Episode 9.17 "Vested Interests"
by wounded and Mrs. Dionysius O'Gall


Authors' Note: This was a fun one to write! Sorry for the week-long delay; please put away all torches and pitchforks! Big ups to Jewels, Jenepel, and Robinpoppins, the readers for the continued love and support, and to Amy and Dan for coming up with these lovely characters in the first place!

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"Hey, Gilmore!" a voice across the editorial office shouted out. "I'm headed on a Starbucks run, you want anything?"

Rory looked up from her computer screen, noticing Mike at the entrance of the editorial office wearing his coat and an expectant smile.

"Are you going to the one on Asylum?" she asked him hopefully.

"You know it!" he told her.

"Thank goodness," she said, more to herself than anyone else. "Get me a venti caramel macchiato with extra whip. I'll pay you when you get back."

Mike nodded and exited the large office space, and Rory went back to her computer screen.

She was working on her outline for her latest article, assigned to her that morning at their weekly editorial meeting. It was a good topic, she thought, exploring the claim that children of single parent families have lower success rates than children raised in two-parent homes. Rory's angle was looking at President Obama's own achievements, being raised by his young, single mother.

Rory assumed that Don, her editor, had assigned her that piece due to her brief stint following the Obama campaign, and not the fact that she herself was raised by a single mother. Don didn't know much about her personal life, so that was out of the question.

As Rory was working on her outline, referencing a few sociological research papers she stumbled upon, when Jodie walked up to her.

"I'm so jealous you got the Obama story," she whined, sitting on the edge of Rory's desk. "Covering the recent staff cuts at the schools is not my idea of fun. I hate education reporting."

Rory nodded, inwardly gleeful at her article topic. She knew Jodie was hoping to switch, but Rory wasn't budging.

As if on cue, Rory's phone rang. "Sorry, I have to take this," she told Jodie, picking up the receiver. "Rory Gilmore."

Jodie got up and walked away as Rory heard her mother on the other end of the line. "Hi, hon," she listened to Lorelai's chipper voice. "How's my favorite daughter? Although, you may have some competition if this one's a girl."

"Mom," Rory hissed, looking around the office. Nobody seemed to pay her any mind. "What have I said about calling me at work?"

Rory could practically hear her mother rolling her eyes. "You won't get fired for making a personal call," she assured her. "99% of the people in that office are making personal calls, chatting on MSN and sending dirty emails."

"I don't think that's a valid statistic, but okay."

"Anyway," Lorelai went on, "I just checked my inbox and noticed your message. Single parents and successful kids, huh? Well, if you want to interview your dear ol' mother, I am more than happy to accept."

Rory absently typed a note into her Word document. "Mom, I was just sharing the news with you, I wasn't soliciting you for an interview."

"But why wouldn't you?" Lorelai asked with mock-indignance. "I birthed and raised a successful child. Your hypothesis is proven right there."

"Mom, there are other variables, different situations," Rory explained. "I don't think you giving birth to me exactly proves my point. The fact that you were single was not the sole reason I came out so well."

"You're right," Lorelai said. "Whether I am single or married, I can't help but be a super-parent, giving birth to super-offspring."

"Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying," Rory said sarcastically.

Lorelai seemed to ignore her. "That's what I do; I birth outstanding children every few decades. I might as well get your little brother or sister a registration form for Mensa."

Rory heard someone's throat clear and looked up to see Mike standing above her with her coffee.

'Thank you', she mouthed to him.

"Oh, Mom, look, my coffee's here, I have to go," she said quickly.

"Fine, fine, get back to work," Lorelai told her. "I'll just sit here in front of the TV, watching some boring science show on the Discovery Channel just to provide mental stimulation to the baby. The things I do for my kids."

"Bye, Mom!" she called, hanging up the phone. She looked back up at Mike. "I have never been so happy to see you, my friend."

He beamed. "Always happy to help," he said with a wink, and headed back to his desk.

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"Now that was satisfying for a change," Richard exclaimed as he nudged his empty dessert plate away from him.

"Are you sure that you're sure...?" Rory asked.

"...That I can have this?" Richard interjected. "Given my health problems..."

"Cook uses that new stuvia or stevie..." Emily supplied, searching for the correct wording of the sugar substitute that Richard's taste buds had finally found acceptable.

"Stevia!" Richard shouted.

"Stevia!" Rory echoed, polishing off her own dessert. "Friday Night Dinner would not be Friday Night Dinner without the drinks and the desserts."

"It's really too bad your mother isn't here," Emily finally introduced the usually sore subject of her mother's absence. "Are you certain she really is resting?"

Rory nod and smiled quickly to alleviate any concern. "Yes. Just a little exhaustion. Mom thinks her doctor is really, really particular."

"Well, she's not young anymore, is she now?" Emily added. "In my day, very few women had babies after thirty. But no matter, your grandfather and I will certainly be happy when she's able to attend regular Friday Night Dinners again."

Richard asked, "How many more weeks?"

Rory shrugged. "I don't know. It's kind of hard to keep track of the latest pregnancy drama these days." Rory giggled.

Rory and Richard exchanged a grin and a glance, which Emily missed as she daintily finished her own dessert.

Emily continued, "I'm counting on you, Rory Gilmore, to remind your mother that once the baby is born, we expect her..."

"...and the baby..." Richard added.

"... back at Friday Night Dinner. And Luke, too, if he can find someone to cover his diner duties. Really, you'd think that a restaurateur would be able to find someone to cover for him," Emily complained, only to be interrupted by Rory, seeking to prevent a full-out assault on Luke.

"It really isn't the same without mom here to provide the entertainment," Rory proclaimed, winking at her grandfather.

"I do miss my daughter's humor, some of the time at least," Richard admitted, folding his napkin. He nodded at Consuela, discretely hovering near the table. She promptly removed his dessert dish. "Though as usual, Rory, your company is certainly a delight." Richard's eyes clouded. "Your mother's doing very important work right now..."

"...growing a person!" Rory added.

"Well, I do miss her," Richard concluded, a faraway expression remaining on his face.

"Shall we adjourn to the living room for a special after-dinner coffee? I have a liqueur that Patsy Wellington brought back from Spain. She says it is the perfect marriage with coffee..." She turned to Consuela. "Coffee, Consuela, for all of us, with a splash of the Crema Catalana." She looked at Rory. "Patsy says it's absolutely lovely added to coffee as the Spanish do."

All three Gilmores rose, ready for their Spanish treat, and made their way to the living room, where Consuela had already placed the coffee tray.

After taking a long sip, Rory could only respond with a moaned, "Mmmm." Her mind flashed back to the morning's venti.

"Lorelai would love this!" Richard continued, wistful.

Rory nodded in agreement, noticing the look on her grandfather's face.

Patting his arm, she suddenly had an idea. "I know! Let's surprise Mom!"

Emily frowned.

Rory continued, "Where's your laptop, Grandpa? In the den? We can see mom at this exact moment. Let's surprise her!"

Emily seemed perplexed, but Richard supplied, "It's in the hall by the coat closet. In the rolling case." He turned to Emily and smiled. "Young people and technology."

"We'll use the webcam. You can help me set it up." Rory went to the foyer to fetch the rolling laptop case.

Returning, she asked, "Shall we? In the den? Or here?"

"Here will be fine. I believe the battery is, as the kids say these days, all juiced up," Richard said.

