Episode 9.20
"Strange Bedfellows"
by Mags and Olivia Jane


Authors' Note: This is the last episode that we have to write this season, so we want to take the time to thank all of you for your continued feedback and support. Also, we want to give a huge shout-out to the entire VS team for all of their hard work, especially our fearless leaders, Jewels and Robinpoppins. Their dedication to this project has been the driving force behind its ongoing success. And, they had the cajones to let us write together. Apparently, the world hasn't imploded. Special thanks to Wounded, Sosmitten, and Jewels for their help on this episode, as well as their tolerance of our propensity for using vague, but fun, pop culture references. Also, thank you, as always, to our dear Luke, for filling out his jeans in that delectable way he does. It's inspiring, and just plain yummy.

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Lorelai sat on the couch, the phone wedged between her shoulder and her ear as she leafed through a baby name book. "Brooklyn. What do we think about Brooklyn?"

"Too Posh and Becks," Rory responded on the other end of the line.

Lorelai flipped to a random page. "Gaza?"

"Mm, too embattled."

"Yeah, you're right," Lorelai agreed, wrinkling her nose. "Kids on both sides of the playground would be fighting over Baby all the time. Rio?"

"Sounds like you need to put away your Duran Duran collection."

"But when she shines, she really shows you all she can," Lorelai said, skipping further back into the book.

"No. No Rio," Rory said firmly.

"Okay, fine. Savannah?" Lorelai asked hopefully.

"Way too southern belle," Rory said, and feigned a southern accent. "Oh, Rhett, whatever shall I do without Ashley?"

"Well, we can rule Ashley out, at least," Lorelai said. "Luke has completely vetoed that. Orlando?"

"As in Bloom? Too swashbuckler."

"Fatima," Lorelai said. "That's different."

"Too hand of God," Rory argued. "Hey, how about Dudley?"

"As in Do-Right?" Lorelai asked with a snort. "What if I were carrying twins? Would I name the other one Snidely Whiplash?"

"You could always go for Snidely and Muttley. How about Bianca?"

"Like, 'Hi, I'm Bianca Jagger, and I carry a cane for no known reason' Bianca?" Lorelai asked as she closed the baby name book and tossed it aside.

"I was thinking more like that mouse from The Rescuers," Rory explained. "The one with the accent."

"Oooh, how about Zsa Zsa? Zsa Zsa Danes. I like that," Lorelai gasped.

"I'm sure Luke would have an argument or two about that, especially if it's a boy. Oh, there's always Petunia."

"Oink. Next?" Lorelai muttered.

"I'm out. What else do you have?" Rory asked.

"How about this? Margaret Fuller Danes."

"Not fair!" Rory exclaimed.

"How is that not fair?"

"She was the first American foreign and war correspondent," Rory said, a touch of indignance in her voice.

"I'm not seeing the not fair part."

"Well... Maybe that name is on my list."

"You have a baby name list?" Lorelai asked, surprised.

"I may have had one at one point. Just to avoid having to do it ten years from now when I might actually begin to consider the concept of having a baby."

"Really? So, I couldn't pick Walter Winchell Danes because you've already called dibs on a name for your nonexistent baby?"

"Walter Winchell is not on my list," Rory mumbled.

"How about Carl? Or Bob? How about this. You take the first names, and I'll take the last names. You can have Carl Bob Gilmore, and I'll take Woodward Bernstein Danes. Does that sound like a fair trade to you?" Lorelai teased.

"Carl Bob? That's cruel and unusual punishment."

"No, what's cruel is that I'm adding Christiane to my list of names," Lorelai said, trying to smother a giggle.

"No! You wouldn't!" Rory gasped in horror.

"Hey, I'm the one with a bun in the oven. You have no buns, and thank God for that."

"You've taken my idol!" Rory wailed. "This is war. Just for that, I'm naming your first grandchild Muffin."

"You wouldn't!" Lorelai gasped.

"Oh, I would. Or better yet, picture this: Cherry Coco Gilmore," Rory pronounced triumphantly.

"I don't think it's wise to make your baby sound edible. Wait. I'm married to a diner man. It would make perfect sense for me, at least."

"Crepe Suzette Danes?" Rory laughed.

"Stop that. You're making me hungry," Lorelai pleaded.

"Danish Danes. Cherry Danish Danes!"

"Stop it, I mean it! You're being very mean to Mommy," Lorelai said, sulking.

"Oh, I've got it. The perfect name. Mojito Margarita Danes."

"I'm begging you, here, stop! This is making me hungry, and I can't eat or drink a thing until after my appointment. Besides, I'm starting to envision this baby wrapped in a sesame seed bun, and that can't be good."

"I'll stop on one condition," Rory said, relenting.

"What's that?" Lorelai asked, suspicious.

"Give me Christiane."

"But I like Christiane," Lorelai insisted.

"Hmm," Rory intoned. "How do you feel about Lobster Bisque Danes?"

"Okay, okay, you can have Christiane. You're also one step away from me giving you another shiner, just so you have a matching set."

"You're very mean to me. What did I ever do to deserve such treatment?" Rory asked.

"Um, hello?" Lorelai said. "Would you like me to read from the transcript of this phone call?"

"I love you, Mommie Dearest," Rory giggled.

"I love you, too, Christina, darling," Lorelai said.

"Are you going to beat me with a wire hanger now?" Rory asked.

"Well, sure," Lorelai said. "I'm going to reach right through the phone line to do it, too."

"So, nothing to fear then," Rory said. "Can I ask a serious question?"

"Oh, you're going for the downer now, aren't you?" Lorelai asked. "Shoot. I'll try to give a serious response."

"This is just a regular appointment, right? You're feeling okay?" Rory asked anxiously.

"I'm ready for this to be done."

"It's not quite fully baked yet," Rory said sympathetically.

"So it's a little doughy, that's okay. Baby's daddy is crusty enough for all of us."

"Is Luke getting antsy too?" Rory asked.

"Um, uptight, nervous, maybe a little sick of the whole baby name game," Lorelai said listlessly.

"I bet."

"I feel like a beached whale," Lorelai complained as she placed one hand on her stomach and tried to peer around her girth to survey her swollen ankles.

"I think that's pretty normal," Rory consoled.

"Would you roll me back into the water if I needed you to?"


"The eye is okay? Any better?" Lorelai asked worriedly.

"It's fine. I need to get going, I'm running late."

"Have a good day, Sweets."

"You too, Shamu," Rory answered as she disconnected.

Lorelai closed the phone and set it atop the rounded bulge of her stomach. "You hear that, Orca? We're totally killer."

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Luke sat on the edge of the bed, hurriedly rolling pairs of his socks into balls and tossing them across the room into his opened drawer.

"You're very good at that," Lorelai said, snuggling down into her pillows in the middle of the bed. "You should have tried out for the basketball team, Butch," she added in a lilting southern drawl.

"Track was all I was interested in," Luke said. "It put an activity on my record and got the guidance counselor off my back. Seriously," he said, holding up a pair of Lorelai's panties. "Is there any right way to fold these things?"

"Just fold them in half twice," Lorelai said, demonstrating with her hands. "At this point, I'm really not picky. Or you could just let me fold them. That would be the easier choice."

"I've got it," Luke said, folding the rest of her underwear and carrying them over to the dresser. He pushed his drawer shut with his knee and opened Lorelai's drawer, placing the items inside. He walked back to the laundry basket that was sitting on the bed and pulled several pairs of jeans out.

"Wow, you make one load of laundry go a long way," Lorelai marveled. "Delicates be damned! I like the way you think."

"I was crunched for time," Luke said apologetically. "Don't worry. I maintained the rule about keeping your colors separate."

