Episode 9.13 "Paying the Price"
by wounded and Mags


Authors' Note: We'd like to thank Luke for packing that lovely behind into denim and Lorelai for letting us ogle it. Special thanks to Rory for letting us have the True Hollow-wood Story on her crimes and misdemeanors, and Emily for just being Emily. Honorable mentions go to our beloved cast of townies, Tess, Jess, and Kevin for letting us mess with them. We would be remiss if we failed to thank Jewels12, Jenepel and sosmitten for their efforts in bringing this episode to air. And finally, we would like to thank you, our audience, who make this all worthwhile. We hope that you enjoy it!

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"Thanks for getting the cook to make veal parmesan tonight, Mom," Lorelai told Emily at Friday night dinner. "Baby was really craving it."

Luke rolled his eyes. "Just like Baby was craving macaroni and cheese casserole last week, gourmet Philly cheese steak the week before that, apple pork chops the week before that..."

"Yeah, Mom," Rory agreed. "You really are milking this pregnancy thing for all it's worth."

Lorelai gasped in mock indignance. "I would never abuse my mother and her kitchen staff like that! This is simply what Baby wants."

"By 'Baby' you mean your own personal cravings," Rory corrected.

"Exactly," Lorelai said, taking a bit of her veal. "What do you say, Mom? Do you think my demands are a bit much?"

"Not at all," said Emily. "These cravings are normal for a pregnant woman. Why, I had my cook make three different meals each evening depending on my whims when I was pregnant with you."

"See?" Lorelai said pointedly to Rory. "Now that's abuse of staff."

"Hardly," Emily said, offended. "I let her take the remaining meals home with her every evening. She never starved because of me. I would say I was quite generous."

"You're right," Lorelai said, not wanting to pick a fight. "And, hey, if you're willing, you can ask Gerta to make three different meals next week. Baby would love that."

"So, when will you find out the baby's gender?" asked Richard, entering the conversation for the first time. "You can't refer to the child as 'Baby' for the next three months."

"Can't we?" Lorelai teased. "I think it has a nice ring to it."

"Surely you need to know the gender," Emily added. "There are steps, which include registering for gifts and sending out invitations for the baby shower that require you to tell people whether you are having a boy or a girl."

"Mom, we're modern people," Lorelai said. "Our girl can wear blue, our boy can wear pink, or we can just go with yellow and leave it at that."

"Or green," Rory supplied. Lorelai shuddered at the thought.

"You know," Emily said in her best know-it-all tone, "If you took the amniotic fluid test, then you'd already know the sex."

Lorelai sighed. "Mom, you know that, given my age, an amnio would've been more risky. Other tests came back negative, and we are happy with our decision."

Emily softened. "Very well, but you should still get an ultrasound test done. Rory, do you not agree?"

Rory looked up from her meal. "Oh, I don't have an opinion on this."

"Rory, you are a journalist," Richard boomed. "You should always have an opinion!"

Rory sighed. "Please don't make me be the deciding factor in all this. Hey, let's change the subject."

"Fine," Lorelai said with a grin. "Hey, Rory, ready for traffic school tomorrow?"

Rory sighed, wishing she had been smart like April and planned a sleepover somewhere, anywhere. "Oh look, I changed my mind, let's go back to the baby conversation," she begged.

"Are you looking forward to tomorrow, Rory?" asked Emily.

"Looking forward to getting it over with," Rory admitted.

"Oh, she's lying, Mom," Lorelai said. "She has her backpack all ready. We even went shopping for school supplies yesterday!"

Rory sighed. "How long are you going to keep this up, Mom?"

"You have been at it all week," Luke told Lorelai in Rory's defense.

"Until she comes back with her diploma!"

"It's a certificate, Mom."

"Either way, it's still going up on the fridge."

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Rory's purse vibrated and ABBA began singing "Mamma Mia." She ignored it as she cautiously pulled away from the curb, paranoid about talking and driving now that her car had finally been fixed. Once she straightened out, she plucked the phone from her purse and hit the button to answer. "What are you doing up this early? It's Saturday."

"I know, can you believe it?" Lorelai asked incredulously. "I'm up because your little brother or sister has made it so that I can no longer roll over onto my stomach and go back to sleep when Luke gets up to go to work. I managed to stay in bed for another hour or so, but I'm telling you, it's only because I absolutely refuse to get up before the sun does. That man is psycho."

"Aw, poor thing," Rory said sympathetically. She pulled up to a stop sign and checked each direction before proceeding was excruciating caution.

"I know," Lorelai sighed. "Well, anyway, it's good that I'm up today because it's your first day of school, and I have to tell you, I look fabulous for this one. What time should I be there to meet your teacher?" she asked brightly.

"Mom, it's traffic school," Rory said with chuckle.

"I haven't missed a first day of school yet, and I'm not starting now," Lorelai asserted.

"You really want to drive to Hartford to walk me into the municipal building?"

"I know how important this is for you. Are you there now? Did you get to pick the best seat?"

"I am not there, I just left my apartment," Rory said as she rolled her eyes.

"But Rory, if you just left now, you'll actually only be twenty minutes early! What if someone else gets the first set of handouts?"

"Ha ha."

"Did you at least have a Pop Tart? You know that Pop Tarts are brain food. I'd hate for you to go to your first day of traffic school unprepared," Lorelai said, her voice dripping with concern.

"You're enjoying this a little too much."

"Well, that's what you get for not taking my side," Lorelai sniffed.

"Me? Not taking your side on what? What am I supposed to be taking your side on?"

"Yes, you, Admiral Stockdale. You're supposed to be on my side. Always."

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

"You know what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the little whatsit I'm carrying in my belly. Would it have killed you to admit that you want to know what he/she/it is?" Lorelai demanded.

"Mom. I told you that I am not getting in the middle of this. That's between you and Luke," Rory said firmly.

"How's that fence post in your butt feel? Good?"

"Okay, you really need to try to go back to bed. Byyyye."

"No! Wait! I'll be good," Lorelai said quickly. "I promise." There was a beat of silence and then she asked, "Hey, do you think they'll put those little cones out and have you drive through them like on Valley Girl? That would be totally bitchin'!"

"Sleep," Rory ordered.

"Ooh, ooh! You can do the obstacle course thing like on My Chauffeur!"

"Mom," she said in a warning tone.

"Now all I need is a one-legged nun walking a goat and I've won it!" Lorelai crowed in a bad cockney accent.

"You are the only person in the world who can quote that movie."

"I know," Lorelai said smugly. "Have a good first day of school, Sweets. Play nice with the other kids, don't make fun of anyone's vest, and don't jab anyone with the pointy stick thingy."

"I am not doing community service. I'm giving up my Saturday to improve my safe driving skills as my way to pay my debt to society," Rory muttered.

"Remember to use your blinker when you turn into the lot, they could be watching."

"Oops, I'm here, gotta go," Rory lied.

"I love you, even if you are a reckless menace to civilized society."

"I love you too, even though you are the Marquis De Sade's love child," Rory said as she spotted the municipal building up ahead.

"Have a good day," Lorelai said in a gentler tone.

"Frosted brown sugar and cinnamon Pop Tart. The only way to start the day," Rory said affectionately. "I'll call you tonight."

"Bye, Hon," Lorelai answered.

Rory closed her phone and tossed it back into her purse. About a half block from the parking lot, she dutifully signaled for a right turn and slowed to a pace that would make a senior citizen cringe.

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Clutching a notebook and pen, Rory wandered the unfamiliar halls until she found room 224. She peeked through the door and noticed that no one else seemed to have come prepared to take notes . She glanced self-consciously at the notebook pressed to her chest and cringed. Drawing a deep breath, she stepped inside, scanning the room as she searched for an empty seat. Rory jumped slightly when she saw someone she recognized. She turned her head, and found herself staring at the Judd Nelson wannabe that had been in her community service work group. The guy smirked as he recognized her too, and lifted one hand in a slight wave. Rory's lips quirked into a brief semblance of a smile as she ducked her head and walked toward the opposite side of the room.

She kept her eyes focused on her notebook cover as she slipped into the seat and muttered to herself, "Perfect. This must be the section for habitual offenders." She flipped open the cover and uncapped her pen. "Apparently I'm in the right place."

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Lorelai entered the diner, glad her usual spot at the counter was free. She waved at a few of her neighbors before plopping herself down on her stool.

"Oh Lucas, oh hubby of mine!" Lorelai sing-songed happily.