Richard and Emily watched as a few minutes later, Rory had booted up the laptop and was bringing up its webcam application. All the while, she provided a running commentary on what she was doing.

"Just a sec, and we'll have the 'Blob that ate Stars Hollow' on-screen," Rory chortled. "I'm sure Mom'll be there; surfin' the net is all she does when she's supposed to take it easy. I think Luke's secretly afraid that she's running up a tab on all kinds of online stuff..."

Suddenly, Lorelai's face came into view.

"Bitsy Schnitzelfanger calling!" Rory giggled into the webcam.

Lorelai, who was decidedly bored, immediately answered. "Loin fruit!" Lorelai proclaimed. Obviously alone, she was wearing her own unique style of pregnancy casual-wear. As best as Rory could tell, her mother was dressed in a combination of leftover 80s-style leggings, an oversized t-shirt, and an unbuttoned Luke's flannel.

"Hey, aren't you supposed to be at Friday Night Dinner?" Lorelai asked.

Before she could continue questioning Rory, Rory ducked her head, and Lorelai spotted her parents, who had by now gathered behind her. "Oh... Dad! Mom!" Always quick with the witticisms, she added, "Should have known that I couldn't escape Friday Night Dinner, even when I'm a housebound blob."

Richard was clearly embarrassed; he wasn't used to an unkempt Lorelai. Emily, looking over his shoulder, immediately admonished her daughter about her appearance.

"Really, Lorelai. If they don't have maternity shops in Stars Hollow, the least you could do is go to the Hartford Mall."

Ignoring her mother, Lorelai grumbled, "I'm telling you, the second time around is not better when it comes to pregnancy. Everything, and I mean everything, gets looser and starts hanging over the edge. You wouldn't believe the grandma underwear—sorry, Mom—I'm wearing." Lorelai grimaced. "Automatic chastity belt material. I'd have made a killing during the Middle Ages selling these. Oh, I so miss my thon—"

"Lorelai!" a scandalized Emily exclaimed.

"If I'm ever in an airplane again, I can use one as a parachute," Lorelai continued. "Just give me a moment to get comfy, 'kay?" Lorelai asked, suddenly serious.

"Hey, Mom, why don't you tell Grandpa about that Discovery Channel show you watched this afternoon?" Rory broke in.

"Discovery shovery," Lorelai grumped, then reached for a glass of water. Taking a sip, she continued, "So Dad, did my lovely and intelligent daughter tell you about her latest assignment in the muckraking world of journalism?"

"That she did."

"Before we finished drinks, even," Emily added, turning to Rory. "I confess that when you graduated, I had my doubts about the Obama job, but it looks like it did lead to better things."

"Say Grandma, now would be a good time for you to show me some of those pictures of Mom right after I was born. I might want to use one or two for the article," Rory suddenly remembered. "I'm sure Mom and Grandpa can entertain themselves 'til we get back."

"Let's go take a look," Emily suggested.

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Richard turned his attention back to the laptop screen as Lorelai coughed, regaining his attention.

"Dad, I want to run some suggestions by you. I know exactly what Rory should say in her article. Maybe you can convince that granddaughter of yours to use my ideas."

Richard nodded, and settled back into his chair, enjoying the video chat. "You know, Lorelai, this technology is really very useful. I can see myself talking every day with my new grandchild. I'll be able to steer him or her in the right direction, guide them in learning good study habits, tenacity, that old Gilmore stick-to-it-ive-ness."

Richard reached for his coffee cup and took a final sip.

"Rory has so much of the Gilmore business acumen in her. There are times she reminds me of Trix. I just knew that Yale would be perfect for her."

Richard continued, oblivious to Lorelai's increasing frustration. Within a few sentences, as Richard continued talking about Rory, Lorelai felt a twinge of jealousy. It almost seemed like Richard was acting as if she'd had no part in Rory's successful upbringing. Lorelai was sure that if Emily had been in the room, she'd insist that they take credit for it all.

But as Richard continued, even through the distance, Lorelai could sense his pride. Maybe it wasn't such a bad thing that Richard was so invested in Rory.

Eventually, their chit-chat reverted back to the subject of Friday Night Dinner. "Never thought I'd say this," Lorelai mumbled, "but I'd almost kill to be able to be out and about more—even Friday Night Dinner seems appealing."

"Well, young lady, we certainly miss you," Richard agreed. "Why just the other morning at breakfast, I was telling Emily that these days, I have more interaction with the towel boy at the club, than with my own daughter!"

Lorelai yawned, and Richard took that as his cue to end their video chat. "You do look exhausted, Lorelai. But I think we can agree that our Rory is amazing. And now we have a new way to keep up with you," Richard beamed into the webcam. "And that new baby!"

"Good night, Dad, and tell Rory to drive carefully."

"Will do. Now get some sleep," Richard instructed, as he fiddled with various escape mechanisms before finally getting the video chat to shut down.

The screen finally dark, he rose in search of his other Gilmore girls. Walking past the foyer, he stopped in his path and realized that he'd meant to ask a favor of Lorelai. Four glittering vests hanging on a rack caught his eye.

The Quartet costumes! He'd meant to talk to Lorelai about getting her to help alter the vests. "Damn old age," he muttered. "Why does the memory have to be first to go..."

"Grandpa, you OK?" Rory was suddenly next to him.

Looking down at her, he saw that she clutched a small handful of photos. "So, did you find what you need for the article?" he asked.

"Oh yes. Grandma was very helpful!" Rory looked at the vest Richard was now clutching. "Grandpa, does the Quartet have a performance coming up?"

"As a matter of fact, we do!" Richard responded, brightly. "We're competing at Regionals."

"You'll all look so handsome in those vests."

"Actually, I meant to ask your mother for some help, but I forgot."

Rory nodded her head. "Just call her tomorrow. I'm sure she'll be happy to help. She was always good at that sort of stuff when I was a kid."

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Early the next morning, the sun was barely peaking through the blinds as Luke awoke at his customary time. His hand on Lorelai's warm hip, he debated his next course of action. Lorelai had once told him that morning sex, especially on a weekend, was a cliché. She then proceeded to tease him and call him "Mr. Saturday Morning" anytime he initiated 'activities' on a Saturday.

As if reading his mind, Lorelai let out a small murmur.

"Whatever she had last night must have been good," he muttered to himself. He reached up to stroke her hair, slowly twining the length of a strand around a finger, then unfurling it. Usually, playing with her hair piqued Lorelai's interest.

Lorelai was also so warm, so very warm. Are all pregnant women this warm? he wondered. He rubbed up against her, to no avail. He then gently reached for her breasts under the voluminous nightgown she'd taken to wearing.

Getting no reaction, he pressed himself against her back, virtually wrapping himself around her. His intentions were clear. Crystal clear. Maybe that's why her body seemed to suddenly tense.

Luke moved his hand down to Lorelai's belly, and pulled himself closer to her. Sometimes, with her back to him, it almost seemed as if she was her normal size. His hand moved stealthily around her, and there was no end to the circumference of her belly. Suddenly, without having any control over his actions, his hand withdrew as if he had touched a live wire. Luke sank back into his side of the bed, suddenly surprised by Lorelai's girth. When had she become so huge?

Luckily, there still was no reaction from Lorelai.

Luke was not the type of man who enjoyed making love to a corpse-like woman, and usually, Lorelai rapidly woke up and was a willing participant, alternating sleepy sweetness with voracious hunger. But this morning, in spite of his attempts, it was not to be. She personified the saying 'dead to the world'.