Lorelai watched as Luke folded his jeans in half and laid them in his drawer. "I really can help. I don't mind. It's not like I'm going to break a sweat, sitting here folding a pair of jeans. I'll be gentle. After all, they do house the prettiest butt in all of Stars Hollow."

"My butt can deal," Luke said, straightening up and looking at Lorelai. "You just stay there and rest. I'm just about done now, anyway."

"Is it wrong that watching you be domestic gets me all warm and tingly inside?" Lorelai teased as Luke hung his clean flannel shirts in the closet.

"Yes," Luke said, grabbing one last hanger. "It's very, very wrong."

"Sad," Lorelai sighed.

"Okay, how are you doing over there?" Luke asked, walking back toward Lorelai and taking the empty laundry basket off the bed. "Are you comfortable? Do you have enough stuff to entertain yourself with?"

Lorelai looked at the items piled around her. "I have my Google," she said, pointing to her laptop. "I have my creative outlet," she said, holding up a ball of yarn with two knitting needles sticking out of it, then patted a pile of magazines. "I have all the pointless gossip a woman could ask for, and I have full control of all the remotes."

"Are you sure the movies in the DVD player are the movies you really want to watch?" Luke asked.

"Are you kidding me?" Lorelai asked. "What could be better than a day's worth of John Hughes movies at your fingertips?"

"I have no answer to that," Luke said with a sigh. "I'm going to go out on a limb here and say, probably nothing, right?"

"Good answer." Lorelai grinned.

"Is there anything else you can think of that you need?" Luke asked, sitting next to Lorelai and idly rubbing her arm.

"I'll be fine, Luke," she assured him gently.

"I don't like leaving you alone," he said quietly. "I don't like it at all."

"The diner won't run itself," Lorelai reminded him. "Baby needs beaucoup tips, remember?"

"I'm the owner, I'm not supposed to get tips," Luke said.

"I know that, and you know that, but now is not the time to start cluing the rest of the town in on that," Lorelai said. "I'll be fine, hon."

"Being ordered to bed rest is not a good thing," Luke argued. "I should be here. Somebody needs to keep an eye on you."

"I've got two of them right here," Lorelai said, gesturing at her eyes. "You're just a couple minutes away. If I need you, I will call you."

"I still don't like it," Luke said, sighing.

"All I need to do is relax," Lorelai said. "Trust me, I am all for relaxing. I am feeling easy like Sunday morning, here. I'm calm. I'm mellow. I intend to be an overachiever only in the art of calm. I am uber calm. I'm more uber than uber. Yogis will be coming down from the mountaintops to ask me how I achieved such a perfect state of zen. I am zen like... uh, Sven. They say I'm hyper-tense, but I'll show them! I'm hyper-calm, baby."

"Are you sure?" Luke asked warily.

"Well, there is one thing that could give my zen a little more pizazz," she said.

"What's that?" Luke asked.

"Pop Tarts," Lorelai said, smiling innocently. "Be an angel and bring a box up here?"

"Pop Tarts?" Luke grimaced. "How many times do we have to have this argument?"

"As many times as it takes until you let me eat my damn Pop Tarts," Lorelai grumbled. "Come on, Luke. I need sustenance. You know me. I'll never survive until dinner. I need snacks. I'll wither away and die without something to munch on."

"I bought a fresh bag of caramel flavored rice cakes," Luke offered.

"Wow, caramel flavored air, just what I always wanted," Lorelai said with a sigh.

"Can't you pick something with a hint of healthiness attached?" Luke pleaded. "I can slice up an apple for you. You like apples."

"Ugh," Lorelai groaned.

"With peanut butter to dip the apple into," he added. "Peanut butter is fattening, yet not completely gut rotting. Can I bring you that?"

"Yeah, bring me that and some broccoli," Lorelai grumbled. "While you're at it, add a little tofu. Maybe some soy nuts. Come on, Luke, I need something with high fructose corn syrup."

"No way," Luke said firmly. "I draw the line there. Think of something else. And nothing with red dye in it. Think at least semi-healthy."

"You've turned into a snack Nazi," Lorelai complained. "No matter how hard you try, you can't come between a girl and her sweet tooth."

"Oh, I'll keep trying," Luke said.

"I want Red Vines," Lorelai said, sulking.

"Keep it up, and I'll bring you cottage cheese," Luke threatened.

Lorelai stared at Luke silently. After a moment, Lorelai said in defeat, "Fine. Can I have some Cheese Nips?"

"Cheese Nips?" Luke asked, narrowing his eyes.

"Protein," Lorelai said. "The cheese gives Baby protein."

Luke sighed heavily and got to his feet. "I'm going to pretend I actually buy that. I'll be right back," he said, and walked out of the room. Lorelai waited patiently as he went to the kitchen. She smiled, hearing the faint sound of the cabinet door opening and closing. She clapped happily as he walked back into the bedroom, holding a box of Cheese Nips and glowering at her.

"I do this under protest," he said, handing the box to Lorelai.

"I swear, I will only eat them if Baby really, really needs a cheese fix, okay, Luke?" Lorelai said. "Cross my heart and hope to die."

"I really hate that saying," Luke said.

"Okay, then, Girl Scout honor?" Lorelai said, holding up three fingers.

"When were you ever a Girl Scout?" Luke scoffed.

"I made myself an honorary Girl Scout the day I learned about the magical healing powers of the Tagalong," she said solemnly.

Luke rolled his eyes. "I have to get back to the diner before Caesar's head explodes," he said. "Are you set now? Anything else you need?"

"I'm good," Lorelai said. "I'll call you if anything comes up, I promise."

"Okay," Luke said, leaning over and kissing Lorelai gently. "Rumor has it that a certain sister of mine tends to stockpile Girl Scout cookies in her freezer," he murmured into her ear. "Play nice, and maybe I can wrangle a couple Tagalongs out of her, for a small fee."

"Oh, I do love you," Lorelai gasped, wrapping her arms around his neck and squeezing tightly. "You are the best husband ever."

"Yeah, you keep that in mind next time you're cursing me for arguing about the nutritional value of a Pop Tart," Luke said.

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"Hey there, Gilmore!" Mike exclaimed as Rory walked into the break room and made a beeline for the coffee maker. He rooted through his camera case, pulling out stray batteries. "How's the eye?"

"Healing up," Rory said as she filled her coffee cup. "Can't see the softball seams now, at least."

"I know," Mike chuckled. "Now you just look like you could write an in-depth feature on domestic abuse." He held up his camera. "Quick, look melancholy for the birdie."

Rory gasped and turned to face him, holding her free hand open in the direction of the camera. "I do not look like that. Do I? I don't look... abused, right?"

"Well, was the ball made in America?" Mike asked. "Because that sure as heck would qualify as domestic."

"That's a terrible thing to say," she muttered, taking a deep drink of her coffee. "And very inconsiderate toward people who've actually been abused."

"Yeah, you're right," Mike conceded. "I was just giving you a little grief. Besides, put on a little makeup, and Joe Lieberman will never notice it. Congrats on the assignment, by the way. Major coup, getting Lieberman to sit down with you."

"I am wearing makeup," Rory said, staring at Mike.

"Oh," Mike said. "Okay. Well, uh... maybe you should just break the ice by telling him the softball story. That should create camaraderie, especially if he ever took a fly ball to the eye."

"Right," Rory said, setting her coffee cup down on the counter. "Will you excuse me for a minute?"

She rushed out of the break room and to her desk. Grabbing her purse, she hurried to the bathroom and peered at her reflection in the mirror. She leaned closer and gaped at her bruise. "Oh my God," she whispered. "It really doesn't look like a softball shiner anymore."