Luke popped his head out of the kitchen. "Oh, hey," he said with a smile, walking towards her for a kiss.

"You sounded surprised," Lorelai said suspiciously. "Is there another wife you were expecting?" she joked.

Luke rolled his eyes. "After everything with April, you really think I'd keep a wife from you?"

Lorelai shrugged her shoulders. "Depends how hot she is."

"Not hotter than you," he told her. "What'll you have?"

"Baby is craving a bacon-and-cheese omelet with a side of pancakes and more bacon, and a cup of coffee?" she said uncertainly, hopefully.

"How about an egg-white omelet with a side of sausage and fruit?"

Lorelai made a face. "Can I at least still get some coffee?"


"Fine," Lorelai resigned unhappily. "Once this kid is out, I am eating twice as much to make up for everything you've deprived me of," she vowed.

"So long as it's after you're done breast-feeding it, you can do whatever you'd like," he said and disappeared into the kitchen.

"I'll hold you to that!" she called after him.

At that moment, the bell jingled and in walked Babette and Miss Patty, who spotted Lorelai and immediately made their way to her.

"Lorelai, doll, you're glowing!" said Babette warmly, sitting in the stool on one side of her.

"Thanks, Babette," Lorelai said, rubbing her belly.

"You and Luke are going to make wonderful parents," Patty told her.

"Thanks, Patty. I hope I do better with this one than I did with Rory," she joked. "Yale, Obama campaign... I'm hoping this one will do me proud and become a hobo."

Luke popped his head from out of the kitchen. "Lorelai!"

"I'm just saying! Lots of walking, outdoors, learning the art of hopping a freight train... These are important skills, Hon!"

"Do you two know if it's a boy or a girl yet?" asked Gypsy, wandering into the conversation.

"Um, no, actually."

"But you'll find out at your appointment on Monday, right?" Gypsy pressed.

"At 10:15 AM," Kirk confirmed from down the counter.

"How the hell do you know what time our appointment is, Kirk?" Luke asked suspiciously.

"What's it to you, Gypsy?" asked Lorelai.


"Taylor started up this pool for the sex of the baby," someone within the newly-formed crowd revealed.

"Son of a..." Luke began.

"Shush, you," Lorelai told him. "Baby can hear you."

"Yeah, well Baby can also hear the lunacy surrounding it," Luke said, irritated.

"So, would you say you're carrying the baby high or low?" asked Patty.


"Are you craving sweet or sour foods?" chimed in Andrew.

"Both?" she answered hesitantly. The crowd groaned. "Well, I am!"

"That's it, show's over," shouted Luke, leaving his position from behind the counter. "Go back to your tables, people."

The crowded protested as they were shooed back to their tables, Luke giving them his best scowl before he and Lorelai were left alone.

"I swear, when I see Taylor, I'm gonna..."

"I know, Hon," Lorelai said. "Now please get me my breakfast."

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Rory took a bite of her turkey sandwich and placed it carefully on the wrapper she had spread over the passenger seat. She glanced up at the municipal building, and then at the clock on her phone. She pressed her thumb to the number 4 and held it while the number speed-dialed. Rory popped a chip into her mouth and chewed as she listened to the phone ring on the other end. As soon she heard Lane's recorded voice, Rory remembered that Lane had mentioned that the band was practicing all day since Mrs. Kim had offered to take the boys. "Uh, hi, Lane," she said as she took a hasty sip of her bottled water. "I forgot that you guys were practicing today. I was just calling to talk. We're on our lunch break. Anyway, um, don't speed, okay? No one should ever have to endure traffic school. I want more for you out of life," she added, stifling a giggle. "Seriously, this is the most awful way to spend a Saturday. I mean, it makes some of those prayer groups your mom used to drag you to look like a laugh riot. Anyway, glad you're not here. I'll try to get you later." Rory hit the 'end' button and stared at her phone for a moment.

"Twenty-five minutes," she muttered as she picked up her sandwich, her eyes locked on the phone as she scrolled through the numbers. "Good a time as any," she muttered as she selected, "Paris Gellar" and pushed the button to dial.

"I can't talk now, Gilmore. Hello! Med school! I'm in a study group," Paris said by way of greeting.

"Ah, okay," Rory stammered.

"I'm writing you down for Thursday at nine PM. Be available," Paris said brusquely, and then hung up.

"Alrighty then, Thursday it is," Rory muttered as she dug a few more chips out of the bag between her legs and shoved them into her mouth as she continued to peruse her contacts.

She paused at Tess' name and pressed the send button. "Please don't be busy," Rory murmured as she waited for Tess to pick up. When it went to voice mail, Rory sighed and ended the call before leaving a message. She sighed and picked up her sandwich just as the phone began to vibrate and play 'Let the River Run' by Carly Simon. She smiled as she dropped the sandwich and picked up the phone. "Ah, Tess McGill?" she asked with a grin.

"Close enough. Hey, does that mean I get to have Harrison Ford pack little lunchboxes for me?" Tess asked.

"Only if you are pretending to be the boss and sleeping with your real boss' boyfriend, you ambitious working girl, you," Rory said with a cheeky smile.

"Meh, I wouldn't want to wear a six thousand dollar dress even if it was made out of leather," Tess said dismissively. "Sorry, I couldn't answer, we're swamped. The pre-Valentine's Day rush for poetry is on."

"Ah, well I'm sure that makes the Brownings happy."

Rory heard Tess shift the phone away from her mouth and the rustle of a bag as she said, "Thanks, come again," to a customer. And then she returned her attention to Rory. "Yes, there's also a big run on Shakespeare's sonnets. I think everyone has been watching Sense and Sensibility again."

"Well, let's hope there's no alteration found, I love that book. And the movie, too," Rory added as she nibbled on a chip.

"How's traffic school going?"

"Well, I considered gouging my eyes out, but I think I've settled on going Van Gogh so that I don't have to hear the monotonous droning in my ears anymore."

"Wow, that good, huh?"

"Tell me something funny, I'm desperate for entertainment."

"I'd love to, but I am really busy. Remind me later and I'll tell you about the hippie guy who is planning to surprise his 'lady' with a proposal accompanied by a reading of Gregory Corso's 'Marriage'. I have to find an anthology that has it. The beat goes on, baby," she said wryly.

"Right on. Groovy," Rory answered with an appreciative nod.

"Call me later?"

"I will," Rory promised before disconnecting.

She picked up her sandwich once more, took a huge bite, and began to scroll through the contacts again as she chewed. When Kevin popped up on the screen, her thumb hovered over the send button as she debated. Rory's brow knit in concentration as she tried to figure out if they were good enough friends for the casual Saturday 'entertain me' phone call. With a resigned sigh, she murmured, "Not yet," as she scrolled back up the list.

"And the beat goes on, and on and on and on," she sang softly to herself, a smile curving her lips as she hi-lighted another name and hit the send button.

When the call connected, Rory grinned and said, "Whitney Houston called and said to tell you the Kerouac is whack."

"Well, hello to you too," Jess said with a laugh.

"Hi, how are things?"

"Things are good. How are things with you?" he asked in return.

"I'm in traffic school today," Rory said with a pout.

"Ah, yes. Self-inflicted punishment. How Rory Gilmore of you."

"I just don't want that ticket on my record," she replied defensively.

"No, it would look lame compared to that felony you committed a few years ago," Jess said dryly.


"Aw, come on, Rory, you have to admit that it's pretty funny that of the two of us, you're the one who was hauled off to the slammer," Jess cajoled.

"You aren't funny," Rory said, stung.

"I am too; you've just been subjected to too many viewings of Blood on the Highway and That's My Daughter's Head to find your sense of humor at the moment."

Rory's smile bloomed as she said, "Love the graphically violent driver's education films."

"I know, but they weren't very good make out movies," Jess joked. A sudden and awkward silence fell over the line as Rory's smile faded. Finally, Jess cleared his throat and said, "So, how many more hours until you're paroled?"

"Four and a half," Rory said dully. She let her head fall back against the headrest and said, "There's a guy from community service in my class today."

"Aw, so it's like old home week for you."

"Nice talking to you," Rory said, but did not move to end the call.

"How much longer is your lunch break?"

"Ten minutes," she sighed.

"Next time call me before you call the others. I'm getting a complex about being fourth or fifth on the list," he told her.

"You were third today," Rory told him.

"I'm moving up the scale." After a moment, he asked, "So, what does Whitney say about Bukowski?"

"Claude Hooper Bukowski? She says he finds that it's groovy to hide in the movies," Rory teased.