Giving up, Luke groaned and rolled out of bed, heading into the bathroom to get dressed.

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The moment she heard the shower run, Lorelai moved, repositioning herself. Awake the entire time that Luke had tried to gain her interest, Lorelai did not feel guilty about having feigned sleep.

Ugh, she thought. I'm such a blob. He has no idea how blobby I feel and how gross my stretch marks are. Doing it would be so disgusting. He'll never ever want to have sex with me after the baby. Her thoughts then briefly went to Anna, as she realized that Luke had not been with her while she was pregnant with April. He really has no clue, she thought. No clue at all.

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After Luke left for the diner, Lorelai slowly made her way downstairs. As usual, breakfast awaited her, complete with instructions for reheating the omelet Luke had prepared. Ravenous, Lorelai didn't bother heating the omelet for as long as Luke's post-it recommended, but immediately began to inhale the cheesy goodness. "What?" she barked out a few moments into her 'breakfast', suddenly realizing that Paul Anka was looking at her rather balefully. "The kid's hungry!" she justified as she finished eating and simultaneously gulped the contents of the juice glass Luke had left for her. The big lug of a dog kept staring sadly at her, so Lorelai was more than relieved when their canine staring contest was interrupted by the ringing house phone.

"Dad," Lorelai softly mumbled as she saw Richard's number on caller ID.

"Good morning, Lorelai!" Richard boomed into her ear. "Nice day today."

"Morning, Dad," Lorelai reciprocated, adding, "Easy on the ears, there, please."

"Is this a good time to talk?" Richard continued.

"Oh no, what's Mom done now?" Lorelai quipped. "Just give me a second to get this dog out of the way." Lorelai nudged Paul Anka with her bare foot, almost losing her balance.

Paul Anka continued to stare.

"So, what's up?" Lorelai asked. "You webcam me one night, and call me the next day, I'm beginning to feel like I'm back in middle school. Getting all this attention from you."

"You seem to be doing fine, Rory tells me," Richard blithely continued. "I need..."

"Go ahead."

Richard gently brought up the subject of his Quartet's vests. "I'm proud to inform you that my Gentleman's Quartet is competing in the Regional Finals next month."

"Richard Gilmore, song and dance man extraordinaire!" Lorelai quipped.

"We require... a costume change, as it were. New vests to go along with the new theme of our songs. With the economy being in such dire straits, we're bringing back some of the songs of the Great Depression era. We're debuting them at Regionals."

"So, you're going all O Brother Where Art Thou on us?"

Richard chuckled. "Well, that was a good film... quite accurate musical depiction."

"George... oh George," Lorelai dreamily intoned. "All I cared about was the Clooney..." 

"Seriously, Lorelai, our appearance must fit the theme. I'd take the matter to a professional seamstress..."

"Hello, seamstress here on the other end of the line," Lorelai informed him.

"So I've seen. But two of the men have hit a rough patch financially, and do not have the funds to expend for a new vest."

"Madoff made off with their money?" Lorelai guffawed at her own joke, then continued. "So you need some vest downsizing?"

"Exactly," Richard confirmed. "I offered to purchase them, as a gift, but a man has nothing if not his pride."

"And I bet mom was not too thrilled with that idea either."

"Emily prefers to be somewhat cautious these days with regard to financial matters. We've also been somewhat affected by this recession."

Lorelai paused for a second, and winked at Paul Anka. "Well, Dad, you may have noticed that I have a little bit of time these days. Not working so hard at the inn. Not to mention, it's kind of hard going out when you're as big as this." She glanced down at her belly. "Why don't I make the vest alterations for you?"

"You're sure it won't be a problem with your condition?"

"Condition? Nah... being knocked-up is a piece of cake, can't you tell?" Lorelai laughed. "Dad, just drop them off with a note describing what they need to look like. And if I'm home, I can check the fit on you."

Richard sighed with relief. "I'll drop off the old vests with instructions."

"Sounds like a plan," Lorelai continued, and squinted at Paul Anka. "Dad, gotta hang up, Paul Anka's making pee-faces."

"Have a good day, Lorelai."

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Sookie was in the kitchen, frantically dicing tomatoes, since Jim, the intern she hired from the Connecticut Culinary Institute, hadn't been chopping them finely enough. She had relegated him to stirring the sauce, a task, frankly, Lorelai was better at doing.

"Like I said, Jim," Sookie called over to him from across the kitchen, "all you need is a proper knife and the perfect wrist motion. Oh, and a perfectly ripe tomato, courtesy of Jackson."

It was at that moment that Michel walked in, empty coffee cup in-hand. "Must you make it any more obvious that you're sleeping with the funny vegetable man?"

He walked over to the coffee machine.

"Hey, it's not my fault the man grows the greatest vegetables on the East Coast," she told Michel, pointing her knife at him.

There soon was a knock on the door, and Sookie looked up from her task into the face of the tall, handsome man that entered her kitchen.

Sookie continued to dice her tomato as she stared at him, mouth agape, nearly cutting her finger with her knife. Luckily, Jim was quickly next to her, pulling her hand aside.

"Nice work," noted Michel dryly. "Good eyes, quick hands, and you ensured she did not bleed. You'll fit right in."

Jim beamed.

Sookie ignore them both.

"Um, h-hi!" she told the stranger.

"Hi," he said, looking down at his piece of paper. "I'm looking for a Sookie St. James?"

"Sookie!" she cried, then quickly composed herself. "Um, I'm Sookie. That's me."

He smiled warmly. "Hi," he said. "I'm Adam. I'm your new poultry guy."

"New poultry guy?" asked Sookie, now eyeing him suspiciously. "What happened to Shel?"

"Oh, he left the business," explained Adam. "He sold it to me and headed off to California."

"Oh, thank God," muttered Michel. "That man had a few screws loose."

"Well, that's too bad," said Sookie sadly. Although she wasn't sad at all as she inwardly blessed tiny, California-bound Shel for bringing Adam into her life. "But it's a pleasure to meet you!"

"Thanks," said Adam genuinely. "I tell you, every one of Shel's old clients have been extremely welcoming."

I can guess as to why, Sookie thought, eyeing Adam up and down appreciatively.

"So, is that my chicken?" asked Sookie eagerly as she looked at the box in Adam's hand, hoping she sounded professional.

"Yes!" he said excitedly, putting the box down on the counter. "These are the best breasts in New England. I should know; I'm a breast man."

Sookie blushed before she began to giggle. "Breasts!" she cried clapping her hands in glee. "I get it! 'Cause of the chicken breasts, you're the breast man! You're funny!" She continued to giggle nervously, uncontrollably.

Adam laughed along, whereas Michel just rolled his eyes and exited the kitchen.

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"I can't believe you're working on your article," Tess said as Rory sat by a window table of the bookstore's tiny café. Tess was taking over barista duties for her absentee co-worker, an opportunity Rory relished in: it meant free coffee. Her thrice-filled mug was empty, her danish was half-eaten and she was typing furiously on her laptop.

"It's the weekend," she continued, as she wiped down the table beside her. "If I had the day off today—a Saturday, might I add—I sure as hell wouldn't be doing anything remotely work-related. I wouldn't even drink coffee or read a book!"

Rory looked up at her. "This thing needs to be handed in on Monday," she explained. "And I came up with an entirely different angle that made me start from scratch."

