty clothes in his hamper as he went. Lorelai picked up a book off her nightstand, turning to a dog-eared page, adjusting her glasses as her eyes began to scan the page. Luke sat down on the other side of the bed, squeezing Lorelai's knee. She looked up and smiled at him, then returned to her book, and Luke reached over to set his alarm.

Lorelai's eyebrows shot up, as if in inspiration, and she picked up the phone again, punching in a phone number furiously.


"ABC game!" Lorelai shouted, earning a groan from Luke. "We haven't played that in ages."

"I thought you were going to bed," Rory commented.

"You assumed wrong. I'm wide awake and I want to play a game with my daughter. I'll start: My name is Amelie, my husband's name is... Abawale. We come from—"

"You do realize this is the seventh time you've called me today?"

"So not true. And since when do you keep a running tally?"

"Since you call me seven times, with no reason in particular but to keep me on the phone."

"I am your mother," Lorelai scoffed, hand to her chest. "That is my right, nay, my privilege. It's in the mother-daughter handbook, conveniently right under a little clause called giving you life."

"Yes, and now you are acting a little like your mother, which is surprising, I must say."

"You take that back!"

"Only if you limit the daily calls to a more reasonable number."


"Two," Rory countered, returning to her previous position on the couch, a bowl of popcorn in hand.

"Three. And that's my final offer," Lorelai said with a sigh, jutting her lower lip out to pout and turning to look at Luke.

"Deal. Use them wisely."

"You're mean, you know."

"I do it because I love. Now, go to bed. I'm going to go watch some Seinfeld."

"Ooo, what episode? Let's simulwatch! I'll go get my DVDs!"

"Goodnight, Mom," Rory repeated in a similar tone from before.

"Night, babe."

She hung up the phone, and replaced it on the nightstand, as before. She picked up her book from her lap, but she didn't read, feeling Luke's gaze on her. She looked up. "What?"

"Nothing," Luke insisted, turning off his own lamp, allowing darkness to engulf the room. Lorelai put her book on the nightstand and fell back onto her pillows, laying down like Luke. "Just wondering what that was all about," he commented.

"Nothing... Just... Nothing. Nothing is going on."

"Okay... Night, then."

"It's just... I really freaked, you know?" Lorelai said, turning to look at Luke. "It's not like the last time she was in an accident. She's not here, I can't look after her, I can't take care of her. I can't take care of her car. She just feels... I don't know, far, I guess. I feel more connected with what's going on when I act all Mommy Dearest. Just... Just stop me when I look into buying a GPS for her watch or something."

Luke leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. "Will do."

Luke rolled over to his other side, and Lorelai put her arm around him, both getting ready to fall asleep, when the phone rang. They both sat up, Lorelai reaching for the phone and pressing it to her ear. "Rory?" she asked, not bothering to look at the caller ID. She was met with a piercing tone, pulling the phone away as soon as she had pressed it to her ear.

"Oh my God!" Lorelai shrieked, wincing.

"Was that an airhorn?" Luke asked. "Give me the phone... Who the hell is this?" he barked into the phone.

"Luuuuuke," TJ's distinct nasally voice taunted from the other end. "Phone tree drill. Who do you call next?"

"What did he say?" Lorelai asked, shaking her ear with a finger. "I think I'm deaf. You're going to have to learn to sign."

Luke ignored her, returning his attention on TJ. "Your mom. Gotta give her my condolences since I'm on my way over to throttle you." He hung up, violently slamming the phone down on his nightstand. "If I'm not back in 20 minutes, it means I need help hiding the body," Luke grumbled to Lorelai, aggressively fluffing his pillow.

"What?" Lorelai yelled, one hand cupped around her ear, her brow furrowed. Luke sighed.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Rory heard the phone ringing in her apartment while she fiddled with the key outside her front door. "I'm coming!" she called uselessly, her hurry only making her fumble more. Finally, she got the door open and she ran inside, lunging for the phone. "Yes, hello!" she cried desperately.

"And what I did I take you away from?" came Jess's amused voice from the other end.

Rory plopped down on the floor, pushing her hair back. "I just got in and I was trying to get the phone before it went to voicemail. I thought it might be important."

"Ouch," he replied. "I guess I know where I rank."

"That's not what I meant," Rory protested.

"Sure, sure, I know," Jess teased. "So, get this. Liz called me."

"Uh-oh," Rory remarked. "That's never good."

"Yeah. She wants me to be there for the baby's birth."