"No! Not Hair again. I'm allergic to American tribal love-rock musicals."

"He pretends he's Fellini and Antonioni and also his countryman Roman Polanski..."

"Forget it, forget I mentioned Bukowski," Jess laughed.

"Hey, Jess?"


"I'll put you on speed dial," she told him.

"That'd be good. Hey, can you see if you can take me off of Luke's? I know he doesn't know how to do it, so I'm assuming your mom put it in there."

"I'll wrestle his phone away from him and take care of that."


"I should go. I'm gonna need a soda to make it through the afternoon," Rory said as she crumpled the sandwich wrapper around the remains of her lunch and dropped it into the bag.

"Other than the boredom, you're okay?" Jess asked.

Rory smiled and murmured, "Yeah. Yeah, I'm okay."

"Luke says your mom is okay. That's about all he ever says."

"Well, if the loquaciousness has not rubbed off on him yet, it never will. Mom is good. She looks pregnant now. Everything seems to be going well. Luke is actually pretty funny, in his own Luke-like way," Rory reported. "I saw them at Friday night dinner last night. Of course, at the time I didn't realize that I was going to have less than twenty-four hours before I died of boredom. I should have said better goodbyes."

"Personally, I think you've punished yourself enough for what was actually a pretty minor accident. No one was hurt, everything can be fixed. It's just a few more hours, you'll make it. "

"I know," she said quietly.

"Don't forget the speed dial."

"I'll talk to you soon," Rory promised. "Bye, Jess, and thanks."

"Thank you for calling. It's not every day that I get to consort with hardened criminals. Makes me feel like I'm livin' on the edge."

"Bye," Rory huffed, and shook her head at the sound of his laughter as she pressed the button to end the call.

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Rory gathered her purse and notebook and climbed from the car just as the woman who had parked next to her did. She smiled slightly as she recognized the woman who had sat near her in class.

"Ready for a fun afternoon?" the older woman asked.

"I can't wait," Rory said as she rolled her eyes.

"I caught myself dozing three times this morning. I gave serious consideration to having nothing but Red Bull at lunch, but then I decided that the rumbling in my stomach would be enough to keep me awake," the woman told her as they walked in the direction of the municipal building. "I can't believe I'm missing a whole Saturday with my kids for this."

"That sucks," Rory said sympathetically.

"Yeah, but I couldn't afford to take time off work to do it during the week," she said with a shrug. "My hours are not exactly flexible."

"That's hard. I'm lucky, I can pretty much set my own schedule. This was just the first open class that came up," Rory said.

"You are lucky. What do you do?" the woman asked as they followed a dapper older gentleman who was also in the class to the door.

"I'm a freelance journalist, so the hours are good, but if you like a steady paycheck, it's not so hot," Rory said as she smiled at the man as he held the door open for them to pass. "Thank you," she murmured. "So, while I do have the time to come here, let me tell you, paying that extra hundred bucks to keep a ticket off of your record hurts," she finished.

"Oh, I hear ya," the woman said with a nod.

Rory slowed as she spied the vending machines across the hall. "I think I'd better get a soda if I want to be conscious for any part of the afternoon."

The woman smirked and said, "Should have gone for the Red Bull; I've got wings now."

Rory grinned and gave her a little wave as she said, "You're probably right. See you in there."

She pulled her wallet out of her purse and opened the change compartment to find only pennies and a stray nickel. With a grunt of frustration, Rory removed a limp dollar bill from her wallet and muttered, "This'll never work."

She was on her third attempt at feeding the worn paper into the bill slot when a man said, "I have a crisp one, I believe."

Rory turned to look behind her and saw the man who had held the door for them opening his wallet and pulling out a crisp one dollar bill. "Oh, thank you," she said as he exchanged her ancient bill for the fresh one. "I can never make these things work."

"They can be a tad recalcitrant," the man agreed easily. As Rory smiled and bent to retrieve her Mountain Dew from the chute he asked, "Did I hear you say that you're a journalist?"

"Huh? Oh, yes. Yes, I am," Rory said as she straightened up.

"Newspaper? Magazines?" he asked as she pulled her change from the slot.

"Um, magazines mainly. Some online, a few print articles," Rory told him.

"I work for the Courant," the man told her as he slipped his wallet into the breast pocket of his tweed jacket.

"Oh, you do?" Rory asked, her interest piqued.

"Nearly thirty years," he said with a nod as he fed his own dollar bill into the slot.

"We're about ready to get started," the instructor called to them as he approached the door.

"Oh. I should, we should go," Rory said as she started inching toward the classroom. "Um, thanks for the currency exchange," she said with a small wave as she hurried into the room, anxious for class to start so that she could get it over with.

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"Hello?" Luke called as he opened the front door that afternoon.

"In here," Lorelai called back from the couch.

"How's it goin'?" Luke shed his coat and hung it up before bending to unlace his boots.

Lorelai tipped her head back, peering at him upside down over the arm of the couch. "It's going. I had some indigestion, and I forgot to get Tums at the market the other day, but then I remembered that I had these in my purse," she said as she held up a box of candy conversation hearts triumphantly. "Score!"

Luke scowled as he walked into the living room. "What are those supposed to do for you?"

"They're nice and chalky like Tums. I figure they'll soak up whatever it is," she answered with a dismissive wave of her hand. Lorelai shook a couple of candies into her hand and then popped them into her mouth as Luke dropped down onto the couch.

He lifted her feet into his lap and began to massage them through her fluffy pink socks. "I'll go get you some Tums."

"Nah, I'm good." Lorelai pointed to the baby book she had propped on her stomach and said, "Hey, listen to this. Baby can hear us now, isn't that cool? You're supposed to talk to my stomach so that it gets used to your voice."

"The baby will get used to my voice soon enough," Luke said as he shook his head.

"Seriously, Luke, here, read," she said as she handed the book to him.

Luke scanned the page that she pointed to and shrugged and said, "I don't see how it can recognize our voices."

"It's true, I've been talking to Baby all morning and every once in a while, it gives me a little flutter."

"I'm not gonna sit around talking to your stomach," he said as he handed the book back to her.

"Fine, I'll be your spokesperson," Lorelai said as she rolled her eyes. She propped the book on her belly again and shook a handful of hearts out of the box into her palm. She picked through them and then read, "Hey Baby, Daddy says that U R A star, that he likes to sweet talk, and let's kiss."

Luke leaned over closer to her stomach and stared up at her as he said, "He also said he's sorry that your mother is such a lunatic."

Lorelai's eyes widened as she said, "It heard you! It fluttered!" She sat up a little, tucking her legs beneath her as she leaned forward.

"Did not," Luke scoffed.

"Did too!" Lorelai insisted as she grabbed his hand and placed it on her stomach. "You probably won't be able to feel it, but talk some more, it likes you."

"Stop calling it 'it'," Luke grumbled.

"You just called it 'it'," she pointed out. When his scowl deepened she shrugged and said, "Fine, he/she likes you."

Luke was quiet for a moment, his hand resting gently on her rounded stomach as he chewed the inside of his cheek. "Maybe we should find out if you're a boy or a girl," he said to her stomach quietly.

"You think?" Lorelai asked, a hopeful smile lighting her face.

"I hate calling our baby 'it' or 'Baby'," Luke muttered.

Lorelai smiled brightly and picked through the candies in her hand."You are my," she said as she held one up that read 'Angel' and then popped it into her mouth.

"You've had enough of those," Luke said as he gently removed the box from her hand and leaned in to press a soft kiss to her lips. "Junkie."

"Did you feel that?" she asked breathlessly.

Luke shook his head, and looked down at the hand that still covered her stomach, his expression a little sad. "No."

"Soon. Soon you'll be able to feel him or her," Lorelai assured him, covering his hand with hers.

"Have you eaten anything else today?"

"I had some tater tots and leftover Chinese for linner."

Luke rolled his eyes and said, "Do I need to ask?

"Halfway between lunch and dinner."

"Do you think maybe that might be where the indigestion came from?"

"It is possible," Lorelai answered with wide-eyed innocence.

"I'll go get you some Tums," Luke said as he started to pull away, his hand slowly slipping out from under hers."April should be getting out of school soon, so I'd better get to the store and back before I'm seen in public and accused of deliberately trying to ruin her life by breathing."

"Wait, here's one for you," Lorelai said as she plucked another heart out of the palm of her hand and offered it to him. She closed her hand around his for a moment, giving it a gentle squeeze as she said, "And she may be too much of a teenager to admit it, but I'd say that girl still likes you."