"What's the new angle?" Tess asked.

She had done the research, wrote all about welfare moms and kids on the streets versus sons promising to not be like their deadbeat dads and kids from single-parent families graduating from the Ivy Leagues.

But Rory had pondered her finished article all of Friday evening, and had thought back to her early years, her grandmother always yelling at Lorelai that, "Rory needs a father," that a male presence was essential to a child's life, to their chances of success. Rory had grown up without her dad, seeing him once or twice a year if she was lucky, and came out pretty darned good, she had to say.

Well, except for the boat theft and dropping out of Yale, she thought.

President Obama had also grown up without his father, a man who ran off when his son was two and who allegedly was an alcoholic and womanizer. Obama was probably better off without him, and now look where he was.

However much Rory wanted to see more of her father, she was bothered by what he was labeled as—a deadbeat dad, a man who ran off at the first sign of responsibility. After years of anger and disappointment, Rory realized that while her mother did own up to her responsibilities and raised Rory, Christopher was also just a kid at the time, so she couldn't fault him for not being ready for fatherhood. And, when his second chance came long, with Gigi, he had finally grown up.

"I just don't want my article to be too anti-father," Rory explained. "I guess I was dealing with some of my own personal demons as I wrote it, and it wasn't fair to my dad and to others. I was lucky that my dad wasn't a drunk, druggie or abuser. There are some great dads out there, and I want to give them their due, maybe even mention single-parent homes run by fathers." Again, she thought back to Christopher.

"Sounds fair," Tess responded in earnest, having been told about Rory's past and her childhood. "Hey, want some more coffee to help get those creative juices flowing?"

Rory smiled. "Sure," she said. "And, hey, when you're done with your shift, let's go watch Duplicity . After a long day, I think we both need a bit of a Clive Owen fix."

"I'm in!" Tess said with a smile, shoving her washcloth in her back pocket and heading behind the counter for the pot of coffee.

Rory looked back at her article and frowned. Staring out into the street, she thought about her dad.

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Luke, awaiting Lorelai's arrival, tossed his dishrag onto the counter, and immediately rushed through the lunch crowd to the door when he saw her outside the diner. He waited as Lorelai lugged herself up the few diner stairs.

"Burger Boy better have my food ready," Lorelai directed at him as she leaned against the door to shove it open.

"You sure you should be coming here in your condition?" he worriedly asked as he steadied her, then wrapped his arm around her.

"Sure, keep the knocked-up lady from having lunch! Put 'er on a diet... like being knocked-up doesn't have anything to do with you!" Lorelai complained, feeling a sense of discomfort as Luke firmly planted his hand on her now non-existent waist.

Closing the diner door, Luke turned to plant a kiss hello on her cheek. Before he could make contact, Lorelai simultaneously removed his hand from her waist and turned her cheek, so that he was almost kissing the air where her face had been. "On second thought, I think I'll take my grub to-go," she informed him, her tone and attitude leaving no room for argument.

Nevertheless, Luke responded with, "But you just got here!" His disappointment was evident in his tone.

"And you implied I shouldn't have come here in... how did you put it... my 'condition'!"

"Lorelai," Luke weakly whispered.

"Come on, snap to it, go get my food!" Lorelai obliviously commanded. "I've got a lot of work to do. Richard's got a project for me."

"Well, at least take a seat and rest for a minute. I'll get Caesar to cover while I drive you home." He stopped, suddenly realizing that Lorelai had said she had work to do.

"Richard has a project for you?"

"His Quartet is going all retro and singing some depressing Depression songs. I'm going to alter the vests."

"Is that a lot of work?"

"I don't think so, Hon." She smiled at her husband. "Now where's my food?"

Just then, Caesar appeared at Luke's side, cautiously placing a large brown paper bag on the table.

"Food! Glorious food!" Lorelai exclaimed.

Before she could reach for the bag, Luke beat her to the punch, and then extended his hand to help her rise.

"Mine!" Lorelai whined.

"If you cooperate, I'll let you have a few fries on the drive home."

Lorelai pouted. "We have to hurry, 'cause I need to stop off at the inn first. I promised I'd check up on things. And then, Richard will be dropping the vests off and I want to be there when he shows up. I need him to try his on for size."

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Arriving at the inn, Luke walked Lorelai in through the front door, then turned to offer her a kiss goodbye. But Lorelai kept walking, turning so that he only ended up grazing her on the cheek.

Where did my wife go, he wondered. The one who made every good-bye an epic undertaking? This pregnancy stuff sure was confusing.

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Sookie was in the kitchen at the inn, leaning on the counter, chin in-hand as she thought about Adam.

Adam, she mused. What a strong, manly name.

Mrs. Sookie Adam, she continued to muse inwardly. I need to find out his last name.

At that moment, the door burst open, and Lorelai walked in.

"Hey, Sookie," she told her. "How're you doing?"

"I'm fine," she told her, standing up and automatically heading to the coffee machine to pour her a cup. "Coffee?"

"Coffee?" Lorelai repeated. "I wish. I'm off caffeine, sweetie, you know that. And even if I did bite, I have a feeling Luke will somehow know."

Sookie giggled. "You're right!" She continued to laugh at herself. "Silly me."

"It's okay," Lorelai assured her. "But, listen, I have a question."

"Sure, sweetie," Sookie told her. "But, oh, let me tell you about the new poultry guy!"

"New poultry guy?" asked Lorelai, her interest evidently piqued. "What happened to Shel?"

"Gone!" Sookie shrieked happily. "He headed west, young man!"

"Oh, thank goodness!" Lorelai breathed out. "He still thinks Luke and I are pretending to be a couple, and that the marriage and the baby are just a real elaborate ruse."

"Anyway, about Adam," Sookie continued.

"Oh, Adam, how biblical!"

"He's tall, very handsome, great eyes, nice smile," Sookie said, getting more excited with each characteristic that she listed. "He kind of looks like Jon Hamm, but more Drew Baird than Don Draper."

"I so want to go to there," Lorelai said. "Tell me more!"

"And he's so funny," Sookie said, recalling their first meeting. "He said the funniest thing—"

"Aw, looks like someone has a crush on Adam," Lorelai said, interrupting her.

Sookie giggled. "Well, maybe a little," she admitted.

"Anywho, Sookie, I have a question," she said. "When you and Jackson—"

Jackson, Sookie thought. "Omigod!" she cried.

"What?" Lorelai asked.

"Jackson!" Sookie wailed, hands to her cheeks. "I'm lusting after another man while my husband is home with the kids."

"Come on, Sookie," Lorelai said with a dismissive hand. "It's normal to crush on another man."

"Really?" Sookie asked hopefully.

"Sure!" Lorelai said assuringly. "I'm sure if I told him, Luke would understand my thing for his bread guy, Jim. He has the strongest arms," Lorelai explained dreamily.

Sookie was not consoled. "I'm a cheating, two-timing floozy!"

"I feel like we've had this conversation before," Lorelai said as if to no one.

"What do I do?" Sookie asked.

"Um, nothing?" Lorelai told her. "Sookie, you've done nothing wrong. Say nothing, and just continue admiring Mr. Chicken. In fact, if he's as hot as you say, I may take a peek at him myself."

"Step back, he's mine!" Sookie cried angrily.

Lorelai took a step back. "O-kay," she assured her, a bit of fear in her eyes. "Now, my problem?"