She rooted around in her bag and found her powder compact. She clicked it open and grabbed the puff, loading it with powder. Looking back up at the mirror, she began working on the injured area. "Oh my God," she gasped as she applied the powder. "It's not getting any better." Rory closed the compact and dropped it to the counter, then began digging through her purse again. She produced a concealer stick, wiped the area around her eye with the palm of her hand, then began to lightly cover her bruise.

"Ow," she murmured, wincing as the stick pressed into the still tender flesh. "Oh, now, this is even worse," she groaned, realizing the concealer was only making the shiner look more pronounced. "What am I going to do?" she desperately asked her own reflection. "I can't face Joe Lieberman like this!"

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Luke hustled from the kitchen and into the packed dining room. He stopped dead in his tracks and stared down at the plates in his hands as if he had never seen them before. "Who had the tuna melt, onion rings and the cobb salad?" he called out above the din. When a couple near the window waved their hands, Luke hurried to unload the order.

"Luke, dear," Patty called as she reached out to touch his sleeve as he passed. Luke paused, and Patty's hand tightened around his forearm as she purred appreciatively, "Ooh."

"Patty," he growled as he yanked his arm away.

"I'm sorry, darling, I don't know where my mind went," she said with a lascivious smile.

"I do."

"Well, yes, but all I really was going to ask for was some more water," she said coyly.

"Gimme a sec," Luke said as he nodded and moved toward the counter. He grabbed a water pitcher in one hand and the coffee pot in the other, and began to make a round of refills.

"Order up!" Caesar called from the kitchen.

Luke immediately went to retrieve the plates, forgetting that he had not reached Patty's table yet. "Club on wheat and fruit salad?" Luke shouted above the din.

"Here!" Kirk answered, raising his hand.

Luke placed the plate in front of Kirk and then stood straight, blinking rapidly as he tipped his head back and sucked in a deep breath.

"Are you okay, dear?" Patty asked worriedly.

"Huh? Oh, I'm fine," Luke said quickly. He turned toward her with a puzzled frown and murmured, "You needed something."

"Water," she reminded him gently.

"Right," he grunted, pointing his finger at her. He quickly retrieved the pitcher and carried it back to her table.

"Is everything okay with the baby?" Patty asked solicitously.

"What? Oh, yeah, fine," Luke replied.

Patty eyed the rising water level in her glass nervously and then looked up at him again. "Uh, when, dear," she said as she touched his hand to get his attention.

"When what?"

"That's enough water," Patty clarified just as the liquid spilled over the rim and began to pool on the table.

"Crap! Sorry," Luke said as he jerked the pitcher upright and rushed to grab a towel.

"It's no problem," Patty assured him as she plucked napkins from the dispenser and began to sop up the spill before it could run off of the table.

"He's probably not getting any sleep," Gypsy said knowingly. "Have you seen Lorelai lately? She looks like she's about to give birth to a Buick."

"She does not," Luke snapped as he dropped the towel onto the table and picked up Patty's water glass.

"Poor thing, she must be so uncomfortable," Patty sympathized.

"Mother always said that the last month was the worst," Kirk said knowingly.

"Because she knew another one of you was gonna come out," Luke muttered under his breath.

Patty chuckled and smiled at him affectionately. "You look worn out, Luke."

"I'm fine," he said again.

"Boss? We're out of flour!" Caesar called from the kitchen.

"Flour? How can we be out of flour?" Luke asked, incredulous.

Caesar simply shrugged and held up a forty pound flour sack with no more than a cup left in one of the corners. "I checked the stock room. You must have forgotten to order it."

"I can't believe I forgot to order flour," Luke mumbled, obviously in a state of shock.

"I believe Doose's has flour," Patty said cautiously. When Luke failed to respond, she leaned forward and waved her hand in front of Luke's eyes.

Luke turned to her slowly and said, "Flour is a staple. I never run out of staples."

"Happens more and more lately," Caesar muttered as he wandered back into the kitchen.

Patty made a distressed face as she tore her gaze from his stunned eyes. She turned and muttered out of the side of her mouth, "Quick, Kirk, run to Doose's and get the biggest bag of flour you can find." As Kirk bolted from the diner, Luke dropped heavily into a chair at Patty's table. "Aw, Sweetheart, you have a lot on your mind," she said sympathetically.

Luke ran a hand over his face, completely oblivious to the hum of the packed diner. "I can't do this."

"A little late to figure that out now," Gypsy said, rolling her eyes.

"Hush," Patty admonished her. "Of course you can do this," she said to Luke. "Soon, you and Lorelai will have a happy, healthy new baby. And what a beautiful baby it's going to be. I'm telling you, that child has a gene pool that anyone would love to drown in."

"Luke, dear," Mrs. Lanahan interrupted as she shuffled past, leaning heavily on her walker. When his head jerked up, she handed him a little silver key fob with a speaker. "My great-granddaughter got me that so I wouldn't forget to turn the oven off. I think you should borrow it for a while," she said with a shaky nod. Luke watched as she toddled off, the sliced tennis balls on the bottom of her walker sliding across the worn linoleum floor.

"Great, next I'm gonna need one of those alert things for when you fall and can't get up," he said as he stared at the recorder attached to a key chain.

"I don't think so," Patty said with an amused chuckle. She paused for a moment and then said, "It may not be a bad idea to have something like that for Lorelai. That way you'll know where she is when she goes into labor."

"It's called a cell phone, Patty," Luke said gruffly as he dropped the keychain onto the table and pushed to his feet. "Besides, I know where she is. She's home and in bed and will be stuck there until the baby comes."

"Oh, no! Her doctor ordered bed rest?" she gasped.

"Man, that sucks," Gypsy chimed in.

The bells pealed madly as Kirk burst through the door holding a ten pound bag of flour. "I have flour," he announced to the crowd.

"Great! Do you think we can get some coffee over here?" Ed groused.

"Hold your horses," Luke growled as he headed for the coffee maker.

"Please, the horse died and now he's in that bun," Ed complained as he pointed to Gypsy's burger.

"Would you just give me a minute, dammit?" Luke shouted, effectively silencing the diner. He grabbed the pot and then stalked over to Ed's table, where he sloshed the steaming coffee into the over-sized mug.

"Not my fault your wife's about to pop," Ed muttered under his breath.

"Better not be," Luke said darkly.

"You mean you're unsure?" Ed asked, looking up with a smirk.

"Ed," Patty cautioned in a low voice.

Gypsy picked up the voice recorder that Luke had dropped onto the table and spoke into it, "Things to do today: Beat the crap out of Ed, serve my customers, and then bake my wife a pie to make up for completely ruining her life."

When Luke whirled on her, Gypsy pressed the button for the playback. He stomped over to her, yanked the keychain from her fingers and then stormed off to the storeroom. He took three deep breaths to calm himself and then stared down at the silver plastic recorder in the palm of his hand. With a quick glance over his shoulder, he lifted it to his lips and said in a low voice, "Order flour, sugar, salt and pepper, condiments and paper goods. Make it a boysenberry pie."

He lifted his thumb from the button and then tucked the recorder into his jeans pocket. Satisfied, he grabbed the coffee pot he had carried in with him and headed back into the diner.

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The laptop fan hummed as it sat open on Luke's pillow. Lorelai's fingers flew, wrapping the yarn around the needles in time with the bouncy rhythm of the song playing on her iPod. "Take on me," she sang in a high falsetto. "I'll be gooooooone in a day or... twooooooooo!" she sang, building to the final crescendo. "Oof!" she grunted as she dropped a knitting needle and pressed her hand to her ribs. "Okay, I get it. No more A-ha," she promised as she pulled the ear buds from her ears.