"Aw, she's feeling all sentimental and wants her baby boy there," Rory baited him.

Jess groaned. "Jeez," he muttered and Rory chuckled. "She didn't put up this big of a fuss when Doula was born. But now she's trying to pull a guilt trip on me because I wasn't there then."

"Oh, I hear you there," Rory said. "My mom has been a bit of a pain lately too."

"Oh?" Jess asked. "And what could be the problem with you two?"

"I got in a small car accident the other day," Rory began.

"Ice cream?" Jess interjected.

"No." Rory smiled. "Just something stupid. I took my eyes off the road for a second and ran into a mile marker," she explained. "And now my car's in the shop and that's bad enough, but my mom's making me call her every time I go anywhere, and rumor has it, those house arrest ankle bracelet fitting people will be at my apartment on Monday."

"Wow," he commented. "That sounds extreme even for her."

"Oh, you have no idea," Rory sighed.

"Still doesn't top mine, though," Jess told her. "Liz never cared this much until recently. Lorelai's just worried about you."

"She worries too much."

"Still better than not enough," Jess countered. "And Liz wants me to be there. For a birth."

"Wuss," Rory gibed him.

"See how you feel when your mom goes into labor!"

"I'll be there," she responded smugly. "I don't particularly like that part, but I'll be there."

"Our moms are different," he muttered. "I'll be there when the kid is older. I'll buy him his first book. And none of those stupid kiddie-books, either."

"You're going to have him reading Kerouac when he's five?" Rory was disbelieving.

"Maybe," Jess returned. "Better than See Spot Run."

Rory laughed. "Are you gonna go?" she asked him after a pause.

"Are you going to call your mom when you go out for the mail?" he retorted. Rory just waited. "I guess so," he admitted. "I may as well play the dutiful son for a change."

"Sure, change it up a little," Rory encouraged. "Good luck," she told him sincerely.

"Yeah, same to you."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"Thank you so much for helping me out," Rory said as she climbed into the passenger seat of the car. "I felt bad asking my mom to come all the way out here just to drive me to the grocery store."

"Not a problem at all," Kevin responded, clicking his seatbelt. "You got a preference for music?"

Rory shrugged. "Let me see what you've got." She grabbed the CDs from the middle console and sorted through them. "I need something loud."

"I'm on a Motown kick lately," Kevin commented. "I've got Temps, Four Tops, Smokey Robinson..."

"I see," Rory said, flipping to the back of a mix CD. "And the folky stuff, too."

"Yeah," Kevin tossed her a grin. "Dylan, Byrds, that kind of thing. But if you're looking for loud, I'd blast Joplin." He handed her a CD from bottom of the stack.

"Great," Rory said, sliding the disc into the player. Janis Joplin's husky voice started belting out "Piece of My Heart." "This is perfect," she commented and turned the knob to make the music louder.

"Any particular reason for the volume-induced choice?" Kevin asked.

"I'm just in that kind of mood," Rory replied. "My mom's driving me nuts and this matches what's in my head."

"Ah," Kevin said. "I know that feeling."

"Yeah, some of her Patty Hewes-like qualities are coming out and it's not exactly pleasant. Or becoming on her. She's keeping tabs on me, and I guess I should be lucky she even cares, but I don't know... it's a little overwhelming."

"You know what's good for that?" Kevin suggested. "Belt it out."

"Belt... what out?" Rory asked, knitting her eyebrows together.

"The music." Kevin indicated the car stereo. "The chorus is coming up; everyone knows that part. We'll turn it up really loud and just belt it out. It'll make you feel better; trust me."

"I don't think you want to hear me sing," Rory hedged.

"It doesn't matter," Kevin insisted. "This isn't singing. This is belting. Gets the anger out. Big difference. Besides, I assure you I can't sing any better than you can."

"Okay, if you say so," Rory told him skeptically.

Kevin turned the volume to the max just as Janis started in on the first "Come on." "Come on," he half-sang, coaxing Rory.

She laughed. "Come on," she started out softly.

"Belt it, Rory!" Kevin encouraged.

"Take it!" she yelled. "Take another little piece of my heart now, baby!"

"Break it!" he returned, belting in return. "Break another little piece of my heart, now, darling!"

"You know you got it—if it makes you feel good," they both chimed in.

When the song ended, Kevin lowered the volume to a manageable level. "Feel better?"

"Actually, yes," Rory admitted. "Thanks."