Luke smirked as he opened his hand and read 'My Guy' on the little candy heart. He kissed her on the lips and then patted her knee gently as he stood up. "That's me."

Lorelai's eyes stayed locked on him, a sappy smile plastered to her face as he dropped the heart into his shirt pocket and leaned down to kiss her forehead before he headed to the foyer.

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"Freidman, Peter," the instructor called out. Without waiting for the lanky man in the back to unfold himself from his chair, he called out, "Garwin, Susan."

Rory watched the woman she had talked to after lunch scoot from her seat and follow Peter Friedman to the front to collect her completion papers. "Gilmore, Lorelai," the instructor called out. She stood up and saw the man from the vending machines watching her walk to the front of the room. She took the papers with a self-conscious smile and noticed the guy from her community service group lounging back in his chair as he smirked at her. Rory scanned the form that she needed to submit to the state, and signed it in the appropriate place as the instructor continued to call out names. She then tucked the paperwork into her notebook and capped her pen before dropping it into her purse.

She leaned on the desk, propping her chin in her hand as she tapped her toes, anxious to be free. At last, the instructor called "and Zucker, Robert," and the man that worked for the Hartford Courant stood up and walked slowly to the front of the room. The rest of the class shifted in their seats and prepared to leave as Mr. Zucker took his paperwork and walked immediately toward the door.

Rory gathered her belongings and filed out of the room, caught in a sea of people switching on their cells and reporting the news of their freedom to friends and loved ones. She looked up in surprise when Robert Zucker appeared at her side. "Hello. Did he say that your name was Lorelai Gilmore?" he asked.

"Uh, yeah."

"You couldn't possibly be Richard and Emily Gilmore's daughter, could you? I thought that she would be much older than you are," he said with a confused frown.

"I'm their granddaughter. My mom named me after herself. The Demerol, you know," Rory explained. "I go by Rory, actually."

Mr. Zucker smiled and said, "Well, men name children after themselves all of the time."

"That's what mom says. You know my grandparents?"

"Oh, yes, for years. Actually I was a few years behind your grandfather at Yale. We were in the same fraternity," he explained.

"Oh, that's nice," Rory said with a genuine smile. "I went to Yale, too. Class of 2007."

"Always good to meet another Eli. That's where the print got into my blood. Well, actually, I guess I was born with it there, but that's where I fell in love with the nitty gritty of the newsroom. I was editor of the Yale Daily News in my senior year," he said proudly.

Rory's smile widened as she said, "I was too! Small world, isn't it?"

"Well, Hartford can be a small town in some ways," he agreed as he gallantly held the door open for her. "So, you're freelancing. Would I have seen any of your work?" he asked as they walked toward the parking lot.

"I have had a few articles in Salon," Rory told him.

"I do read Salon. I'll just have to keep an eye out for your by-line."

"Well, hopefully I'll have a new assignment from them soon. I have to continue to finance my life of crime," she said as she nodded to the building behind them.

Mr. Zucker chuckled and said, "My wife says that this is the price I pay for my lead foot." He nodded as they approached her car. "Well, uh, Rory Gilmore, it was a pleasure to meet you," he said as he offered her his hand.

Rory shook his hand and said, "It was nice to meet you too. Hopefully, we'll never meet like this again."

Mr. Zucker pulled a card from his jacket pocket and held it out to her. "Please give Richard and Emily my regards, and if you ever get the urge to jump back into the newsprint, give me a call, or send me your portfolio. I'm in desperate need of a good features reporter. Sadly, we do require that people actually come into the office in something other than their pajamas," he added with a smile.

"See, most places should make that clear up front," Rory answered with a grin. "I will tell them that you said hello, and thank you, I'll keep that in mind."

He lifted his hand in a wave, and walked slowly to a shiny Lincoln Towncar parked a few spaces away from her car. Rory smiled softly as she unlocked the car and climbed into the driver's seat.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"Oh!" Rory said as she stopped short, the front door closing behind her with a loud click. "We have to stop meeting like this," she joked lamely as she smiled at Kevin, who lingered in the foyer.

"I'm anxiously awaiting the pizza guy. He should be here any minute, and I'm starving," he said, flashing her a sheepish smile. "Good day?"

Rory made a face and said, "Traffic school," with an exaggerated shudder.


"Let me tell you, if you were not a nervous driver before, nothing will turn you into one faster than seeing who else is out there on the roads," she told him.

"Scary, huh?"

"Truly frightening. I'm thinking about building a teleporter."

"See, now that would be cool." Kevin grinned. "Do you have blueprints?"

"No, I was going to Google it when I got upstairs."

"I can help, I have a toolbox. I think that all I have in there is a hammer and a measuring tape, possibly a screwdriver, but if you need anything pounded, measured or screwed, I'm your guy."

Rory bit back the 'Dirty!' that was on the tip of her tongue and said, "I'll keep that in mind."

"You hungry? I'm willing to share as long as I get to use the teleporter," Kevin said as he nodded to the delivery guy climbing the front stoop.

Rory turned and watched as he moved to the front door to retrieve his dinner and then said, "Um, yeah, I could eat."

"Cool, come down to my place once you get settled in. I'll try not to inhale the whole thing before you get there," he said as he paid the pizza man and took possession of the large box.

Rory nodded and said, "Be there in a few minutes," as she started up the stairs.

She hurried to her apartment, fumbling with her keys a little as she turned the lock. She kicked the door shut behind her, dropped her purse, keys and notebook onto the table and hurried toward the bathroom for a quick peek in the mirror. She ran a brush through her hair, and then quickly pushed her fingers through it so it wouldn't look like she had just brushed.

A quick check of her shirt and jeans revealed no wayward mayonnaise stains from lunch, so Rory turned out the bathroom light and walked back to the table to grab her keys. The power point handouts that were distributed at the beginning of class caught her eye, and she pulled them from the notebook before heading for the door. She locked the apartment door behind her and forced herself to walk slowly down the stairs to the second floor.

Rory tapped lightly on his door, and when he opened it, she smiled and held out the packet of screen prints. "There will be a quiz," she warned.

"Good, I love quizzes," Kevin said as he stepped back and motioned for her to come in. Rory stepped into the apartment and glanced around curiously. "Sorry, it's kind of a mess," Kevin apologized.

"It's fine," Rory said quickly.

"You've fixed your place up really nice, I mean, from what Tess tells me. She's always saying that this place smells like boy. It doesn't, does it?" he asked as he grabbed a roll of paper towels from the kitchen counter.

"Shouldn't it? I mean, I don't think a guy's apartment should smell like perfume and potpourri." Rory shrugged.

Kevin stopped in his tracks and turned to her as he asked, "It stinks in here, doesn't it?"

"No, no!" Rory assured him.

"Do you want to go eat this at your place?" he asked as he gestured to the pizza box. "I mean, you probably have a real table and all of that," he murmured as he scowled at the scarred coffee table that sat in front of a worn couch.

"Kevin, this is fine. I grew up eating almost every meal on the couch," Rory laughed.

"Even tater tot casserole?"

"Especially tater tot casserole," Rory answered with a grin.

Kevin tore a paper towel from the roll and offered it to her. "Plate?"

"Thank you," Rory answered primly as she took it from him.

"I have beer, delicious tap water, and some kind of cherry-vanilla diet cola crap that Tess left in my fridge," he offered.

"Water is good," Rory told him.

Kevin walked into the kitchen calling, "So, traffic school. Describe the person you would least want to run into on the road."

Rory chuckled as she dropped down onto the couch and said, "That's easy, there was this one guy, I swear he looked like a bizarre combination of Christopher Walken and Christopher Lloyd."

"No way," Kevin said as he handed her a glass of water and plopped down next to her, reaching for the lid on the box. "You're too polite," he told her as he gestured for her to grab a slice.

Rory placed a single piece of pizza on her paper towel and watched as he took his own slice of pizza and carried it directly to his mouth. "I swear. Picture Mike Wellington's hair from The Stepford Wives on Judge Doom from Who Framed Roger Rabbit," Rory said with a laugh.

"I don't think I want to," Kevin muttered through stuffed cheeks.

Rory plucked a piece of sausage from her slice and popped it into her mouth with a satisfied smile. "Exactly my point."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"Don't worry about it," Luke assured her.

"How can I not worry about it?" Lorelai asked, buttoning up her shirt. "Mom wants to know whether to buy pink or blue gifts for it. We need to know what color to paint its bedroom. Sookie has $200 on it being a boy and wants me to let her know ASAP lest Davey goes without glasses this year!"