"Sure," she said, still slightly agitated. "What is it?"

"When you were pregnant," Lorelai began tentatively, "did you ever feel completely unattractive at times?"

"Never," Sookie said honestly.

Lorelai's face fell. "Never?" she asked dully.

"I felt sexy the entire time," she went on. "Jackson was so great, said I'd never been sexier."

"Oh," was all Lorelai said. "Okay, thanks, Sookie. I have to go, have some vests to mend. I'll see you later." And she was out the door.

Sookie went back to leaning against the counter, recalling Jackson's sweetness during her pregnancies, when he couldn't keep his eyes—or his hands—off her.

She felt even worse.

"Oh God, what have I done?" she asked aloud and put her face in her hands.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Richard was seated at the kitchen table, watching as Lorelai pored over the vests and the instructions. "Who would have thought we'd have to go through such a terrible economic situation," he mused. "But you and Luke are OK?"

Lorelai jumped, thinking he was alluding to her personal relationship with Luke.

Richard, oblivious, continued, "He seemed to have a well-diversified portfolio."

"Oh, financially," Lorelai said with relief, "I think everything's fine. We're all set for April's future, and this baby...and a new house." She fingered the vests. "So let's get started with yours." She motioned for her father to come closer. "Slip this on," she requested. "Once yours is done, I'll make the same changes to the others."

"Well at least the inn is on good footing." Richard shrugged into his vest.

Lorelai squinted, critically eyeing the fit. "That feel good? You can still wave your arms around in it?"

Richard shyly assumed a typical Quartet stance.

"Arms out!" Lorelai commanded.

Richard complied.

"Now, turn around."

Richard awkwardly did as told.

"Looks good," Lorelai confirmed. "The inn is doing fine, and I must say, it is a huge relief that Rory seems to have found her footing again." She tugged at the vest. "Off."

Richard removed the vest. "I agree, that must be a relief. You never do stop being a parent, do you?" he rhetorically continued. "You must be as proud of Rory as I am of you."

Embarrassed at his slip, Richard momentarily stopped, then mustered the courage to continue. "You've done very well for yourself, and your mother and I are very proud of you. You have a certain natural business...ability...that's done wonders for that inn of yours." Self-conscious, he smiled his pride at Lorelai.

"And I can sew too!" Lorelai broke the ice. "Thanks, Dad," she meaningfully added, realizing that she was truly enjoying their time together. She took another look at the vest. "Wait!"

Richard looked at her, perplexed.

"What kind of pants are you wearing with this?"

"Knickerbockers," Richard supplied, "which do not require alteration."

"Well, put this vest back on, and come into the living room. And roll up your pants to the knee. We need to adjust it to work with the pants length."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Rory had spent Saturday afternoon polishing off her article, and she was pretty pleased with the final result.

However, her thoughts were still wrapped around her father. Even though she was happy with her life—and Rory knew she wouldn't be herself under different circumstances—she still thought of the what ifs. Granted, she had a better relationship with her father now that she cherished, but still, she wondered if maybe she would've been better off if he had been around more often growing up.

She and her mother wouldn't have lived in a shed, would've had more money, more opportunities growing up, and would've been closer to her grandparents—both sets—from an early age.

Rory shook her head, trying to get rid of those thoughts. She never regretted her and her mother's lifestyle, the "sheer poverty" of it, as her grandmother had so often put it. That life gave her insight into a world she would've never known otherwise, made her less selfish, gave her character. But did she ever blame her father for never being around? Her main concern seemed to be how he always broke her mother's heart, but they never really discussed his absence. The subject sat at the back of their minds; Rory, and maybe even Christopher, were too scared to mention it. She wondered if Christopher knew that she didn't hate him or blame him for anything.

Feeling guilty for even thinking for a moment of a life other than her own, Rory decided to pay Lorelai a visit. She knew Luke was working late, so she thought they could have some nice mother-daughter time, and she could share in her concerns.

The drive to Stars Hollow was quick, and as she turned into the Crap Shack's driveway, she noticed her grandfather's Bentley.

Rory used her keys to let herself in, and she spotted her mother and grandfather in the living room. He was standing on a stool wearing his Barber Shop's vest, while Lorelai pinned needles into the fabric and marked it here and there with tailor's chalk.

"Hey, Rory," Lorelai said with a smile.

Richard turned around to face her. "Rory!" he said, equally pleased. "This is a surprise!"

"Yeah, I just thought I'd stop by for dinner," Rory explained, setting her bag down. She was a bit disappointed that she didn't have her mom all to herself that night.

"You're in luck," Lorelai told her, as she surveyed Richard's vest up and down. "I just ordered oodles of Chinese, to make up for that dinner we never had a while back."

"Yes, your mother ordered extra spare ribs!" Richard said gleefully.

"You're done, Dad," Lorelai told Richard, and he stepped down and removed his vest.

"That's great!" Rory said, plopping on the couch. Lorelai puttered over and sat down next to her daughter. Richard sat in the chair.

"So how is work, Rory?" Richard asked. "How's your article coming along?"

"The one for which you declined my interview," Lorelai reminded them both with a huff.

Rory pretended to ignore her mother. "It's good. It's... done, actually. It just left me thinking."

"About?" Richard pressed.

"The importance of having two parents in a household instead of just one, I guess," she said. Rory didn't want to bring up her concerns about her father while her grandfather was there.

"A child does need a mother and a father," Richard advised, briefly glancing at Lorelai before turning back to Rory. "You were lucky."

"Well, I don't think it was luck as much as it was having a kick-ass mom," Lorelai added.

"Despite being the child of a single parent," Richard continued, "you've excelled. It's part being a Gilmore, and part having so many opportunities available to you. You've shown plenty of character to go from such simple means to graduating from Yale."

They all heard keys jangling outside the door and Luke's footsteps as he entered the house. "Hello?" he said.

"In here!" called Lorelai. "We've got a party going on."

Luke entered the living room, and Rory noticed the same look of disappointment at the sight of her and Richard as she must've had when she walked through the door earlier.

It was quickly gone when he leaned over to kiss Lorelai, then shook Richard's hand, and then gently put his hand on Rory's shoulder. "How's everyone?" he asked.

"We're good," Rory told him.

"Yes, we're about to have Chinese food!" Richard said excitedly.

"That's nice," he said, sitting on the couch. "What were you guys talking about?"

"Rory's article," Lorelai said proudly, rubbing her daughter's knee. "Discussing if a child is better off growing up with a father or without."

"Oh," said Luke softly, Rory realizing the topic probably hit too close to home. "I guess it depends on the situation. Some parents probably don't deserve being around if they don't realize how great their kid is." He looked down at Rory; Luke still held a grudge against Christopher for not being more involved in her life.

"And some dads would've given anything to be around more often," Lorelai said, reaching across the back of the couch to gently touch Luke's shoulder.

"Yeah," Luke said quietly, Rory noticing that he gently shrugged off Lorelai's hand, adjusting his baseball cap as he stood up. "I'm going to make myself a salad, since I'm assuming you probably didn't order any vegetable stir-fry for me." He looked over at Lorelai in mock-annoyance, and she just smiled up at him innocently.

"I'll be back," he said and headed towards the kitchen.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"Goodnight! Don't let the bedbugs bite!" Rory shouted up the stairs towards Lorelai and Luke.