"Musical therapy. Never fails," Kevin said with a grin. He pulled into an empty spot in the parking lot, killing the engine.

"I'll keep that in mind," Rory told him as she opened her car door.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"If you record with Smasheasy," Henry Sparks was telling the band at the café, "you have an in for the record industry."

"How so?" Gil asked.

"Well, we have connections with all the clubs in the area. Get you some real exposure instead of that hole-in-the-wall you were playing at the other day," Henry explained. "Once you get your name out there, you can start opening for some really big names. The end goal is to get you signed with a major record label. Smasheasy is your stepping stone to the big time."

"The big time!" Lane squealed under her breath, grasping Zach's hand under the table.

"How much would we be touring? And where?" Zach asked.

"At first, it would be mostly local. Some of the hot spots in the college districts," Henry explained. "The furthest you'd go would probably be Boston."

"That's good," Zach commented. "We got kids, y'know? We gotta find a way to work this out without leaving them too much."

"I understand." Henry nodded. "Not a problem at all. We'll make up a schedule that works best for all of you."

"Great," Brian said. "We all have day jobs, too," he added.

"Of course," Henry said. "I could concentrate in the Hartford/New Haven area for the first little while. Then we need you to cut a record."

"A record." Gil grinned. "Awesome."

"And then we'd sell this record in some small music shops, and definitely at all your shows," Henry told them. "I have connections to some reps from major record companies. We need to get your name out there. Start in on word of mouth. Play a club, have the kids all tell their friends about the great band they saw and they're playing at this other club the following week. Stuff like that. Have them buy your CDs. Then we branch out."

"So how do you think we should start?" Lane asked.

"Actually, there was a cancellation at the last minute for tomorrow night. Toad's Place, in New Haven. They're having a local band showcase; it'd be perfect for Hep Alien," Henry stated.

"No way!" Gil enthused. "Toad's Place? Everyone has played there."

"You can go on at 10:30," Henry told them. "So. Are we in business?"

"Absolutely!" Lane agreed quickly, shaking his hand. "Tomorrow night, Toad's Place, 10:30."

"Fantastic," Henry said, shaking hands with everyone. "I will call you next week to set up a recording time."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Rory's cell phone rang and she groaned when she saw "Home" in the display. "Again?" she muttered under her breath. She flipped open the phone. "Hi, Mom," she said flatly.

"Hi, sweets. I was just thinking you might need to run some errands. I could come and take you to the supermarket if you need food. Maybe we could grab something to eat together while we're out."

"Oh, I went this morning," Rory said absently, sorting through papers on her desk.

"Oh really? Where did you go? Did you get groceries? Who took you?"

"I tagged along with Kevin when he was going," Rory responded, slightly contrite. "What's with the third degree?"

"I'm not giving you the third degree," Lorelai protested. "You just didn't tell me you were going out. Besides, are you sure you're not being a burden on your friends, that they have to drive you everywhere? I have no problem coming to Hartford to take you places. It's not that far."

Rory sighed, rubbing her hand on her cheek. "It's not a problem for them," she said shortly. "They live here and they're not going out of their way to drive me places. They don't mind, why should you?"

"I don't mind!" Lorelai cried. "It's not that. I just want to know what you're up to and that you're safe."

"You're turning into a stereotypical overbearing mother," Rory complained. "If you want every detail to my life, let me email it to you. I'll throw in some pictures and video, if you like... Or better yet, we can both get Twitter accounts. Instant gratification via text. Want my fingerprints? FBI dossier? Maybe I should poll my friends, find out if they did any time at Gitmo before moving to the area."

"Wow, overreact much?" Lorelai said sharply as she inhaled. "I'm a mother. Mothers worry. You were in a car accident. Forgive me for wanting to make sure that you now get to and from places without any catastrophes!" Lorelai raised her voice.

"It's too much!" Rory yelled back. "You're constantly on my back. I can't do anything—I can't go grocery shopping without having to call you when I go out, when I get there, when I get back... you're treating me like a five-year-old who can't be trusted to cross the street alone."

"That is not true," Lorelai snapped. "What's with you, anyway?"

"What's with me!?" Rory repeated. "What's with you? I have enough on my plate as it is. I have work and bills and I need to figure out how to live my regular life without a car for the next few days, and I don't know how I'm going to afford the repairs because I'm struggling enough as it is. And you calling me fifty times a day is not helping!"

"You didn't tell me you had money problems," Lorelai said in a quiet voice.