She tossed the iPod onto the bed, held up the bootie she had been mindlessly knitting and scowled at it. She reached for the mate and held the tiny white sock up next to its much larger companion. "Oh God, I'm having Clubfoot Cindy's baby," she gasped. "I wonder if Craterface Cutler knows."

Disgusted, Lorelai tossed the steroid-enhanced bootie, and the needles and yarn onto the pile of discarded amusements at the end of the bed, nearly impaling a teddy bear she had dressed in a tiny flannel shirt and backwards baseball cap. She reached for her phone and flipped it open, muttering, "Beautiful children," under her breath as she scrolled through her contact list.

"Who to call, who to call..." she mumbled as she rubbed her stomach in circles. She stared at the phone for a moment and then held down a single key to speed dial. Drumming her fingers on her taut stomach, she waited as it rang and then heard her daughter's recorded voice say, 'You have reached the desk of Rory Gilmore with the Hartford...'

Lorelai hung up with a heavy sigh and looked around the room idly. She pressed another key and held the phone to her ear, gnawing her bottom lip as she waited for an answer. "Hey, Manny, it's Lorelai. Is Sookie around?" she asked brightly. After a moment, her smile widened and she demanded, "Tell me something funny," as her friend took the phone.

"Uh, kumquats," Sookie replied promptly.

"What about them?"

"Funny word, sounds dirty."

"We've already had this conversation," Lorelai whined.

"I'm sorry, I didn't have time to work up fresh material."

"What are you doing?"

"Um, nothing," Sookie answered evasively.

"Sookie," Lorelai said in a warning tone.

"I'm just working on tonight's dessert, that's all," Sookie said defensively as she doused a small skillet with Bacardi 151.

"You sound guilty."

"No, I, uh, I just changed up the menu a little. Decided to do a New Orleans theme, a little Creole cookin'," she said as she tucked the phone under her chin and patted her pockets, searching for something.

"Uh huh. What are you making?"

"Shrimp with andouille, duck and sausage gumbo, red beans and rice," she listed. "The usual stuff."

"No bananas foster, Sook," Lorelai said sternly.


"Remember the cute curtains you used to have above your sink?"

"I know what I'm doing this time," Sookie said as she pulled a book of matches from the pocket of her tunic.

"Sookie, no."

Sookie struck the match and the alcohol in the pan went up with a whoosh. "Ack! My bangs!" Sookie cried as she dropped the phone.

"Sookie?" Lorelai called loudly. "Sookie!"

She waited, her hand pressed to her heart as she heard someone fumbling with the receiver. Suddenly, Manny's voice came through the headset. "She's fine. Fire's out," he said succinctly before hanging up on her.

"Ay yi yi," Lorelai breathed as she closed the phone and let her head fall back against the headboard. Her stomach growled loudly. "You are highly suggestible, kid," she grumbled as she massaged it gently.

Lorelai lifted her head and picked up the remote. She hit the play button and the screen flashed to life. "Answer the question, Claire," she chimed in with the rest of the Breakfast Club. "Just answer it, be honest," she added in a high, mocking voice.

"No! I never did it!" Molly Ringwald shouted on the screen.

Lorelai snorted and patted the mound of her stomach as she said, "I never did it either. I'm not a nymphomaniac, I'm a compulsive liar."

She chuckled to herself and kept her eyes glued to the screen as she reached out and snagged the box of Cheese Nips from the nightstand. She nodded in agreement with Molly's assessment of Ally's personality as she opened the flaps and tore into the bag.

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Luke carried a plate behind the counter and poked his head into the kitchen. "Caesar!" he barked.

"Yeah, boss?" Caesar asked, wiping his hands on his apron as he came to the doorway.

"What's this?" Luke asked.

"Looks like a tuna melt to me," Caesar said, inspecting the food on the plate.

"Yeah, that's a tuna melt," Luke said. "Problem is, the guy over there ordered a BLT. Notice a discrepancy here?"

"Oh," Caesar said, shrugging his shoulders and looking sheepishly at Luke. "Guess there's a difference between bacon and tuna, huh, boss?"

"Slight difference," Luke groaned. "Fix it, will you? I'm stacking up out here."

"On it," Caesar said, taking the plate back into the kitchen with him. "Your meatloaf platter and bacon cheeseburger are up," he added.

"Well, now we know where the missing bacon from the BLT got to, right?" Luke asked, following Caesar into the kitchen to retrieve the order.

He hurried back out into the diner, shaking his head at the full tables. A tour bus full of antique shoppers had poured into the diner about a half hour before he intended to go home, and Luke's was at full capacity, with no break in sight.

Luke delivered the plates in his hands to a table and moved on to the next, pulling out his order pad. "What can I get for you?" he asked the table of customers. He quickly took down the orders and rushed back to the kitchen, grabbing the phone when it began to ring as he passed.

"Hold on," he barked into the receiver, then cradled the phone to his chest as he yelled the order to Caesar. "I need a burger with the works, hold the pickles, double order of fries, chicken fingers platter, Ranch on the side..."

"Ranch?" Caesar called back uncertainly.

"Yes, Ranch," Luke said, impatient. "Also need a beef vegetable soup and a side salad with blue cheese. Got that?" he yelled. He waited for a moment, but received no reply. "Caesar!" Luke bellowed. "You got that?"

"Yeah, yeah, I got it," Caesar hollered back.

"No tuna, Caesar!" Luke growled, then remembered the phone he was still holding. He put the receiver up to his ear. "Luke's," he said sharply.

"Well, I'm glad somebody gets to eat tonight," Lorelai said.

"Oh, hell," Luke moaned, looking at his watch in horror. "I'm sorry. I got swamped. I'm trying to get out of here, I swear."

"I'm starving," Lorelai whimpered piteously into the phone. "I licked my fingers and found myself wondering what they'd taste like fricasseed."

"I'm really sorry," Luke said. "Listen. Can you give me a half hour?"

"A whole half hour?" Lorelai whined. "I don't know if I'll make it."

"Eat some Cheese Nips," Luke suggested, nodding at a customer who was holding his coffee cup in the air. "I'll be right with you," he called to the woman. He returned his attention to Lorelai. "I swear, I won't say a word about the fat content in the Cheese Nips, just eat enough to hold you over, okay?"

"That would be nice," Lorelai said. "Except for one thing."

"What's that?" Luke asked, unable to identify the hollow noise coming from the other end of the phone connection.

"That's the last bit of Cheese Nip residue in the box," Lorelai explained. "Baby got really hungry, and there's nary a Nip left."

"Jeez," Luke sighed, looking around helplessly. "I'm doing my best. I'll get out of here the first chance I get, okay? Hey, I'll bring you some pie. How's that?"

"What kind of pie?" Lorelai asked.

"Uh, I have cherry and blueberry," Luke said, reaching out to take a check from a customer who was ready to pay. "Which one do you want?"

"Both," Lorelai said.

"Fine," Luke said, distracted as he made change for the customer in front of him. "Anything else?"

"I want French fries, and a burger, and a milkshake and maybe some fish sticks," Lorelai said.

"Fish sticks? Seriously?" Luke asked. "Thanks," he murmured to his departing customer.

"Baby's really, really hungry," Lorelai said. "Did I mention that part yet?"

"Okay, I'll bring some," Luke sighed. "Just... do something to occupy yourself, okay?"

"Like what, lick the Cheese Nip box?" Lorelai asked moodily.

"Play on the computer or something," Luke said, exasperated. "The sooner I get off the phone, the sooner I can get home, okay?"