Luke and Lorelai had just completed their ultrasound that Monday morning. While they were both thrilled that the baby was growing nicely and had a steady heartbeat, Dr. Kravitz wasn't able to see if they were having a boy or girl. The baby was curled up in the fetal position, knees practically to its chest, thwarting the doctor's attempts at getting a good view.

"Is there really anything wrong with being surprised?"

Lorelai softened. "No, there isn't. As long as it's healthy, that's all that matters. But I really just wish this kid would show itself."

"I know."

There was a knock at the door and Lorelai, fully-dressed, announced, "Come in!"

Dr. Kravitz opened the door and entered the examination room. "If you're both ready, let's sit in my office."

They all made their way over to the doctor's office and Lorelai and Luke sat on the other side of her desk.

"Now," Dr. Kravitz began. "I understand you're a little disappointed. But your boy or girl is extremely healthy, and we can always try another ultrasound if you'd like."

"Yes, we'd like that!" Lorelai said without hesitation.

"However," Dr. Kravitz continued, "your insurance only covers one ultrasound."

"How much would another one cost?" Luke asked.


Lorelai looked to Luke. "Can we afford to invest $200 in another ultrasound?"

"I... don't know," Luke admitted. Luke and Lorelai had a pretty strict budget in regards to all things baby, and an extra $200 was something they had not anticipated.

"You two can think about it," Dr. Kravitz told them. "Just call in and book an appointment when you make your decision. I have an availability on Thursday."

"We will," Lorelai said. "Thanks, Doc."

"Yes, thank you."

They got up and turned the leave, when Dr. Kravitz called. "Oh, I almost forgot," she said, getting up from her seat and walking towards them. "Here is your ultrasound photo. Granted, it's him or her looking away from the camera, but that's your baby."

Lorelai took the proffered photo from the doctor's hands, staring at the blurry black and white image. She looked up and smiled at Luke, who was smiling over her shoulder.

♫   ♫   ♫  

Lorelai and Luke walked into the Dragonfly that afternoon. They found Emily at the front desk, directing a couple of their guests toward the spa.

Emily smiled when she spotted Lorelai, and once the guests were on their way, she excitedly walked toward her daughter.

"So?" Emily asked anxiously. "Am I having a grandson or a granddaughter?"

"Your grandchild has yet to reveal itself, I'm afraid," Lorelai told her.

Emily's face fell. "What do you mean?"

"The test was inconclusive," Luke explained. "We may need to have another one."

Emily's face lit up once more. "Well, that's wonderful! And when will that be?"

"We haven't decided yet," Lorelai told her. "It's $200, since insurance won't cover another one."

"Well, that's not a problem at all," Emily told them. "I'll gladly pay for it! I'll get my purse and write you a check."

"Mom, that's not necessary!"

"Nonsense, I'm happy to help," she said as she went behind the desk to retrieve her purse, whipping out a pen and her checkbook.

"No, Mom, you don't have to," Lorelai implored. "If we decide to have it done, we'll pay for it ourselves."

"If?" Emily asked, confused. "Why 'if'? Don't you want to know the sex of the baby?"

"Of course we do, Mom. It's just..."

"Then it's settled," Emily said happily. She quickly filled out a check, tore it out, and shoved it in Luke's coat pocket. "You'll book the appointment," she told him. She then disappeared in the direction of the spa.

Luke and Lorelai were left at the front desk, flabbergasted.

"We can't accept this money," Luke told Lorelai. "It's too much."

"I know," she agreed. "But if we give my mother this one thing, she'll let it go. Call Doctor Kravitz and book the appointment, Hon."

Luke sighed. "Fine," he said and leaned over to kiss Lorelai goodbye. "But we're paying her back for this."

"I think Sunday morning breakfasts for a couple of months will do the trick," she offered as she waved goodbye.

♫   ♫   ♫  

Kirk was sitting at his favorite stool at the counter. He was one of the few diners remaining after lunch rush and was happily polishing off his grilled cheese sandwich.

The bell above the door jingled, and Kirk saw Luke enter the diner, looking a bit tired.

"How was the ultrasound?"

"It was fine," Luke replied gruffly.

"Are you having a boy or a girl?" Kirk asked, curious.

"None of your business, Kirk," Luke said, now behind the counter and grabbing the phone off the hook.

"But, Luke..."

"I swear, Kirk, you ask me again, you are not getting dessert with your meals for a month."

That silenced Kirk, who went back to eating his meal.

Luke punched in a number, and Kirk listened to Luke's part of the conversation. "Hi, I'm calling to schedule an ultrasound on Thursday." He paused and listened. "Yes, 10 AM is fine." Another pause. "The name is Lorelai Gilmore." Pause. "Yes, we'll be paying cash."

Kirk listened to the conversation discreetly, his interest piqued. "Another ultrasound?" he whispered to himself. He got up from his seat the same moment Luke hung up the phone, and quickly dug into his pocket for cash and tossed the money onto the counter.

"What's up with you, Kirk?" Luke asked.

"Nothing!" Kirk squeaked, hastily putting on his coat. "It's just, uh, my shift at the beauty salon begins in 10 minutes, so I'd better go."

Luke looked at his watch. "You begin your shift at 1:20?"

"They have very flexible hours," Kirk said lamely and ran out the door.

Once on the street, Kirk ran to the first people he saw, Andrew and Gypsy at the garage. "Hey, the ultrasound was inconclusive. Luke and Lorelai are having another one on Thursday!"

"Are you sure about this, Kirk?" Gypsy asked. "Is this like the last time when you "overheard" Mary from the Chat Club having an affair with Bill from the pet store?"

"I'm positive," Kirk assured them.

"Okay, then," Gypsy said. "I need to change my vote, anyway. Lorelai's feet looked particularly swollen yesterday, so that must mean she's having a girl!"

"It's winter and she's wearing boots," Andrew said, perplexed. "How on earth can you tell she has swollen feet?"

"Um, I just happened to be walking by her house last night and peeked through the window."

"Works for me. I'll keep my vote at girl, then," Andrew said.

The trio ran towards Doose's market, Kirk waving at neighbors as they passed by. "If you want to change your votes, everyone, now's your chance! We won't know the gender until Thursday!"

A large crowd started to form as they rushed the market.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"So, I hear you braved the petri dish for pizza the other night," Tess said as she hovered over Rory's chair with an armload of books to be re-shelved.

"Huh?" Rory asked distractedly as she logged into her email.

"Kevin's place. You went in and you lived to tell about it," Tess said with a laugh.

Rory looked up and frowned as she said, "It wasn't that bad."

Tess smiled. "No, it's not. I just like to give him a hard time. As far as guys go, he's not really dirty, more messy than anything else," she said as she turned to go shelve the books.

Rory winced as she looked down at the screen and saw that her inbox was still empty save for the spam that managed to slip through the filters. "Come on!" she groaned as she let her head fall back against the chair.

"Not interested in male enhancement today?" Tess asked as she passed by again, heading for a set of shelves on the other side of the store.

"More interested in finding someone to pay me to write something," Rory grumbled.

Tess nodded sympathetically and said, "Kev mentioned that you met some editor guy from the Courant."

"Wow, was it Rory Gilmore story hour? Did he also tell you that I dribbled sauce down the front of my shirt when I burned my tongue?"

"Eep! Someone is cranky," Tess said as she made a face and ducked behind a set of shelves.

"Oh, and I used his bathroom. Left the toilet seat down, just for kicks. I bet you got an earful of that," Rory said snidely.

Tess poked her head out and sighed. "Listen, it wasn't like that. We were having Sunday dinner with the 'rents and he said you came over, ate pizza and told him horror stories about traffic school. Didn't you meet the editor guy there?" she asked pointedly.

"Yes," Rory admitted.

"It's not like we diagrammed your sentences."

"Sunday dinner? You guys go to Sunday dinner at your parents' house?" Rory asked, in a surprised tone.

"You have Friday night dinner with your grandparents," Tess shot back.

"No, it sounds nice. What did you have? More Brazilian food?"

"Pork chops," Tess answered shortly. "There may or may not have been coffee cookies," she muttered as she swept past Rory toward the front of the store.

"Coffee cookies?" Rory breathed in awe as she turned to watch her friend walk away. "Tess, wait," Rory said as she closed the laptop and tucked it under her arm as she stood up to follow. "I'm sorry," Rory said as she approached the front counter. "I'm just, I'm worried," she admitted softly. She set the computer on the counter and then leaned in, speaking in a low voice, "I've gone through my savings. The car was the end of that. I have enough to pay next month's rent and utilities, but if something doesn't break real soon, I'm going to have to take my mom up on her offer of a loan."