There was a pause on the other end of the line, and Rory's eyes widened as she realized that she had just told Lorelai all the financial troubles she had been keeping from her. "It's my life," she quickly insisted. "I can handle it. You just need to back off!"

"Fine!" Lorelai said shrilly. "I'll be at your place tomorrow at 6:00 to pick you up for Friday Night Dinner."

"Fine," Rory retorted strongly and slammed the phone shut.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"Hello?" Rory said into the phone, sorting through the paperwork on her desk.

"Hey!" came Lane's very excited voice on the other end.

"Hi!" Rory returned. "You're in a good mood."

"Oh, I am having the best week ever," she enthused.

Rory shut the desk light and tucked her legs up underneath her. "How was the gig the other day?"

"We were amazing," Lane told her. "But that's not even the best part!"

"Okay, what is the best part?" Rory raised her eyebrows.

"We have a representative! From a major minor label! His name is Henry and he wants us to tour the New Haven/Hartford area and make a record."

"Wow, Lane! That is so cool!"

"I know!" Lane squealed. "And we have a gig tomorrow night. At Toad's Place."

"All the big names started there!"

"I know!" she said again. "You have to come."

"Oh, I wish I could. You know I'd be there in a second if I could," Rory hedged.

"What's wrong?" Lane asked, calming down slightly.

"Well, I'm out a car for the time being for one thing," Rory told her, moving from the desk to the bed.

"What happened? I feel out of the loop here."

"I got in a minor accident the other day—it was so not a big deal, just stupid damage to the car and now it's in the shop." She lay on her back with her feet creeping up the headboard.

"Ooh, that sucks," Lane sympathized. "How much?"

"Too much," Rory said. "I'm barely making a living right now."

"I know the feeling," Lane said. "Just working at Luke's wasn't enough for us, so Zach's looking for some additional part-time jobs. We've got some savings but it's not much and it depletes fast. It's a good thing my mom babysits for free; I can't imagine having to pay a babysitter on a regular basis, too."

"You guys still looking for a house?" Rory asked.

"Nah. It's so out of the picture right now. There's no way we could possibly afford it. We still want it but it's just not going to happen at the moment."

"Aw, that's sad."

"Yeah," Lane agreed. "But it's okay. We're not unhappy where we are. Not yet, at least."

"And it's something to aim for," Rory said. "It's good to have goals. My goal is to get a steady journalism job. And right now, my immediate goal is to get my mother back from this pod-mother she's turned into."

"What's up with Lorelai?"

"Oh, she's insane." Rory sighed. "It might be the pregnancy hormones going overboard, but it's just annoying. She freaked about the car accident and now I have to check in with her every five seconds. We had a fight last night when I told her to back off."

"At least you can yell at your mother and get everything out," Lane pointed out. "If I yelled at my mother, I think the earth might swallow me whole."

Rory giggled. "There is something to be said about actually having a fight, isn't there?"

"Just remember," Lane told her. "It could always be worse."

"True," she agreed. "I'm sorry I can't make it to your gig tomorrow," she added after a pause.

"It's okay," Lane assured her. "I understand—and from the way it looks, there won't be any shortage of gigs for you to come to in the future."

"The band is really taking off," Rory said in awe. "This is seriously cool."

Rory could hear Lane's grin over the phone. "Always knew it was just a matter of time."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Friday afternoon hosted a stream of customers in and out of the diner, the bell above the diner door chiming so often that it should have fallen off the door. And every time it rang, Luke shot the bell a scornful look, his lip turned up in contempt as he dropped off plate after plate in front of customers. The kitchen window sill was practically overflowing with plates that Luke had yet to deliver, all placed precariously and teetering on the edge of the sill. Customers were signaling on both his right and left for coffee, and he shuffled a bit before veering right to refill a couple cups. And then, the phone rang.

Cursing under his breath, Luke dropped the coffee pot off at the counter, gesturing for the customers nearest to it to help themselves. He managed to grab the phone before the caller hung up, and immediately regretted picking it up when he was met with the now familiar blast of an air horn.

"Damn it, TJ!" He growled into the receiver, switching ears.

The man on the other line chuckled. "It's not TJ, man, but I get that all the time."

"Then who the hell is this?" Luke asked, rubbing the ear that was the victim to the air horn's latest strike and fighting the urge to hang up on whoever it was on the other line.

"It's TJ's brother, Jim. The one from Nutley."

Luke sighed. "Patio furniture salesman?" he asked, recognition hitting him.