"Fine," Lorelai said. "But I'm warning you, I'm googling potstickers as we speak."

"Duly noted," Luke said.

"Hurry!" Lorelai pleaded.

"I'm hurrying, I'm hurrying," Luke said, and hung up the phone. He turned and faced the still full diner. "Try telling them that, though," he muttered to himself as he grabbed a coffee pot and began to make his rounds again.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

The following morning the phone rang, vibrating across the nightstand as Lorelai lurched for it desperately. Seeing the Dragonfly's number on the display, she flipped it open and demanded, "Admit it, even if you do have secret lust in your heart for Drew Carey, he's no Bob Barker."

"Is this foot scrub supposed to be aquamarine or seafoam green?" Emily demanded in return.


"Yes, Lorelai, this is your mother, and no, I do not know what the price of a year's supply of car wax should reasonably sell for," Emily said impatiently.

"Well, it was the complete Turtle Wax kit," Lorelai replied, tucking her hair behind her ear. "I probably should have called Luke for that one, but he got a little cranky when I called him with this morning's observations on Meredith Vieira's horrendous beige highlights."

"Lorelai, I believe that the beauty supply company that you contracted with is sending us old product," Emily said stridently.

"Ah, and tell me how you came to this conclusion, my dear Watson," Lorelai said with a frown.

Exasperated, Emily's voice rose as she said, "The foot scrub, the foot scrub! The packaging is exactly the same, but the product inside of the bottle is a completely different color."

"Easy, you're getting a little too excited about stuff that slough's the dead skin off of the bottoms of people's feet," Lorelai cautioned.

"Pardon me for caring, Lorelai."

"I appreciate that you care, Mom, I just don't know why you care so much," Lorelai argued.

"I care so much because you should not pay for substandard goods. I care because I am trying to restock these shelves before the Gilliam wedding party comes tomorrow. I care because someone has to care, Lorelai!"

"Whoa, Mom," Lorelai breathed.

"If you were half as concerned about your own business as you are about tortoise shell wax, the inn and spa would be thriving," Emily said haughtily.

"Turtle Wax. And, the inn and spa are thriving, Mom," Lorelai said with a confused frown.

"I think that you should contact your representative with this company and ask them what color this scrub should actually be."

"Okay," Lorelai replied slowly, lightly scratching the underside of her belly through her over-sized t-shirt to try to stay calm. "Can I ask a question? Two actually," she amended.

Emily blew out a sigh and snapped, "What?"

"First of all, why are you stocking shelves? That's Tasha's area," she reminded Emily firmly.

"Tasha is busy trying to find a temporary replacement for Lena," Emily answered primly.

"Okay, I'm going to have to reserve a few more questions," Lorelai said quickly. "What happened to Lena?" she asked as she struggled to push herself up against the headboard.

"Lena broke her wrist last night while skating in a roller derby bout," Emily reported, her disapproval humming through the telephone line.

"Roller derby? Wow, I knew I liked her," Lorelai said in an awed tone.

"Yes, it's simply wonderful that our senior massage therapist has broken her wrist just when we happen to be booked solid for the next two weeks."

"Too bad we aren't thriving, huh?" Lorelai piped up quickly. "So, Tasha is looking for a replacement and you are stocking the shelves. It's nice of you to pitch in, Mom," she said in a placating tone.

"Well, someone has to help out," Emily murmured.

"It is not my fault that the doctor put me on bed rest," Lorelai said defensively.

"No, it isn't. But, it is your fault that you are treating this time as an unplanned vacation. You have a telephone, Lorelai, you have a computer," she pointed out.

"I'm supposed to stay calm and quiet," Lorelai said through clenched teeth. "And guess what? I'm not doing so well right now."

"I see. It would be too taxing for you to call the man from the beauty supply company," Emily snipped.

"Which bottles are brighter?" Lorelai demanded.


"Is the aquamarine brighter than the seafoam?"

"Well, yes," Emily said with a puzzled frown.

"And the seafoam, was that from the new shipment, or the product that we already had on the shelf?" Lorelai demanded.

"It was already on the shelf."

"Color fades with age, Mom. Pull the older product, display the new and have the technicians use the seafoam colored stuff. It's fine, just faded under the lights."

"Oh," Emily said as she glanced up at the lighting that highlighted the display shelves. "Okay, I will."


"Are you feeling all right?" Emily inquired politely.

Lorelai fanned the hair from her forehead with a gusty breath and said, "I'm fine. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to Google what a fair price for a year's supply of Turtle Wax would be. I think Drew and the crew are inflating the prices. I may need to give them a call. Bye, Mom," she said as she snapped the phone shut and sank down on the pillows to sulk.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Lane grabbed two cans of soda from the fridge and skirted around the construction of Steve and Kwan's Duplo block subdivision as she made her way back to the couch. She handed one of the cans to Rory as she asked, "So, she completely freaked, right?"

"Oh yeah. Now there is photographic evidence that my Spuds MacKenzie look completely ruined Paris Geller's wedding day," Rory confirmed as she popped the top on the can. She took a healthy drink and then said, "I think this may even outstrip the tragic castle smashing of 2000."

"Oh God," Lane groaned sympathetically.

"I'm not the only one on the list, though. Aside from Doyle showing up in a kilt, Madeline danced right into the cake table and landed face first, and Louise was last seen hitting on Mr. Geller, so maybe my black eye won't be the worst of it."

"But, there are pictures of that."

"Thanks for reminding me," Rory grumbled. "There are pictures of Doyle in the kilt, too!"

"Well, did you have fun playing softball?" Lane asked, curious.

Rory shrugged and said, "It was okay, I guess, but it has certainly had some far-reaching repercussions."

"Like what?"

"Well, aside from the fact that Paris is probably going to punish me for the rest of my life, I think it was all Senator Lieberman could do to keep from referring me to a social services agency on domestic abuse," Rory said wryly.

Lane wrinkled her nose. "It does kinda look like you took a punch. Are you sure that this Kevin guy didn't sock it to ya?" she teased.

"Yes, he's such a thug." Rory fell silent for a moment, and then said, "Anyway, the kids at the office had a great time with it, too."

"Have you talked to Kevin since it happened?" Lane asked.

"Well, I saw him as I was leaving for the wedding," Rory said slowly. She thought for a moment and then said, "It is a little odd, though. I haven't seen him since then, not even in the hallway."

Lane eyed her friend closely. "You like him," she said as her smile widened.

"Who? Kevin? Sure, I like him. He's a nice guy. And Tess' brother," she added quickly.

"No, you like him, like him," Lane asserted. "You want him to sock it to ya."

"No, I don't," Rory scoffed and turned away as her cheeks flamed.

"You do!" Lane crowed. "We need Doritos!" She hopped up from the sofa and ran part of the way down the hall. Using her heel, she popped a floorboard and extracted a full bag of Cool Ranch flavored tortilla chips. She ripped it open, shoved one into her mouth and sat back down on the couch cross-legged facing Rory. "Spill. Tell me everything about him," she said as she held the open bag out for Rory to take some.

"We're friends, Lane. That's it."

"Puh-leese. I witnessed the evolution, devolution and revolution of your mom and Luke. I know it when I see it. I can see this with my own two eyes. Now spill," she ordered.

"There's nothing to spill!"

"Does he have nice hair? Somehow I always go for the hair. Remember Rich Bloomingfeld?" Lane asked as she nibbled on a chip. "Best hair ever," she added in a hushed reverent tone. "Don't tell Zach."

"I have never run my fingers through Kevin's hair," Rory answered with a smirk.