"Would that be so bad?" Tess asked without looking up. "You and your mom are close."

A small self-deprecating chuckle escaped Rory's lips. "We are. We are close, and I know she'd do anything to help me. It's just, I don't want to need her help."

"Well, you're either going to have to accept her help or help yourself in some way," Tess said tersely.

"It's hard, you know? My mom, she did it all. Left home with a baby before she could even vote. She worked her butt off for me, for us, just so that we could live our lives the way she wanted to, and not the way my grandparents had planned. She learned to sew because I outgrew clothes so fast that she couldn't replace them," Rory tried to explain. "She did everything she did so that I could have everything that I have. How do I tell her that while I may have my Ivy League diploma and a shiny new laptop, I can't pay my rent?" Rory ducked her head and ran her nail along the edge of the return policy taped to the counter. "She thinks I'm living this exciting, young city life. The life she never got to have. She frames every article that I write. I think she thinks I'm Carrie Bradshaw. Without the funky clothes and we don't talk about the sex thing, but you know, with the cosmos and maybe the shoes. How do I tell her that I don't go out because I can't afford a drink, and I live for the BoGo at Payless?"

"I think she would understand if you need a little help," Tess said softly.

Rory shook her head and said, "Oh, she would, but I can't. I can't ask her for anything more. I need to figure this out on my own."

Tess looked up and met Rory's steely blue gaze. "Well, it sounds like it might be time for you to think about getting a regular old every day job like the rest of us." She shrugged and said, "It's not so bad, you know. You get a paycheck every couple of weeks. Kind of takes the element of surprise out of things, but you do get this nifty little sense of security in its place. And yes, you do have to get up and actually leave your apartment every morning, but on the plus side, there's usually free coffee wherever you're working. It may not be glamorous or exciting, but it seems to do the trick for most of us."

Rory sighed as she glanced down at the rack of newspapers near the counter. "Yeah, maybe. We'll see. Something will shake loose, right? Something always does." She looked up at Tess and asked, "Coffee cookies?"

"Kevin took a bunch home with him," Tess told her with a small smile. "We figured you would see him before you saw me."

Rory picked up her laptop and pointed to the seating area in the rear of the store as she said in a mockingly perplexed tone, "But, you have the good chair..."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"This is very strange," said Doctor Kravitz as she gently glided the transducer probe across the expanse of Lorelai's belly.

"What is?" asked a concerned Lorelai, propping herself up on her elbows and peering at the screen.

"The baby still is not giving me any access to its genital area," she told them, perplexed. "I'm so sorry, this hardly happens."

Lorelai looked up at Luke, who was standing behind her with his hands on her shoulders. It was Thursday morning, and they had been sitting there for 20 minutes excitedly waiting for a glimpse of their baby boy or girl. They really didn't want to be let down again.

"Are you sure?' Luke asked anxiously. "Can we wait? Maybe it'll move its arms or turn around or something in a few minutes."

Doctor Kravitz smiled gently and nodded her head, continuing for 10 more minutes. By that point, Lorelai was growing sleepy and the doctor's hand was starting to ache.

"I do have another patient in 10 minutes," Doctor Kravitz told them apologetically. "This little one is not budging."

"You are driving Mommy insane, kid!" Lorelai said to her belly. "You're so grounded when you get out."

Luke sighed. "So that's it?"

"I'm afraid so," said Doctor Kravitz. "I know it's frustrating, and you can always try for a third ultrasound, but it's something you'll have to think about." She turned off the ultrasound machine and handed Lorelai a towel to wipe her belly of the gel.

Luke helped Lorelai up and Doctor Kravitz excused herself to let Lorelai get dressed.

"So, what do we think?" Lorelai asked as she removed her gown.

"I think we don't have another $200 to spend on an ultrasound," Luke admitted, handing Lorelai her shirt.

"Yeah, I hear ya," Lorelai said, putting on her shirt and then proceeded to put on her pants. "So, how badly do we want to know the gender?"

"We'll find out in three months anyway," Luke offered. "And it'll be kind of nice to be surprised. You like surprises."

"But you don't," Lorelai reminded him.

Luke smiled. "I guess, but this is the good kind of surprise, right?"

Lorelai smiled back as she slipped on her shoes. "Right."

"So, I guess we're going to wait."

"I guess so," Lorelai echoed, leaning forward to wrap her arms around Luke.

"And we're okay with it, right?" he asked as if needed confirmation, wrapping his own arms around her.

"Yeah. We're more than okay with it."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Early that afternoon, Rory drove into Stars Hollow. In the midst of thinking over the potential job prospect at the Courant, she decided to drive home and pick up some clippings from the Yale Daily News, and find out if she was having a new brother or sister while she was there.

Turning onto her street, Rory noticed a huge crowd of people gathered on the front lawn of the house.

On one side of the lawn, a crowd stood holding a giant blue sign with 'IT'S A BOY' written on it. On the other side, they held a pink sign with 'IT'S A GIRL'. Neither side seemed too happy with the other, and everyone seemed to be creating quite a fuss.

When Rory drove her Prius into the driveway, hordes of her old friends and neighbors swarmed her car.

"Rory!" cried Bootsy before she even exited the vehicle. "I'll give you half my winnings if you tell me it's a boy. Please say it's a boy!"

"Bootsy, stop harassing the poor girl," Miss Patty scolded him, pushing him aside and putting a friendly arm around Rory. "Besides, we all know it's going to be a girl. Right, Rory?"

"I..." Rory began, unsure of what to say. Gently shrugging Patty's arm from her shoulders, she proceeded to walk towards the house, figuring that if she ignored them, they'd go away.

"Rory, their appointment was an hour ago!" cried Pete. "You of all people should be the first to know!"

"I truly have no idea, everyone," Rory said apologetically, unlocking the door and letting herself into the house. She leaned against the back of the door and sighed.

Once in her room, Rory quizzically looked at a lump beneath the bed covers, a muffled voice humming what sounded like a Beatles tune.

Rory approached the bed and tossed the bedcovers aside. April, book and flashlight in her hands and iPod in her ears, screamed. Rory screamed, too.

"You scared me!" April cried.

"You scared me," Rory echoed. "Why are you hiding beneath the sheets in the dark like that?"

"Just wanted to hide from the mob out there," April explained. "I made the mistake of opening the door the first time. I had to eventually call Donna Parsons from down the street. She's about my height and weight. She sneaked in from the back, put on a hoodie of mine and ran out the front door pretending to be me."

Rory arched her eyebrows, impressed. "And that worked?"

"They thought nobody was home, so the bell hasn't rung once," said April proudly. "Until now, anyway," she added when the doorbell rang.

"If we ignore it, maybe they'll go away," offered Rory.

"I doubt they'll go away, but I like the ignoring it part," said April. "So what brings you down here?"

Rory turned on the bedroom lights and began looking through some of her desk drawers. "Oh, I'm just looking for some old articles I wrote," she explained, shutting one drawer and opening a new one. "I'm thinking of applying to a job, and want to add them to my portfolio."

"Cool," said April, swinging her legs to the edge of the bed. "Where at?"

"The Hartford Courant."

"Impressive," said April. "And it's close to home."

Rory smiled. "Yeah, it is."

"So does that mean no more freelancing?" April inquired.

"Pretty much," confirmed Rory, walking to her closet and picking out a box.

"But what about the romance of not knowing where your next pay will be coming from, eating nothing but ramen noodles and mac and cheese until you can afford actual groceries?" April had an awed look on her face.

Rory chuckled. "The romance has died. I think the time has come for me to have a steady income."

"Do you think you'll get it?" April asked.

"I hope so," Rory said. "Where are my articles?" she wondered aloud.

"When'd you last see them?"

"Two years ago?" Rory offered lamely. "I hope my mom wouldn't have thrown them out."

"Doubtful. I'm actually surprised Lorelai doesn't have a shrine of them somewhere in the house. Maybe in the attic!" April teased.

Rory playfully shoved her stepsister. "Great idea! You go check out the attic."

Amidst their giggles, they heard a commotion outside, and soon after, the front door slamming shut.

♫   ♫   ♫  

Luke and Lorelai drove into their driveway, Luke settling his truck behind Rory's car.

"Oh! Rory's here!" Lorelai squealed happily.