"Goodnight, Rory." Luke appeared at the top of the landing. "Are all the doors locked?"

"Think so—I know I locked the front door when Grandpa left, but I'll triple-check, don't worry, Luke."

"Well, good night then," Luke repeated as he turned down the hall and entered the bedroom.

Lorelai had already somehow made it into bed, and drawn the covers literally up to her neck. Luke felt oddly relieved as he caught himself hoping that Lorelai would soon fall asleep. Going into the bathroom, Luke proceeded to slowly brush his teeth and change into fresh briefs and a t-shirt.

Crawling into bed, he noticed that while she was still awake, Lorelai didn't look too comfortable. Reaching out to touch her, he was met with a mild slap on the hand and a hissed, "Rory has ears! She'll hear us and be traumatized for life!"

Luke, stretching to turn off the lamp, was surprised and disappointed. "They say that over time, married people start turning into each other. That sounds like something I'd say." He turned on his side towards her. "Besides, Rory's not a little kid anymore."

"Not funny, Luke. Rory's been through a lot with Dean and Logan and now being single... the last thing she needs is to hear her old prego mom having a good time."

Luke was stunned. "Dean? Logan? That's all ancient history. Do you really believe what you're saying?"

"Yes," Lorelai adamantly insisted. "Don't you?" she challenged.

Frustrated, Luke took a deep breath and asked, "Lorelai. Did I do something wrong? Am I doing something wrong?"

Lorelai sighed but did not answer.

"Seriously, Lorelai. This is not about Rory, is it?" Luke tried again. "You've been avoiding me. Whenever I want to..."

Lorelai interrupted him, becoming agitated. "Oh, sure, make it all about you. I'm the one who's lugging this kid around, the one whose ankles have disappeared, whose waist is gone. Don't make it all about you," she hissed through gritted teeth.

Angry and offended, Lorelai turned to her side away from Luke, making it clear she was ready for sleep.

Half an hour later, Luke was still awake. In spite of his frustration at being rebuffed, he felt an unsettling sense of relief.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Sookie stared at the phone.

She leaned back in her chair, still eyeing the phone uncertainly.

Sookie wanted to call Adam. She was trying to fight the urge, but it wasn't her fault she needed three dozen chicken thighs.

Okay, maybe it is, Sookie admitted to herself. She did change next week's menu from veal scallopini to garlic and lemon roast chicken, after all.

Sookie took a deep breath and before she could talk herself out of it, she picked up the receiver and dialed Adam's number, which she had already memorized.

After two rings, Adam picked up the phone. "Hello?"

"Um, hi?" Sookie said nervously. "This is Sookie St. James? From the Dragonfly Inn?"

Sookie cringed as each statement came out in a question. I sound like a teenager, she thought, chiding herself.

"Hi, Sookie!" Adam said from the other end of the phone, sounding happy to hear from her. "What can I do for you?"

"I was just wondering if you could drop off three dozen chicken thighs tomorrow?" she asked him.

She went on, "See, Lorelai—that's my business partner, Lorelai—and I decided to cut down on some extravagances for budget purposes, so we're opting for something less expensive than veal," she lied.

"Not that I'm saying your poultry is cheap!" Sookie babbled on. "On the contrary, your chicken's very high-priced. Not too high-priced that you're charging us an arm and a leg, but appropriately-priced for the quality of poultry you're offering."

Sookie gripped the phone hard, wondering how good an idea stabbing herself with a kitchen knife was.

Adam just laughed. "It'll be my pleasure, Sookie," he told her. "You don't need to give me a reason to stop by."

Sookie let out a relieved breath, her nerves dissipating. She reminded herself of Lorelai's words, telling her that she wasn't doing anything wrong.

She relaxed her grip on the phone handle. "That's great," Sookie said confidently. "Because I'm sure you have great a reputation as a thigh man, just as great as you are a breast man!"

♫   ♫   ♫  

Sunday after lunch, Luke finished cleaning up the kitchen and loading the dishwasher. Looking at his watch, he saw that he still had some time before he was needed back at the diner.

Lorelai, on the couch, idly flipped channels with the remote. She looked tense, more tense than the night before. Lunch had been mostly silent, an unusual occurrence in their home, but given Lorelai's moodiness, it was not unexpected.

Continuing to watch Lorelai as he finished his chores, he noticed her favor one shoulder over the other, absentmindedly reaching back to rub it. Fighting the urge to tell her, "I told you so", Luke joined her on the couch. Sitting down next to Lorelai, he lifted her legs and placed her feet in his lap.

"Done with your father's project?" he casually asked.


"Rub your back?" he offered. "Maybe we can talk a bit while I work out some knots?" he continued, hopeful.

Lorelai made a shrugging motion, but Luke had no idea what she meant by it.

"No... no backrub. Baby wants a nap. Baby's going upstairs to nap."

"Is that code for going upstairs to 'fool around'?" Luke innocently asked. "Rory's not here right now."

"Did you not understand me, Luke? I said the baby and I are going upstairs to take a nap." Her eyes snapped with irritation as she continued, "Look up the meaning of 'nap' in the dictionary." She stood. "And I can make it upstairs just fine by myself." Lorelai slowly swung her feet to the ground, determined to prove her point.

Luke watched her disappear up the stairs. Frustrated, he sank back down onto the couch, and after a few moments, finding nothing appealing on TV, began poking through the pile of books, magazines and bills on the coffee table.

What to Expect When You're Expecting caught his eye. Maybe there's something in here about her behavior, he thought. Truth be told, she wasn't exactly the most appealing person in the world at the moment, both physically and personality-wise.

A wave of guilt washed over him, and he felt ashamed for thinking even for a moment that his pregnant wife was unattractive. Grabbing the book, he prepared to go back to the diner, determined to leaf through it for some answers while there.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Lorelai could not nap. The baby was playing rugby or cricket or some other strange un-American game with her bladder. Squirming, trying to get comfortable, she sighed, impatiently waiting for Luke to leave for the diner.

As soon as she heard the front door close, she began to make her way back downstairs. She needed to work on the vests.

Three hours later, Lorelai had finished the alterations to the Quartet's vests. Rubbing her neck, she wished that she could go to the spa for a massage. Being hunched at the sewing machine had done her no favors; she had added a crick in her neck and stiffness in her lower back to her physical woes. But a massage at the spa was out of the question—no way could she let the staff touch her when she was so huge.

Her neck responded with a twinge. I really really want, no, really really need, a backrub, her mind insisted. Perhaps she could cajole Luke into giving her one once his shift was over. She sighed at the thought of Luke's strong and nimble fingers and sure strokes.

But then she remembered that this was not an option. If she let Luke rub her back, she'd have to at least partially undress. Plus, she could not really recall a time when a mere backrub didn't turn into something else. Something more. She concluded that Luke would definitely find out just how gross and fat she was if he got his hands on her.

Lorelai tried to stretch, slowly rising. Gathering the vests, she folded them and placed them on the arm of the sofa, then reached for her cell, lying on the coffee table.

Dialing Richard, she turned on the TV and placed it on mute, flipping through the channels.

"Dad!" she responded to his hearty greeting.

"Everything OK, Lorelai? It's not the baby..."

"Oh no... nothing's changed in that department. Just wanted to let you know that the vests are just about done. Just need to steam-press them."

"Oh, my man at the club can do that."

"Alrighty then, you can pick them up tomorrow."