"Ah, but you want to," Lane said knowingly. "Tell me about his hair. Is it all styled like Logan's? Wavy and dark like Jess'? Floppy like Dean's?"

"It's not like any of them, and it's not like that," Rory protested.

"What color is it?"

"Kind of sandy brown, with these weird gold highlights," Rory answered automatically.

"Uh huh. Straight, wavy, curly?" Lane prodded.

"A little wavy," Rory said, getting agitated with the line of questioning. "Listen, I have to go. I'm having dinner with Mom, Luke and April."

"Did you save it?" Lane asked, following Rory with her eyes as her friend gathered her purse and headed for the door.

"Save what?" Rory asked with a confused frown.

"The softball. Did you save it? Put it up on a shelf with the shoplifted corn starch, books with notes in the margins and the rocket filled with gum?"

"There was no gum in that rocket," Rory said as she yanked the door open and made a hasty departure.

"She kept the ball," Lane said with a satisfied smile as she reached for another chip.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Rory sunk her fork into her slice of pie and lifted a bite to her mouth. "Mm," she moaned appreciatively. "What I don't get is," she began, swallowing the mouthful and wiping a crumb from the corner of her mouth, "as rigid as Luke is about junk food, why does he give you pie so often, and with so little argument?"

"Clearly, he feels awful about his torment," Lorelai said, wiping up a streak of pie filling with her finger and licking it. "He's denied me my Pop Tarts, my Hot Pockets, anything that could contain Red Dye Number Two. He has to make it up to me somehow. So, he brings me pie."

"Really? He objects to red dye?" April asked, setting her plate aside on the nightstand. "They don't actually use Red Dye Number Two anymore, did you know that?"

"No," Lorelai gasped. "I didn't know that. Are you telling me I've been denied my Red Vines for no good reason?"

"Dad's fears about the dye are valid," April said solemnly. "The only fallacy in his logic is the fact that the FDA rescinded their provisional approval for use due to high incidence of cancer being found in female lab rats after being subjected to high doses of the dye. Manufacturers now use Red Dye Number Forty, which is considered safe by the FDA."

"Unbelievable," Lorelai said. "He's been lying to me this entire pregnancy."

"Grounds for divorce!" Rory exclaimed cheerfully.

"It's not a lie, it's a misapprehension," April said.

"And that is our secret word for the day," Rory said.

"Every time you hear somebody say the secret word, scream really loud!" Lorelai chimed in.

"Am I missing something?" April asked, frowning.

"Peewee's Playhouse," Lorelai said, staring at April. "Chairy? Miss Yvonne?"

"Clocky?" Rory added, noting April's blank expression. "Cowboy Curtis? Dixie? Captain Carl?"

April shook her head slowly. "Television show, I'm assuming."

"Saturday morning comic gold," Rory said.

"Please tell me you at least know who Peewee Herman is," Lorelai pleaded.

"Oh yeah," April said. "But on Saturday morning, I usually watched old reruns of Mr. Wizard's World."

"Ah," Rory said. "See, I was more of a fan of Beakman's World, myself. I could take science as long as there was a man in a rat costume involved."

"To each her own, I guess," April said, looking over as Luke walked into the room.

"You guys done with dessert?" Luke asked as he carried an armful of freshly folded towels into the bathroom.

"I want my Red Vines!" Lorelai wailed. "Red Dye Number Two doesn't exist anymore!"

"It doesn't?" Luke asked, walking back into the bedroom. "Do you have enough dirty laundry for a full load yet? I'm getting ready to run bed sheets through the wash now, but I can get that out of the way next."

"No, not yet. And April has enlightened me to your deceitful ways regarding red food." Lorelai scowled.

"Hey, I didn't know," Luke said, shrugging. "I thought they still used it. Hand over your plates."

"I'll help," April said, collecting their empty drinking glasses.

"Thanks, sweetie," Lorelai said. "Hey, Luke?"

"Yeah?" Luke asked, taking her plate from her.

"Is it stuffy in here?" she asked. "It seems very oppressive in the house lately."

Luke grimaced. "I'll check the filters and vents tonight," he said. "Air flow may be getting choked by massive dust bunnies, if what lives under the bed is any indication of things."

"You have to check those?" Rory asked. "Huh."

Luke shifted the pile of plates in his arms. "I haven't thought of them since I moved in. Let me guess, you guys never thought to check, either?"

"I thought they were self cleaning," Rory said. "You know, like ovens?"

"We're pretty," Lorelai said, batting her eyelashes innocently at Luke.

"Jeez, the work," Luke said, sighing. He jerked his head toward the door. "Come on, April, I want to get the dishes done before midnight for a change."

April fell into step behind Luke as they descended the stairs. "Boy, you have a lot to do," she noted.

"No kidding," Luke said, leading her into the kitchen.

"You look beat," April said, putting the glasses on the counter as Luke filled the sink with hot water. "Anything I can do to help?"

Luke looked warily at April. "There's a lot to do around here. I'm falling behind on the big stuff because with Lorelai stuck in bed, she can't just come down and get stuff she needs. Think you could help me out by taking some of the retrieval duties?"

"Sure," April said with a shrug. "No big deal."

Luke chuckled. "In one day, I've had to go hunting for specific magazines, missing knitting needles, memory cards, purple pens, Cheese Nips, peanut butter crackers with the right ratio of peanut butter to cracker, a certain shade of Hello Kitty lip gloss, and, oh yeah," he said, holding up a finger. "Paper that is suitable for origami."

"Origami?" April asked. "Lorelai does origami?"

"She tried origami," Luke corrected. "Fifteen minutes to find the right size paper, two minutes to find that Lorelai will never be able to make a paper crane, at least not in this lifetime."

"I can handle it," April said with certainty. "In fact, I actually know how to make a paper crane, so I can show Lorelai."

"Are you sure?" Luke asked. "It's a lot of work, and it's frustrating. You just have to remember she's stuck up there, and it's hard for her to do it every day. You have to suck it up and be patient."

"Patience is my middle name," April assured him. "I can help."

Luke reached over and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "Thanks, kid," he murmured, kissing her on the top of her head. "You have no clue how much I appreciate this."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Lane finished spooning buttered whole wheat noodles into Steve and Kwan's bowls and set the pan back on the stove. "So, she says there's nothing going on between them, but I can see it in her face that she wants something to go on between them," she told Zach.

"Uh huh," Zach grunted as he filled two glasses with Pepsi from a 2-liter bottle.

"So, she's paddling up river as fast as she can, and I'm all over her like, like, like whatever bugs there are that would descend on you as you paddle up De Nile," Lane explained as she divided the remaining spaghetti between two plates.

"Locusts. For some reason locusts come to mind," Zach said as he took a seat at the small kitchen table. He reached over and pushed Steve's bowl a little closer to him and then turned to watch as Lane ladled tomato sauce from a jar over the rapidly cooling pasta.

"Not exactly the plague I would choose, but locusts beat lice, gnats or fleas; so locusts it is," she decided with a nod. "I was all over her like a swarm of locusts. You should have seen her face," Lane laughed.

"Maybe she just needs time to process. I mean, it's a big jump from friends to more than friends."

"But, what better way to figure out who you're supposed to be with? It worked for Lorelai and Luke. It worked for me and you," Lane argued as she placed one plate in front of him and then sat down at the opposite side of the table with hers.

"Yeah, but we still had to think about it first," Zach reminded her as he twirled his fork, gathering noodles.

"Right. Well, I'm not saying that she shouldn't think it through. I'm just trying to get her to see that she does like him. At least, I'm pretty sure she does. All of the usual signs are there."

"She'll figure it out," Zach said with a shrug.