"That's the first thing you noticed?" Luke asked, pointing at the large crowd camped out on their front lawn.

They got out of the car, and the crowd immediately surrounded the couple.

"What the hell is going on?" Luke asked.

"We're just here to congratulate you on your little girl!" shouted Gypsy.

Luke and Lorelai both stared at the crowd incredulously, then looked at each other.

At their silence, Babette hooted. "It's a boy!"

The two sides proceeded to argue, until Luke put his thumb and forefinger to his lips and whistled.

"We're not telling you a damn thing!" cried Luke. "I don't know how to say this any nicer, but get off our lawn before I call the cops."

Lorelai looked out into the crowd and saw the local sheriff on the 'blue' side. "Hi Coop!" she called and waved.

Luke glared at him. "Coop?" he said, waving at the crowd surrounding him. "A little help here?"

"Um, right," Coop said, turning to the crowd. "Come on, everyone. Go home! Get off this nice couple's property." Nobody budged. He turned to Luke and Lorelai. "Sorry guys."

"You hardly tried," Luke told him.

"Sorry, I've got $500 riding on this."

Lorelai noticed Luke was ready to pop, so she gently put her hand to his back and directed him up the front steps to their door.

As Lorelai unlocked the door to let them inside, Bootsy asked, "Are you seriously not going to tell us the gender? We're your neighbors, Luke!"

Luke sighed. "It's an 'it', alright?" he said before he and Lorelai entered the house and shut the door.

♫   ♫   ♫  

After Luke closed the door on them, the crowd stood there in confused silence. Kirk was the first to break it.  "Yes!" he happily shouted, raising his fist in the air triumphantly.

"What are you so happy about, Kirk?" asked Gypsy. "He didn't tell us a damn thing."

"What are you talking about? Kirk asked. "My choice was gender neutral."

"Couldn't decide between boy or girl, could you, Kirk?" Andrew said with a laugh. A few others joined in.

"While that may be true, did you know that 1 in 2,000 American children are born hermaphrodites?"

The crowd took in that bit of information and, debating whether to believe Kirk or not. Taylor, the keeper of the voting list, was nowhere to be found.

"I need the list!" cried Andrew. "I need to change my vote!"

♫   ♫   ♫  

"This town is full of nutjobs," said Luke the moment they stepped foot in the house. He migrated to the living room and the nearest window, pulled aside the curtain and peered out at the lawn. "You sure you want to raise this kid here?"

"I'm fairly positive," Lorelai told him. "April! Rory!" she called. "You here or did the town kidnap you two in exchange for the baby's gender?"

"I'm here," April said, emerging from the bedroom.

"Me, too," Rory said, right behind her.

"Hey, kiddo! What brings you to the Hollow?"

"I have $100 riding on this, so I thought I'd come by and hear first-hand if I'm having a brother or a sister," she joked.

"Unfortunately, it's neither," Lorelai admitted.

"Kid still didn't show you the goods?" Rory asked.

"'Fraid not."

"Wow, the town must be up in arms," said April, walking over to where Luke stood, peering out the window with him.

"Eh, they'll get over it," said Lorelai with a dismissive wave of her hand. "Oh, mommy needs to sit down," she said, taking Rory's hand and moving toward the couch.

"The hell is Taylor doing out there?" Luke said from the window, spotting Taylor speaking to the crowd. "Probably encouraging them, the jerk."

"Hey, no, it looks like he's shooing them away," said April as some people started to break up.

"Why the hell would he do that?" Luke asked, and opened up the window.

"Go away right now or I will confiscate everyone's winnings and put them towards restoring the history museum!" he heard Taylor call.

"Taylor!" Luke shouted from the window.

Taylor turned to face him. "Oh, hello Luke."

"What the hell are you doing here?"

"I just heard you wanted this crowd dispersed, so here I am." He pointed at the now-empty front lawn. "See?"

Luke arched an eyebrow suspiciously. "But why?"

"Can't a person simply do something nice for his neighbor?"

"Not when you're the person and I'm the neighbor," Luke told him. "Are you messing with me?"

"Absolutely not!"

"Why not?" Luke asked, growing more confused. "We haven't been getting along lately, you apparently started this baby pool, and now you're trying to be my friend?"

"Did I say friend? I'm just attempting to be a good neighbor."

"Hon, I think he's being serious," Lorelai said from behind him.

"What do you want, Taylor?" he said, ignoring Lorelai. "An extra parking spot? A bigger window between our businesses? For me to decorate the diner on Groundhog Day? What?"

"While those would all be wonderful, "Taylor admitted, "I figured you and Lorelai were under enough pressure as it is, you don't need this pool infiltrating your privacy. I am sorry for starting it and will ensure everyone respects your need for space."

Lorelai giggled at Luke's untrusting and confused face. "Luke, he's being nice."

"I know, that never happens," he told her.

"Just shake the man's hand and accept his apology."

Luke sighed. "Thanks for your help, Taylor. And, hey, this whole rivalry between us? Let's just put an end to it, here and now."

Taylor smiled. "I would very much like that." He walked over to the window and held out his hand. "Truce?"

Luke extended his. "Truce."

"And, listen, by some chance when you do find out the baby's gender, do let me know first," Taylor said. "You know, for the town's record books and the welcome wagon..."

"Get off my lawn, Taylor."

"Right," Taylor said with a wave and scurried away.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Lorelai nudged Rory and then jerked her head toward the end of the couch where Luke sprawled with his head tipped back, snoring softly. They then turned toward the chair where April sat with her legs tucked beneath her and her head tipped back in exactly the same position, breathing deeply.

"Amateurs," Rory whispered as she picked up the remote to stop the DVD.

Lorelai covered Rory's hand with hers and shook her head. "He'll wake up as soon as you turn it off," she whispered. She nodded toward the kitchen and they both rose, careful not to disturb Luke.

"I can't believe he fell asleep during The Dark Knight," Rory whispered as she followed Lorelai into the kitchen.

"For the third time," Lorelai added as she opened the freezer and began to inspect its contents. "He's funny that way. Put in some kind of action movie, he's out like a light. Put in a chick flick, and he'll be wide awake, complaining the whole time."

"He needs the mockery to keep him awake."

"I suppose so," Lorelai murmured. "Aha!" she cried softly as she pulled a pint of Chunky Monkey from the depths of the freezer and held it up for Rory to admire.

"Excellent," Rory hissed as she moved to the drawer to procure plastic spoons. "Where's the plastic stuff?" she asked when she found only silverware.

"Filling the world's landfills. I've been cut off," Lorelai said as Rory handed her a real spoon. "He's also thinking that we're doing the cloth diaper thing. I give it a week," Lorelai said as they sat down and began to pry the lid from the container. She smiled at Rory and said, "I'm so glad that you decided to stay and hang out with us."

"I am too," Rory said, returning her mother's smile.

As she watched Rory dig her spoon into the hard packed ice cream, Lorelai tried to sound casual as she asked, "So, the car's okay?"

"Seems to be," Rory said with a shrug.

"And you got the insurance thing straightened out?"

"Everything is fine," Rory assured her.

Lorelai watched her out of the corner of her eye for a moment and then dug into the ice cream with her spoon. "I don't know how you can stand it."

"Stand what?"

"The not knowing," Lorelai said with a shrug. "I could never do that."

"Not knowing what?" Rory asked with a perplexed frown.

"The job thing. You're so cool about it. I could never have done that. I like knowing there's a check coming."

"You didn't know that when you started the Dragonfly," Rory pointed out.

"Well, yes and no. I mean, I could get at the money any time if I needed to," Lorelai said with a shrug.

"But it's not like getting a paycheck," Rory insisted.

"Oh, I get a check," Lorelai said with a laugh. "Well, not really a check, it's direct deposited, but Sookie and I have paid ourselves from the start. At least a little something. Getting a check, no matter how small, kept us from going bonkers," Lorelai said as she gestured to her head with her spoon.


"Oh yeah," Lorelai said with a mouthful of ice cream.

"I didn't know that," Rory mused.

Lorelai shrugged as she scraped ice cream from the pint. "Well, we lived pretty hand to mouth for a while. I couldn't not have something, you know? Even if I was paying myself with my own money. Made me feel more secure, I guess."

"Huh," Rory grunted as she took the container and dug out a spoonful of ice cream. "Does Luke pay himself? Write out a check each week?" she asked, recalling the handwritten payroll checks that she had seen Lane pick up from the diner.

Lorelai shook her head and said, "Luke doesn't even keep his own tips, they all go in the jar."