"And cork sculptor. But that's a new thing added to my skill set."

"Of course," Luke said, putting a hand to his forehead tiredly. "Did you call for a reason, or..."

"Oh yeah, wait, hold on." Jim cleared his throat and Luke could hear the rustling of paper in the background. "Hear ye, hear ye, the joyous day hath arrived. Let us greeteth the day with revelry and wine, for the arrival of the child of Lord Gary and Lady Elizabeth is nigh... How'd I do?"

Luke rolled his eyes. "Great."

"Thanks, man, I was sweating bullets."

"I couldn't tell," Luke deadpanned.

"Well, we're all meeting at the hospital. Hartford Memorial, in the labor and delivery wing."

"Oh, okay, well... I need to pick up my daughter from school and close the diner, but tell Liz I'll be there soon."

"Will do, Luke. And don't forget to call the next person on the tree. The script TJ wrote is on the back."

"Fantastic," Luke said unenthusiastically, crumpling up the phone tree paper as he hung up.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"I think you're overreacting, Mom," Lorelai sighed, looking down at her plate as she pushed peas around with her fork.

"I am not overreacting, Lorelai. I think I am reacting at an appropriate level." Emily folded her arms primly at the end of the table, casting her disapproving gaze at Lorelai. "I mean, it's utterly ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous."

"I'm sorry I brought it up. I never knew it would be such a sensitive topic," Richard muttered as he cut his chicken into small pieces.

"It's fine, Dad," Lorelai groaned, exasperated. "Mom is just being completely unreasonable."

"And you are being overly-sensitive," Emily shot back, picking up her glass and sipping her wine in a demure fashion that conflicted with the expression on her face.

"Can you pass the salt?" Rory asked Lorelai quietly, scraping her fork against her plate. Though she flinched a bit with every scrape, the noise causing her to grit her teeth, she continued, smiling as she occasionally caught Emily grimacing in response to the sound, but biting her lip not to say anything.

Lorelai wordlessly passed the crystal salt shaker to Rory across the table. "You know we are talking about Rory here too, right?"

"Rory would never do something so crass."

"I bet you ten bucks."

"I do not gamble, Lorelai."

"You care nothing about the comfort of people."

"I care about comfort just fine. There are just other ways of showing comfort without doing it so overtly."

"Oy, that settles it," Lorelai said to Rory. "Mom's the final Cylon."

"I'm a what?" Emily asked, one eyebrow cocked up in question.

"So, Grandpa," Rory interjected quickly, seeing Lorelai's mouth open and poised for a retort. "Now that we have exhausted the topic of people who wear pajamas to your lectures, how have your classes been going?"

"Oh, just fine, Rory. I have a fascinating group of students this semester, and the lectures tend to be filled with tantalizing conversation." Richard took a bite of his risotto, chewing thoughtfully for a few seconds. "And how was your week?"

"It was fine. I'm, um, looking for some new articles to write." She peered up from her plate to see Lorelai looking at her pointedly. She bit her lip. "I, uh, got in a little bit of an accident this week." She blushed and looked down at her plate again, suddenly struck with the need to push her peas into rows.

It took a few seconds before anyone responded.

"An accident," Emily said, aghast. "You didn't call us. What if you had been hurt?"

Rory flinched. "I wasn't hurt. I was fine."

"You honestly weren't hurt?" Emily asked.

"What happened?" Richard inquired, at the same moment.

Rory glanced over at Lorelai, who was silently urging her on with her expression. "I was, uh, not paying attention very well, I guess, and... I hit a mile marker. But, I really am fine."

"Brain bleeds!" Emily nearly shouted after a pause. "You could have a brain bleed. We are taking you to the hospital."

"Mom—" Lorelai attempted to interject, only to be interrupted by Richard.

"I'm sure a brain hemorrhage would have shown up by now, Emily... Now, about the car," Richard said, his tone business-like. He stood, walked to an antique buffet in the next room, and returned with a fountain pen and a small notepad. "How much damage? Did you already receive an estimate? Call your insurance?"

"The car's in the shop," Lorelai answered for Rory, and she knew that Lorelai had noticed her reluctance to discuss this subject. "And Rory had already called the insurance and received her estimate."

"Good, good. And the insurance plan I helped set you up with should cover everything, so you are set there." Richard jotted down a few notes in the pad in precise cursive, and then capped the pen again.