"Yeah, but what if it takes years? I mean, look at all that time Lorelai and Luke wasted."

"Maybe it wasn't wasted. Maybe they had to go through all of that to get to where they are now. Maybe they had to figure themselves out enough to know that they deserve what they have now."

Lane was quiet for a moment as she frowned and narrowed her eyes at him. "Someone didn't leave that Deepak Chopra book in the diner, you bought it!" she accused.

"No!" Zach answered too quickly, holding his hands up in surrender. When she pinned him with the patented Mrs. Kim stare, he folded like a house of cards. "It was on the bargain table, I thought it looked cool."

"Oh, Zach," she sighed as she shook her head.

"What? There's nothing wrong with exploring your deepest nature!"

Lane rolled her eyes and reached for her glass. She took a sip and then stared at the glass as she hummed appreciatively. "Mmm, perfectly flat."

"I left it open to breathe," he said as he turned his attention back to his plate.

"Hey, Zach?"


"Spaghetti and flat Pepsi," she said with a soft smile as she gestured to their plates.

Zach blinked and then straightened up a little as the light bulb went on. "Oh yeah," he said with a slow, sly smile.


Zach reached across the table and took her hand. "It wasn't that I had to think about whether I wanted to date you, the processing. It was about if I was ready to fulfill my spiritual destiny," he said solemnly.

Lane raised her eyebrows as she asked, "And the fact that we already lived together and it would be more convenient never entered your mind?"

Zach flashed a charming smile and said, "Well, that wasn't the part that clinched the deal."

"No? What was?"

"A hot girl who loves music as much as I do and can rain down a wicked backbeat," he answered with absolute sincerity.

"You know, everyone thought that we were crazy for getting married so young, but you know what? I'm glad we did."

"Yeah, me too."

"Otherwise we'd still be out there. Dating," she said with a shudder. "Poor Rory."

"She just needs time to process, Lane."

"I know."

"But, I'm glad too," Zach said as he turned to check on Kwan. "Dude, that's gross," he admonished as he reached over and pulled a long strand of spaghetti from his son's nose.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Rory trudged wearily into her apartment building, her feet dragging. She stopped by the row of mailbox receptacles and fumbled to get her key out. She inserted it into her mailbox lock and twisted, frowning as nothing happened.

"Damn it," she muttered, jiggling the key and trying to get it free. "Come on," she grumbled, slapping the face of the mailbox with her hand. She cursed under her breath, oblivious as Kevin walked through the entrance and approached her.

"Gah!" she exclaimed when she glanced up to see him standing silently beside her. "What are you doing just standing there?" she asked grouchily. "Trying out your new Boo Radley impersonation?"

Kevin winced at her sour demeanor. "Actually, I was waiting to get into my mailbox," he said, pointing to the mailbox below hers. "Kind of a tight squeeze if we're both trying to do the same thing."

"Oh," Rory said, stepping back. "Well, you might as well get yours out, I'm going to be here for a while, it appears."

Kevin leaned in and unlocked his mailbox, quickly retrieving its contents. He slammed the door shut and locked it, then stepped back, leafing through the mail. "Man, I'm glad I got to this stuff," he said to himself. "I can get a second mortgage. Very helpful, considering I don't have a first mortgage." He tossed the junk mail into a small trash bin near the door. "Now, this is more like it," he said, holding up a coupon mailer. "Buy one, get one free Thursdays at Pizza On The Go."

"Congratulations," Rory said dryly. She stepped forward and began to jiggle the stuck key again. "This sucks!" she wailed, slapping the mailbox again when the key wouldn't budge.

"Here," Kevin said, stepping closer and sticking his own mail under his arm. "Let me try."

"Oh yes, please help me, I'm so weak and frail," Rory said, rolling her eyes.

Kevin flinched. "I just... have the same problem sometimes. I've learned the trick," he said softly. He worked with the key for a moment and managed to get the door open. "They're old," he said, almost apologetically. "You have to kind of lift the key in the lock sometimes to get it to turn."

"Thanks," Rory said, reaching into the mailbox and pulling out a single mailer. "Oh goody, all that work, and I too can buy one, get one free on Thursdays at Pizza On The Go."

"Sorry," Kevin said, stifling a smile. "Rough day?"

"Long day, I guess," Rory murmured, staring darkly at the pizza coupon. "I got a little road ragey after sitting in traffic for an hour just because a car had run into a tree on the side of the road."

"Damn it all to hell," Kevin teased. "People need to plot out their tree plowing more wisely."

Rory glowered at Kevin. "I have a headache and no pills in my purse. I just wanted to get home and go to bed to make the thumping stop, okay?"

"Okay," Kevin said, holding up his hands defensively. "I'm sorry you're having a rough night. I'll behave, I promise."

"Stupid mailbox made it worse," Rory said.

"How's the eye?" Kevin asked, peering at her injury. "That's not part of the headache issue, is it?"

"It's fine," Rory said sharply. "God, I can't wait until people stop asking about this stupid thing. I am not Tina Turner, for God's sake."

Kevin cleared his throat nervously. "Listen, Rory, I'm really sorry about that. I know I've said it a million times, but I feel like crap that it happened and that I never got a chance to make it up to you."

"It's fine," Rory said, slumping up against the wall. "Can we stop talking about it now?"

"I want to make it up to you," Kevin continued, fidgeting nervously. "Can I take you out to dinner? Buy you some high falootin' cuisine to demonstrate my total and utter devastation that I played Ike to your Tina?"

Rory rubbed her aching head and closed her eyes. "Fine," she said, gritting her teeth. "Yeah, whatever. That'll be fine. Listen, I really have to get to bed, okay?"

"Okay," Kevin said uncertainly. "I'll get back to you on the details, okay?"

"Sure," Rory said, turning and starting up the steps. "You do that. Night."

"Night," Kevin said, and looked down at the mail in his hand. "Pizza On The Go is definitely not gonna cut it for apologies," he murmured softly.

"Did you say something?" Rory asked, stopping and looking over her shoulder.

"No," Kevin said, shaking his head.

"Oh," Rory replied, and continued up the stairs. "Night," she said.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Lorelai sat up in bed, looking around at the piles of projects surrounding her, and feeling no urge to do anything with the items there. She twiddled her thumbs and looked over at the chair near the window, where April was curled up, working diligently on her homework.

"Whatcha working on there, kiddo?" Lorelai asked.

April looked up from her notebook. "Science," she said.

"Anything I can help you with? I can make a mean solar system out of foam balls," Lorelai said.

April looked at Lorelai, bemused. "I'm doing an analysis of a report on the development of non-invasive DNA sampling methods for predicting the spread of disease in the Greater Yellowstone area ungulates. It's an extra credit project."

"Wow," Lorelai said, blinking. "Um, that sounds... detailed."

"It's an interesting report," April agreed. "Dr. Luikart is a wildlife geneticist. He makes some fascinating observations."

"Well, of course he does," Lorelai said uncertainly. "Um... what's an ungulate?"

"Hooved animals," April said.

"Bifurcated tail?" Lorelai asked.

"Uh, no," April said. "No bifurcated tails. Sorry."

"Shame," Lorelai sighed. "Hey, you ready for a break yet?"

April shrugged and set her book aside. "Sure, what do you have in mind?"

♫   ♫   ♫  

Two hours later, April lay on one side of the bed, staring at the ceiling, while Lorelai flipped through the channels on the television.

"Oh, look," Lorelai said, patting April's arm and pointing the remote at the television set. "Bobby Flay!"

"Another cooking show?" April groaned.