"Sounds like Luke."

"I know I worry too much," Lorelai said quietly, staring at the ice cream mounded on her spoon. "I know I've been driving you nuts with the job and the money and the apartment and everything. I really don't mean to."

"Oh, no," Rory began to protest.

"It was just you and me for so long, and the only job I cared about doing well was making sure that you had everything that you needed. It's kind of hard to let go of that," Lorelai admitted.

"Oh, Mom."

"And I wanted this. I wanted you to have the chance, the opportunity to take risks, to try things, to reach for the stars. Even to fail spectacularly if that's what was meant to be, you know? I really wanted that for you, but I have to tell you, it's killing me," she said with a rueful laugh.

"You're dripping," Rory said as she nodded to the forgotten spoon clutched in Lorelai's fingers. She watched as Lorelai dutifully shoveled the ice cream into her mouth. "It's killing me too," Rory confessed.

Lorelai blinked in surprise and asked, "It is?"

"Well, yes and no. I like the freedom, I like the variety, but the lack of steady income?" she asked, a bitter laugh escaping her lips. "No, I don't care for that."

"Aw, Hon, it'll get better," Lorelai said, quickly reassuring her.

"I don't think so," Rory said softly. "I mean, it's okay and maybe I can eke by a little while longer, but I'm really starting to think about finding a job."

"A job?"

Rory nodded. "Yes. A real grown up, go into the office, hang out at the water cooler, Dolly Parton singing 'Nine to Five' job."

"Wow." Lorelai sat back in her chair, her hand resting on the gentle swell of her stomach. "What brought this on?"

"I hate macaroni and cheese," Rory said vehemently. "I hate not being able to drink Cosmos and buy Jimmy Choos. I hate waiting by the mail box for checks that should have come weeks before. And, can you tell me why an online magazine can't figure out how to pay their staff electronically? Who writes checks anymore?" she demanded.

"Luke Danes," Lorelai answered promptly.

"Well, he's Luke," Rory said, waving off Lorelai's answer. "Anyway, I'm thinking about it."

"What kind of job?" Lorelai asked curiously.

Rory shifted in her seat. "I met the managing editor for the Courant in traffic school."

"Oh my God!" Lorelai laughed. "You take networking to new heights, kid. Or, is it lows when it's traffic school?"

"Yeah, I think in this case it would be lows," Rory admitted with a chuckle. "Anyway, he mentioned something about needing a features reporter, and I keep thinking about it. That's why I came home today. I wanted to pull out some of my articles from the Yale Daily News for my portfolio," she admitted.


"Mr. Zucker was a former Daily News editor, and he knows Grandma and Grandpa," Rory said with a small smile.

"You Yalies, it's like you travel in packs," Lorelai muttered as she rolled her eyes.

"Hey, it can't hurt, right? I mean, if that's what I decide to do," she amended quickly.

"No, Hon, it can't hurt," Lorelai said as she reached over and gave Rory's hand a squeeze. "You know, if you want to keep on doing what you're doing, Luke and I really don't mind helping you out," she said cautiously. "That's what I'm here for."

"I thought you were here to enhance the beauty of any room," Rory teased.

"And that," Lorelai said as she inclined her head regally.

"Thanks, Mom. I know you don't mind, but I do," Rory said, not looking up as she scraped another spoonful of ice cream from the pint.

"Anytime, kid, the offer stands."

"Oh, and can you maybe not mention this to Grandma and Grandpa? I haven't really decided anything yet," Rory explained.

"Me? Keep a secret from my parents?" Lorelai asked, aghast. "Well, I'll try, but you know how hard it is for me not to share each and every teeny tiny little aspect of my life with them," she said with a grin.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Rory stared down at a copy of the first article she had sold to Salon, running her finger over the logo printed in the corner of the page. She placed it on top of the stack of neatly printed pages and then set them aside, reaching for the zippered portfolio that held copies of the articles and editorials she had done for the Yale Daily News. She unzipped the case and gently ran her hand over the folded copy on the top, noting with a sad frown that it was already yellowing. She lifted the paper from the stack and glanced nervously around the empty apartment before raising it to her nose and breathing in the faint aroma of ink on newsprint with an appreciative smile. She placed the paper back on the stack, and picked up the business card that sat propped against her address book.

Her brow furrowed in determination as she picked up her cell and punched in the numbers with her thumb. A moment later, she said, "Um, yes, may I speak to Robert Zucker, please?" Rory drew a deep breath as she listened for a moment and then said, "Oh, no, that's okay. I'll call back another time. Thank you," she added before hanging up quickly.

Rory placed the phone gently on the table and then looked up at the picture that served as the screen-saver on her laptop. The candid snapshot of her mother, Luke, April and herself taken on the beach at Martha's Vineyard just after the wedding bounced from one corner of the screen to the other. Rory ran her pen along the plastic zipper on the portfolio, lost in thought. She chewed her bottom lip as she watched the picture rebound from the lower left-hand corner and head for the upper-right, and then picked up the articles she had printed out. She placed them carefully atop the newspapers in the portfolio, closed the cover, and zipped it shut. With a slight nod, Rory set the portfolio aside and pulled her laptop closer, startling the screen into hiding as her desktop appeared. She clicked on her inbox, closed her eyes and held her breath as she waited for the new messages to load.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"Lorelai, what's this I hear about your child being a hermaphrodite?" Emily asked during Friday night dinner.

Lorelai choked on her food, as did Luke, and both Rory and April let out snorts of laughter.

"Um, excuse me, Mom?"

"What's this rumor going around your town that this baby will be intersex?"

"Wow, Mom, have you been reading the Stars Hollow Gazette, or have you been hanging out at the newsstand with Babette and Miss Patty?"

"Lorelai, just answer the question!"

"I refuse to answer such a ridiculous question."

"It is not ridiculous," stated Emily. "Intersexuality is common in every few thousand births, and I want to know if my grandchild falls under that category or not."

"No, Mom, our baby will have but one gender, I assure you."

"How can you be so sure?" pressed Emily. "You didn't go for a third ultrasound after the first two were inconclusive—which I've said time and again I'll gladly pay for—so you can't be sure if this child is male or female."

Lorelai let out a sigh of frustration and peered over at Luke, who shrugged his shoulders and gave her a look of sympathy.

"Mom, please trust me on this," Lorelai begged. "This baby will be fine. We'll find out its gender on the day it's born, and I promise, it's a gender you'll be able to identify on any government form."

"So you've truly decided to wait to find out the sex of the baby?" Richard asked.


"Are you sure about this?" Emily asked.

"Are we 100% happy?" Lorelai asked. "No, not really. But the fact that this kid will not show itself is a sign, so we're slowly warming to the idea of being surprised."

"That's sweet, Mom," Rory said.

Emily still seemed displeased with Lorelai and Luke's decision, digging her knife and fork into her steak with great ardor.

The entire table cringed as knife made contact with porcelain, making a screeching noise.

"Emily, you'll scratch the fine china," Richard told her.

"Mom, why is this such a big deal?" Lorelai asked. "I swear, you'll be one of the first to know. I'll call you during the delivery and give you a play-by-play."

Emily sighed. "Fine, if you must know, I was at the inn over the weekend and that Mr. Doose was there. He mentioned the pool that was going on in your town..."

"Oh, no..." Lorelai groaned.

"And I thought, 'Why not?' I assumed I'd have an edge over your town's residents given the fact that I'm your mother, but it seems I am given the same courtesy as your garbage man."

"Mom, how much money do you have riding on this?" Lorelai asked, not sure she wanted to know the answer.

Emily hesitated a bit before answering, "$5,000."

The whole table gasped.

"Grandma!" Rory spat out in complete shock.

"Mom, that's way too much money!" Lorelai scolded her.

Even Richard wondered aloud if his wife had, in fact, lost her mind.

"Don't look so surprised. I still think I have a winning chance. Lorelai, you're exhibiting all the same cravings I had when I was pregnant with you, as well as the same you had when pregnant with Rory, so I am fairly certain you will be having another girl."

"Mom, all that that craving business, and how's the belly hanging stuff is just superstition. There's a good chance I may be having a boy."

"Nonsense," Emily told her insistently. "It's a girl. $5,000 says so."

Lorelai eyed her mother nervously and then looked at Luke. "What'll happen if we have a boy?" he asked her quietly.

"Dress him up in girls' clothing and hope she never figures it out?" she whispered.

"Fine," Luke muttered. "But we're not naming him Klinger!"






To be continued... 




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