"How about in the morning?" Richard suggested.

"That'll work, Dad."

"Thank you, Lorelai. The Quartet will not only sound wonderful at Regionals, but look good too!"

♫   ♫   ♫  

Rory had spent her Sunday in Stars Hollow with Lane, since she rarely saw her best friend enough anymore.

The downside was that she had little time to actually spend with her mother, and now it was evening, and she would soon be heading back to her apartment.

She found Lorelai in the living room, glasses on, reading the latest issue of Cosmo. Her grandfather's vests were neatly folded on the arm of the sofa.

"Hey, Mom," she said from the doorway, stepping in when Lorelai looked up at her and smiled.

"Hey, sweets," she said, taking off her glasses, gently tossing them and the magazine on the couch cushion next to her and rubbing her tired eyes. "You're heading back?"

"Yep, got work in the morning," she said as she walked towards her mother.

"You're such a mommy-tease," Lorelai whined. "Staying here for barely 24 hours before jetting off again. You sure moving back home isn't an option?"

Rory laughed. "'Fraid not," she told her apologetically.

She nervously thumbed the piece of cloth in front of her, working up the courage to bring her concerns up with her mother.

"Is it different this time around?" Rory asked.

"Is what different?" Lorelai asked, looking down at the vest and up at Rory, confusion on her face.

Rory nodded her head in the direction of Lorelai's belly.

"The pregnancy?" Lorelai asked, her hands reactively touching her belly. "Definitely; I can only focus on the baby, and not finals, my issues with Chris and dealing with my parents. It's pretty much smooth-sailing this time around." Lorelai grinned. "Well, except for the getting huge and sore and having Luke hover all the time."

Rory rolled her eyes at her mother's nuttiness, but smiled anyway. "No, I mean, not doing it alone."

"Oh," Lorelai said, with a glimmer of understanding in her eyes. "Very different, and a whole lot easier, I'll admit."

"Do you sometimes wish it had been different with me?" Rory asked, sitting down next to her mother.

"Hon, you know I wouldn't have our life any other way," Lorelai assured her. "Do you wish things had been different?"

"I don't know," Rory said, suddenly insecure and wishing she hadn't brought it up. "I guess I've just been thinking a lot about dad since I was assigned that article at work."

"Are you wishing he were around more often?" Lorelai asked.

"I guess I'm just thinking about how Gigi has dad around, but she doesn't have Sherri," Rory admitted. "And the baby will have both you and Luke around, so maybe it'll be better off with two parents instead of one. I'm not necessarily jealous, because it'll be so lucky to have you as a mother and Luke as a dad—"

"It will also be very lucky to have a sister like you," Lorelai added.

Rory smiled. "I know."

"You're probably just over-thinking it all," Lorelai assured her. "I agree, every child needs a father, but sometimes things don't work out that way."

"Were you mad at him for not being around?"

"Nah," Lorelai said with a dismissive wave of her hand. "Sometimes, but it was his personality. He was just never ready, and I couldn't stay angry with him. I was too busy taking care of you."

"Yeah, I'm not angry with him either," Rory said. "But I'm not sure he knows that."

"I think you may want to give your dad a call."

"I guess."

"Come on," Lorelai said, patting Rory's knee. "Let's get you cheered up. I'll give you a packet of Oreo Cakesters for the road. Definitely a mood-booster. It's my secret stash, so don't tell Luke."

"Thanks, Mom," Rory said, standing up and following Lorelai towards the kitchen.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"Ow," Lorelai groaned after Rory left. She'd managed to conceal her back pain from Rory, but now her back hurt even more—spasms running across her shoulders, an Indy 500 of spasms racing up and down her spine. Maybe helping her father with his vests hadn't been such a good idea after all.

Lorelai found herself anticipating Luke's (and his magic fingers') return home.

Shortly thereafter, Luke came into the house. "Lorelai!" he shouted.

"Living room," Lorelai called back, her voice pinched.

Seeing her on the couch, Luke was concerned. "You OK?" he asked, then peered more closely at her. "Is something wrong?"

"My back... neck... everything hurts," Lorelai moaned. "Desperately. Need. Backrub."

Luke took off his jacket. "You probably shouldn't have worked on your father's vests," he admonished.

"Thank you, Captain Obvious," Lorelai retorted, but immediately grimaced as another spasm hit her. "Luke," she moaned in pain. "Please. Please. Please rub your child's mommy's back."

Luke sat down on the other end of the coach. "C'mere," he said as he reached out to her.

Three minutes into the massage, Luke suggested that Lorelai might want to take off her top. "I can't quite get into all these muscles," he explained. "You've got some really big knots here. No wonder it hurts."

In too much pain to argue, Lorelai allowed Luke to remove her shirt and submitted to the welcome pain relief. She sighed and relaxed as the tension in her neck and back slowly but surely disappeared.

A few more minutes later, she moaned and asked, "How can you stand to touch me? I'm so, so gross and disgusting. I bet you never thought you'd be touching a big fat ol' rhino like me."

Luke gently pressed his lips to the top of her head, and Lorelai could feel him smile.

"Let's take this party upstairs," Lorelai murmured suggestively.

Luke's fingers stopped in mid-stroke. Did she just hint that they go upstairs for some private time?

Lorelai snuggled up against him. "Upstairs, Luke," she continued.

Before he could stop himself, Luke blurted, "Can't!"

Lorelai froze. "Can't what?" she demanded.

"Lorelai, I..."  Luke began. "I can't... I don't know if I can..."

Lorelai turned her head and took one look at him. "Can't what?"

"Can't. You know," Luke stammered.

Luke's meaning dawned upon her. "Oh, you mean, I've given you E.D.?"

"What?" Luke was confused. "E.D.?"

"E.D. Erectile dysfunction. I've heard it happens to almost every guy at some point, and well," she pointed at her belly, "this oughtta do it for you."

"No!" Luke insisted. "There's no, umm, dysfunction."

"Aha! I knew it!" Lorelai triumphantly crowed. "You are grossed out by me." She defensively folded her arms across her chest. "Me and my belly, causers of E.D. in otherwise sexy men."

Luke instinctively knew that this was one of those moments that required a man to man up.

"You're having my baby, and I don't care what you look like."

"I call BS," Lorelai contradicted.

Her mood suddenly shifted. "My neck still hurts." She grabbed his hand and placed it on her shoulder. "Knead!"

Luke dutifully resumed his massage. As he reached a particularly tense part, Lorelai sighed with gratitude. "Ooh, do not stop. Ever. Feels so good. And how can you stand being around a moody, crazy pregnant lady all the time?"

Luke mumbled, "Ah, mood swings. It's all in that pregnancy book." He stopped massaging for a moment. "Lorelai, listen to me. No matter what your mood, I love you. And you're still attractive to me, so sexy and gorgeous. That will never change," Luke reassured. "And those boobs..." 

For the first time in days, Lorelai didn't flinch or try to avoid Luke's hands as they maneuvered around to her front.

"For the record," Luke informed her, "I do not have, nor have I ever had, E.D."

"Prove it," Lorelai suggested.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

After aimlessly flipping through the TV channels that night—and berating herself for even thinking of watching Extreme Makeover: Home Edition—Rory decided to take her mother's advice and call her dad.

She wasn't sure of what she would say, but she picked up her cell phone and dialed.

After two rings, he picked up. "Hello?"

"Hey, Dad," Rory said.