"Actually," Rory began, looking at Lorelai again as she bit her lip uncertainly. "The insurance won't be covering all the damage. I'm going to be paying for it."

Richard looked at her curiously. "That doesn't sound right. You have been paying for the full coverage since we purchased your car. You shouldn't have to pay for anything."

"I, uh..." She swallowed thickly. "I opted not to pay for full coverage this year, because it was becoming too expensive and I needed the money to pay bills." It came out fast, and in almost one breath. She felt her cheeks going warm again.

Lorelai's eyes were wide. "Rory."

"Oh my," Emily let out in a gasp.

Richard closed his eyes, his brow knit together in concern. "Did you stop paying insurance altogether or—"

"No! No, I just dropped to a cheaper plan. One that fit in better with my budget."

Richard looked dumbfounded. "I suppose I don't understand why this decision was made, when it easily could have been rectified if you had asked us for the money."

"I don't want to take your money," Rory said, her voice tinged with panic. "I was fully capable of paying for my insurance. I just had to find a way to make it work with my current budget."

"Yes, and it was that irresponsible decision that put you in the position you are in right now."

"Dad!" Lorelai snapped, her hand hitting the table heavily and causing the fine china to rumble in discontent. Emily placed a hand on top of her wineglass to still it, her expression unreadable.

"How much money will you owe?" Richard asked crossly.

"Grandpa, I—"

"How much money, Rory?"

"A little over $1000," Rory admitted quietly. Silence followed.

"I should get our checkbook," Emily remarked, tapping her well-manicured nail on her glass.

"Yes, I feel that's the only thing that can be done right now," Richard agreed, disapproving eyes set on Rory. She felt herself cowering under their gaze.

"I meant what I said, I don't want to take your money. I have a plan."

"Are you able to tell me that it will work out better than your plan to drop to a cheaper insurance plan?" Richard asked shrewdly. "My father used to tell me that if you wanted quality, you had to pay for quality. It is the only way to guarantee that you will be completely satisfied with the result. I thought that I had instilled the same values on you."

"Okay, Dad, seriously, stop," Lorelai shouted, her palms flat on the table. "Rory did what she needed to do to make ends meet. Can you honestly sit there and fault her for that?"

"She made a poor decision, Lorelai. I don't believe you can honestly say you were happy with what she did."

"No, I'm not happy," Lorelai began, her voice soft, but adamant. "I had no idea until just now. But, this is Rory we are talking about here. Rory plans. Rory doesn't make a decision lightly. She has a budget spreadsheet posted on her refrigerator, for crying out loud. Do you know any other kids her age who do that? If this is what she needed to do, I respect that. I know she didn't do this as flippantly as you imply."

"Forget the check, Emily," Richard said, adjusting his tie. "I have at least half of the amount in my wallet. We can pull out the rest from the safe in the study."

"Wow, did my cone of silence suddenly activate, or did you not hear anything I said?" Lorelai caught Rory's eye, frowning.

Richard stood and pulled out his wallet from his pants. He opened it, counted out the bills in his hands, and then set them on the table in front of Rory. "I heard you just fine, Lorelai... Here, Rory. I will go retrieve the rest from the safe."

"I really appreciate this," Rory said, standing herself. "But I can't accept this. I don't want to be in debt to you. I am perfectly capable of paying for my expenses. It will be a stretch, but I can handle it. I don't need your money." She picked up her clutch from the floor, and turned to look at Lorelai. "Maybe we should go."

"Uh, okay, hon." Lorelai stood as well, forgetting about the napkin in her lap that immediately fell to the ground.

"Thanks for dinner, Grandma," Rory said shortly, walking out of the dining room without waiting for Lorelai. Richard continued to stare at the cash left on the table.

"You need to say something to her," Emily hissed to Lorelai. "She needs to see reason."

"Rory will be fine, Mom. I'll keep you posted with what I know, though." Lorelai slipped her purse on. "Now, I would stay for a quick dessert, but Rory has the keys and a lead foot, and I know my ankles wouldn't love a nice stroll back to Stars Hollow. Goodnight."

Lorelai walked out of the living room, finding Rory waiting for her in the foyer. She wrapped her arm around Rory's shoulders and they walked out the door.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"Are we ready to make history?" Gil asked from the right side of the dark stage. "This stage is legendary."

"First day of the rest of our musical lives," Brian added. "How many people are out there?" he asked, slightly worried.

"Enough to make us among the legends," Gil responded. "It won't be long."

"Yeah," Lane agreed. "We're on the road to fame."

"Let's do this thing. Count it off, Lane," Zach said, adjusting his guitar strap.

Lane lifted her drumsticks over her head. "1-2—1-2-3-4!" she cried and beat the sticks together on each number. The lights came up slowly and they banged out the opening notes to their first song.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

The silence in the jeep was nearly unbearable for Lorelai, and she bit her lip as she reached over to turn the radio on. She scanned through a few stations, finally settling on something rock-sounding from some band she didn't recognize.

She glanced over at Rory, who was resting her head on the window, her feet curled up next to her in the seat and the skirt of her dress fanning out slightly. She looked sad, and almost child-like, and it made Lorelai frown.

"So," she said, finally making an attempt to break the silence. "I would say that dinner ranked just above a flogging, but slightly more bearable than being forced to watch an According to Jim marathon."

Rory snorted softly, bringing her hand to rest between her head and the cool glass pane. "It was something."

"You know what the surprising thing was?"

"The fact that Grandpa yelled at me," Rory muttered, still making no attempt to look at Lorelai.

"Well, there was that," Lorelai admitted, grimacing in sympathy. "He was in rare form. That's a tone he usually reserves for me. But, no, the most surprising thing was that we walked out of there without dessert. That was a crime."

"So, you're saying we need to save the riot-inducing conversation until after the cherries jubilee?"

"Or at least make a stop in the kitchen on our way out. Start bringing to-go containers and saran wrap... Which means we need to start bringing big purses too."

"There's always next time," Rory sighed, turning away from the window and resting her head on the back of the seat, closing her eyes. "I didn't bring up the fact that I've been dipping into savings to make ends meet, and not replenishing it with my paycheck. That little doozy should get us out of dinner early for the next two weeks at least."

"You're being too hard on yourself," Lorelai said after a long pause, her voice soft. "Your grandpa... he was just surprised. None of us knew you were having money problems. We're just concerned."

"I know... I just... didn't want you to know. I'm handling it."

"Yeah, I got that impression."

It was silent again, the drone of electric guitars and synthesizers the only sound in the cab of the car.

"You're mad," Rory stated, the remark coming out more as a statement than a question.

"Not mad," Lorelai said, shaking her head. "A little hurt, a little worried, but not mad... But, everything's okay, right? You aren't in trouble? You don't owe any tattooed, burly brutes named Tiny, money?"

"No Tinys beating down my door. I'm doing fine."

"But, if he does, you know that you can always come to Luke and I. Or even your dad, if you don't feel comfortable—"

"I know," Rory interrupted, her lips set in a thin line as she turned to look at Lorelai. "I just don't want to owe you anything."

"Babe, you don't owe me anything. It wouldn't have to be a loan. Just a little something-something from your mother to get you through another month."

"It would be a loan," Rory insisted, her voice coming out loud. "Because I can pay you back. I'm not irresponsible," she finished bitterly, suddenly fascinated by the hem of her skirt.

"Rory," Lorelai began with a sigh, but closed her mouth. She tapped on her steering wheel, her brow furrowed. "Just know that the offer is on the table. Not because we think you're irresponsible, but because... I've been there. I know what it's like to not know how you're going to handle everything one month when you were surfing couch cushions for spare change the month before."

"I don't want to take your money either, Mom. I'll manage. It'll all work out," Rory assured, locking eyes with Lorelai to reinforce her point.

"You're stubborn."

"Taught by the best."

"Who was the product of two of the most stubborn people on the planet. It's genetic. We're the Stubbornmores."

Rory cracked a smile. "Doesn't have the same ring to it as Gilmore."

"Yes, but it's so much more accurate. Last names should be descriptive, like they used to be. I could be Lorelai Innkeeper, married to Luke Burger-Flipper, daughter of Richard Golfs-on-Sundays and Emily Maid-Firer."

"Kind of a mouthful, though."

"Hmm, didn't think of that."

They lapsed into silence again, small smiles on their faces as they turned to each other. "We really shouldn't have left without dessert," Rory said.

"I know! I'm starving. Let's drive through somewhere."

"I just want to go home," Rory yawned. "It's been a long week."

"Well, luckily, that was our intended destination."

"Not my apartment... Home-home."

"Oh," Lorelai said, shocked. "Well, uh, that can be arranged, I think."

"Good. We're long overdue for a movie night."

"You are right, Rory Crasher-into-Mile-Markers."

"Never going to live that one down," Rory lamented, shaking her head.