"Hey, kiddo!" he said. "I'm so glad you called. Gigi's in bed and I was actually contemplating watching Extreme Makeover. So thanks for saving me."

"My pleasure."

"So what's up?" he asked her. "I haven't heard from you in a while. How's the job?"

Rory figured that this might be her only opening. "Not too bad," she told him. "Pretty busy. I actually was assigned an interesting article the other day."

"Oh, yeah?" Christopher asked, interest in his voice. "What about?"

Rory took a deep breath. "I'm contesting the idea that a child needs a father growing up to have a successful future."

There was a long pause on the other line. "Oh."

Rory laughed nervously. "I didn't mean it like that," she quickly assured him. "Just... President Obama once said that fathers should be more involved in their children's lives, and I'm looking to him as an example of a successful adult who grew up without a father."

"Uh-huh," Christopher said uncertainly.

"I'm still not making myself clear," Rory said apologetically. "It's just all this research and writing about fathers, it got me thinking of you, and how I wish you were around more often."

"I know, kid," he said sadly. "But you know your mother is Wonder Woman, and probably did a better job of raising you than if I had been around."

"I wouldn't say that's necessarily true," Rory assured him. "I guess if you had been around more often, I'd probably be a different person. Not worse off, not better off. I guess, as happy as I am, and as great as a relationship we have now, I still wish I had my dad around."

"I know, kid," he told her with a sigh. "But me and your mom wouldn't have worked. We even tried the marriage thing. Divorce would've been inevitable. I'm glad it happened when you were 22 and not when you were younger."

"I know," Rory said. "Not that it didn't hurt at 22. But I just wanted you to know that... I don't hate you. For anything. I know we've never had the best relationship, and that you may have some guilt about not being around. But I want you to know that I love you."

"Thanks, Rory," Christopher said in earnest. "I never doubted it, but it's more than nice to hear."

"And you're doing a great job with Gigi," she told him. "I know it must be hard with Sherri in Paris."

"Yeah," Christopher admitted. "She was trouble when she was younger, as you know, but she's an angel now. Maybe when she's older, hits puberty and is interested in boys, she'll want her mom around and resent me. I guess I'll find out in a few years."

"You know she'll always have me to talk to about that stuff, right?" Rory asked him.

Rory swore she could hear her father smile on the other end of the line. "I know, kiddo."

Rory breathed a sigh of relief, feeling as if she got the closure she needed, and heard all the right words from him. "Thanks, Dad. I'm... I'm glad we had this talk."

"Me, too," he told her softly. "And, hey, I'm glad we're making up for all those lost years."

Rory smiled. "Same here. Have a good night, Dad. And kiss Gigi for me."

"Will do," he said. "Good night."

"G'night," she told him and ended the call, leaning back against the couch cushions with a satisfied smile on her lips.

♫   ♫   ♫  

On Monday morning, Jackson pulled the minivan into a parking spot in front of the Dragonfly. He had decided to pay a visit to Sookie on his way to work. His wife had been particularly giddy and affectionate at home the past couple of days, and he couldn't wait until that evening to see her again.

He entered the front door, right away hearing Sookie's bubbly giggles from the kitchen.

Noticing Michel at the front desk, Jackson stopped to greet him.

"Hey, Michel!"

Michel just gave an unfriendly glance, and Jackson noticed the disdain in his eyes, directed at his overalls. He knew Michel didn't think he had much fashion sense, but he paid the Frenchman no mind.

"So, what's my wife laughing about?" Jackson asked, as Sookie continued to laugh hysterically. He loved the sound of her laughter.

"Your wife is talking to a tall, handsome man about thighs and breasts," was all Michel said.

Jackson's face fell. "What? Breasts? Handsome man? What handsome man?"

"Lorelai calls him 'Hamm-ier than Jon Hamm', whatever that means," Michel answered with disinterest.

Jackson, recalling his wife's infatuation with Mad Men and that suited-up main character, rushed into the kitchen, just in time to see Sookie wave goodbye to someone as she closed the back door.

"Sookie?" he asked, and she looked around and smiled at her husband.

"Hey, Jackson!" she said. "Did you bring my eggplants?"

"Don't make this about eggplants!" he cried. "Who were you just talking to?"

"Adam?" she asked innocently. "Our new poultry guy? He just dropped off a shipment of chicken thighs."

Jackson paused. "Wait, chicken thighs and chicken breasts?" he asked, and she nodded.

He laughed at his earlier confusion. "Of course!"

"What's wrong, Sweetie?" she asked him.

"Nothing," he said with a smile, walking over to give his wife a kiss. "Nothing at all."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Late Monday morning, Luke could not believe he'd slept through the alarm. Even though he had the day off, he always made it a point to be available to the diner staff. As he reached to turn off the alarm, he was greeted with Lorelai's hand snaking around to his front.

The movement caught Luke by surprise. He froze. He wondered if he should turn to her, or take the lead.

He wanted her—that much was certain. And he definitely missed her. Giving backrubs wasn't exactly sexually fulfilling. Plus, there was the matter of the E.D. accusation.

He shifted, and suddenly, her fingers froze for a moment, and her hand stopped moving.

"I'm sorry I've been so moody and crabby."

"Don't be sorry. You're just pregnant," Luke murmured, turning to her, then bringing his mouth to hers. "Pregnant and beautiful and mine."

Lorelai eagerly returned his kisses. Finally coming up for air and breaking an especially long lip-lock, she smiled at her husband. "You know, Angelina Jolie says sex is really great during pregnancy. US Magazine says so."

"You and your tabloid obsessions," Luke teased.

"Of course, anyone would have a great time having sex with Brad Pitt, no matter how pregnant."

"You comparing me to Brad Pitt?" Luke growled.

Lorelai grinned.

"Bring it on," Luke challenged, as Lorelai brought her lips back to his.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Richard parked his car next to Luke's truck and walked up to Lorelai's door. Ringing the doorbell, he shook his head—it continued to amaze him that a Gilmore was living in a home with a truck owner. At least it wasn't one of those monster trucks.

He rang the doorbell again, but still, there was no answer. Did Lorelai forget that he was coming for the vests?

Reaching for his cell, he simultaneously dialed Lorelai's number and tried the doorbell one more time. Still, no one answered the door. But by the third ring, Lorelai answered her phone.

"'Lo?" her sleepy voice answered him.

Richard realized with a pang that this was the same voice he'd heard so many times when she was a child.

"Good morning, Lorelai."

"Dad?" she answered, then louder, "Oh damn, Dad!"

Richard heard rustling in the background, then Lorelai's voice as she instructed Luke, "The vests! He's here for the vests. Can you go down, Hon, and give them to him?"

Apparently he agreed, because moments later, a disheveled Luke appeared at the door with an armful of vests.

"Good morning, Richard," he greeted his father-in-law.

"Oh, I'm sorry; didn't Lorelai tell you I was coming to pick them up this morning?"

"She probably did, but these days, everything's a blur getting ready for the baby."

"Well, son, take some advice from me. I see you're getting your rest now. Good for you! Catch up on your sleep now—you won't be getting much later, when the baby comes."

Luke handed the vests to Richard. "Umm, I will."

"Make sure Lorelai gets her sleep too. And please thank her for the vests."

"I will. Give my best to Emily. Good-bye, Richard."

Richard shook Luke's extended hand and made his way down the stairs to his car.






To be continued...  




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