"Not with me in your life."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

The room was dark, except for the glow of the television, and Lorelai and Rory were each lounging on both arms of the couch."See, the thing with this movie is this," Lorelai commented as she popped a tortilla chip in her mouth. "Yetis are normally a good concept," Lorelai continued. "Rudolph, Monsters Inc, the Matterhorn at Disneyland, all of these things are made better by the introduction of a yeti. But, yetis versus mummies? Yetis doing touchdown hands?" She held up her own halfhearted version of the "touchdown hands," her attention still completely on the television screen in front of her. "Nope, not even yetis could redeem this movie... And, let me just say, Maria Bello's British accent is no better than mine, and mine sounds like Dick van Dyke and Edina from Ab Fab hooked up and had a simple-minded lovechild with a cleft palate. Am I right?"

She looked over at Rory, waiting to hear her chime in agreement, but her daughter was fast asleep, curled up in a ball and using the armrest as a pillow. Lorelai smiled, watching Rory sleep for a few moments. She carefully pulled the throw from the back of the couch, hoping the movement wouldn't wake her, and covered her up with it, patting Rory's hip lightly.

On the table next to the couch, Lorelai heard her cell phone vibrate, and she snatched it up quickly, as to not wake up Rory. She caught sight of the words "Hubba Hubba" on the phone's display before she answered, smiling as she flipped open the phone.

"Hey," she said in a low voice, sinking into the back of the couch.

"Hey," Luke answered, and she could hear the drone of the hospital loudspeaker in the background.

"So, what's the news?"

"She's 8 pounds, 3 ounces, and according to Liz, she has TJ's nose. God help her."

Lorelai grinned. "Aw, it's a girl."

"It's a girl," he confirmed.

"Any named yet, or are they sticking with Baby Girl?"

"Last I heard, they were leaning towards Dawson."

"As in creek?"

"As in Richard, surprisingly enough. Two guesses on who came up with that."

Lorelai laughed softly. "Is Liz thrilled?"

Luke sighed. "Liz is thrilled, TJ is TJ, Jess is reading, and April has already held the baby twice."

"What about Dawson's uncle?"

"I managed to get a hold of her once." She could almost hear him beaming on the other line.

"Good. There better be pictures."

"I think April snapped a couple. We'll probably be heading home soon."

"Great, because I'm getting sleepy," she said with a yawn.

"What are you up to? You didn't have to wait up for me."

"Rory's here. We're watching movies, but I think we partied a little too hard," Lorelai remarked, glancing at Rory's sleeping form out of the corner of her eye.

"Well, like I said, we're getting ready to take off. Go to bed."

"Eh, I'll wait for you. My toes are colder when we don't go to bed at the same time."

"One of the many joys of marriage," Luke deadpanned.

Lorelai paused, briefly letting silence fall over the line. "Okay, well, give Dawson a kiss from her Auntie Lorelai, and give Mom and Dad a hug from me."

"Will do, see you soon."

"Bye stud," she cooed, flipping her phone shut.

"The baby's here?" Rory's groggy voice asked, making no attempt to move. Lorelai jumped.

"Jeez, warn Mommy next time."


"And yes, she's here. With bells on."

"Good," Rory said, her voice scratchy. "It's a girl?"

"Yep, Dawson."

"Dawson? As in creek?"


"Huh, that was going to be my next guess."

"Really? I was thinking you would go the Titanic route."

"Nope, my brain goes straight to Match Game at this hour."

"Which suddenly puts your recurring Charles Nelson Reilly, ascots, and cigars dream in perspective... You want to hit the hay?" Lorelai asked, rubbing Rory's foot through the blanket."I'm sure April won't mind sleeping in the trundle bed, since she claims she still feels weird sleeping in your bed."

"It's okay," Rory murmured, nuzzling the cushion on the armrest. "I'm so comfortable."

"I can make up a bed for you?"

"Too much work," she yawned. "Sleepy time."

"Okay," Lorelai responded.

She watched as Rory's breathing became slow and rhythmic, rubbing her eyes as sleep began to catch up with her as well. Carefully, she lay down on the couch herself, picking up the quilt she was using from the floor as she did so and resting her head in the vicinity of Rory's feet. Lorelai propped her feet over the armrest, using her feet to make sure the quilt covered her adequately. Then, picking up a throw pillow from behind her, she put it under her head and closed her eyes, letting the comfort of the moment lull her to sleep.







To be continued... 




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