"Hey, I have to survive on Cheese Nips most of the day, I need visuals on what it's like to be able to go eat whatever you want whenever you choose," Lorelai said.

"But we've already watched Paula Deen, and Rachael Ray, and The Barefoot Contessa," April complained. "Isn't there anything else on?"

Lorelai flipped to another station. "Oh, we could watch The Andy Griffith Show, mute the television and make Opie say really rude things," she suggested.

April sighed. "I probably should finish the rest of my homework," she said, crawling out of bed and walking back to the chair by the window. She picked up her school book and sat down, quickly falling back into the task at hand.

Lorelai scowled at April, then resumed surfing through television channels. In disgust, she finally threw the remote to the bed and leaned her head back, closing her eyes. She suddenly opened her eyes again. "I know," she said. "Logic games!"

April glanced up at Lorelai. "Logic games?"

"A plane crashes in the middle of the Mississippi River. What side of the river do you bury the survivors on?" Lorelai asked.

April shook her head, but continued staring at her homework. "You don't bury survivors. They lived."

Lorelai thought for a moment. "A man is on a plane and asks if his son can see the inside of the cockpit. The pilot and the co-pilot show the boy all the controls and instruments and how they work. After the boy and his father leave, the pilot tells the co-pilot 'That was my son.' How is that possible?"

April sighed and looked at Lorelai again. "Because the pilot is his mother," she said evenly. "That is a very sexist riddle, by the way."

"It's a riddle," Lorelai said.

"It's sexist," April insisted. "It immediately leads one to a biased assumption."

"But the challenge is to overcome the biased assumption," Lorelai said.

"It's a dumb riddle," April huffed, and returned her attention to her book.

"Okay, then," Lorelai muttered. She picked up the remote yet again and focused her attention on the TV. "Oh!" she gasped. "Look! History of the World, Part I. We can have a Mel Brooks night!"

April whimpered softly and closed her book. She looked up at the television set, a dubious expression on her face. "Who is that?" she asked.

"That, my child," Lorelai said in a reverent tone, "that is Madeline Kahn."

"Who is Madeline Kahn?" April asked, clearly disinterested.

"Empress Nympho," Lorelai said, exasperated. "Lili Von Shtupp in Blazing Saddles."

"I've never seen those movies," April said, shrugging.

"Oh, we have to fix that," Lorelai said, patting the empty bed beside her. "Come, my child, be schooled in the mythology of Mel Brooks."

April wrinkled her nose. "No, thanks."

"What?" Lorelai asked, her eyes widening.

"This looks dumb," April said. "Not my thing, I guess."

"But... but..." Lorelai stammered. "But it's Mel."

"Never heard of him," April muttered.

"No child should be deprived of..." Lorelai began.

April blew out a sharp breath of air. "You know, I really have to get this done tonight," she said, irritated. "Can I please just do my homework now?"

Lorelai flinched at the sharpness of April's response. "Sorry," she murmured. "I'll leave you alone, I guess."

"Thanks." April sighed, and re-opened her book.

Lorelai slid down in the bed and pulled the comforter up around her. "Guess it's just you and me, Mel," she whispered sadly.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Rory sat on her couch, flipping through a magazine, but not paying much attention to what she was reading. A knock at the door echoed across the apartment. "It's open," she called out, still looking at the magazine in her hands.

"Rory Gilmore!" Tess exclaimed, bursting through the doorway.

"As I live and breathe, it's Tess Jamison," Rory said in a dull monotone.

"Don't act so excited to see me," Tess said, flopping down on the couch next to Rory.

"Sorry," Rory said, tossing the magazine onto her coffee table. "I was just finishing up finding out what my love style is."

"And what is it?" Tess asked.

"Results were inconclusive," Rory sighed.

"Well, give it another shot. Tell me how much you love my hair," Tess said, shaking her head vigorously so her curls bounced.

"Very slick," Rory said, reaching out to finger a curl. "Lovely shade of purple you have going on there."

"I was in a violet mood, couldn't decide on lowlight shades, so I decided to go for Purple People Eater chic," Tess said.

"Well, thank God you didn't go for the all over color," Rory said. "You'd look like Grimace."

"Better than the Hamburglar, I guess," Tess said. "Though the Grimace has mighty nice hips. They're temporary highlights. They'll wash out in a couple weeks."

"What brings you to my little corner of the world?" Rory asked, lounging back in her seat.

"This," Tess said, pulling a small picture out of her pocket. "I got a little crazy with my Photoshop. It was either do this, or make Spuffy icons for my blog."

"You're a Spuffy?" Rory gasped, taking the picture from Tess. "I would have pegged you for an Angel and Buffy worshipper."

"Please," Tess muttered. "So overdone. I like the road less traveled when it comes to supernatural pairings."

"Which means?" Rory asked, looking at the picture and frowning.

"Giles and Buffy Bot all the way," Tess said. "So? What do you think?"

"It's a baseball card," Rory said.

"It's your baseball card," Tess explained. "I saw this on Kevin's cell, and I made him send it to me. What better way to preserve that momentous occasion for all time than with your own baseball card? It has your stats on the back, too. Well, your stat. The one. The pow."

"I don't want to preserve it for all time!" Rory wailed, dropping the card into her lap. "Look at me, I look awful."

Tess stared at Rory, open mouthed. "I'm... I... Jeez, Rory, I'm sorry, I just thought..."

"Could somebody please think about something other than this?" Rory cried, pointing at her eye. "I feel like the Elephant Man. Stop pointing it out!"

"I'm sorry," Tess said softly, reaching over and taking the baseball card back, as Rory buried her face in her hands. "I wasn't trying to be mean, I swear," she said.

Rory took a shaky breath and lifted her head. "No, I'm sorry," she murmured. "I've lost the ability to wear it as a badge of honor now that it just looks like I walked into somebody's fist."

Tess nodded slowly. "Yeah, I can see that," she said. "It's fading fast, though. It won't be around much longer."

"My makeup is failing miserably at hiding it, and I'm suddenly really self-conscious about it at work," Rory said. "The mass teasing is getting hard to take."

"You won't hear another peep out of me about it," Tess said sincerely. "I promise. Not a word. I only did it because I thought you were okay with it all."

"I know," Rory said. "God, I'm such a baby about it."

"No way," Tess said, tilting her head up and pointing at her chin. "See that?"

"No," Rory said, leaning closer and inspecting the underside of Tess' chin. "I don't see... Well, there's a tiny scar, I think."

"Yeah," Tess said, lowering her chin. "That is a result of my dear, sweet brother trying to demonstrate a Judo kick when I was seven."

"Clearly he didn't demonstrate well," Rory said.

"No, he was spot on," Tess said. "He was supposed to miss. Epic fail, there, I can assure you. At any rate, I hate it. Nobody can see it unless they have like, eagle vision, but sometimes, I swear it's the biggest, most horrible disfigurement known to man. So trust me, we shall speak not of the eye thing from this moment on. Solidarity, sister."

"Thanks," Rory said, relieved. "I appreciate it."

"So, big dinner with Sensai Kevin, I hear," Tess said. "You guys figure out where you're going?"

"I don't know," Rory said. "He said to dress nice because he's apologizing as swankily as possible. Is that even a word? Swankily?"

"Beats me," Tess said. "You're the wordsmith, not I. Or me. Man, let's get off of vocabulary, stat. Not my strong suit."

"No shop talk," Rory agreed. "What does dressing nice mean in Kevin's vernacular? Jeans without holes in the knees? Hey, why don't you come out to dinner with us?"

"Huh?" Tess asked, wrinkling her nose. "Why would I go along?"

Rory shrugged. "Well, if Kevin's feeling apologetic about the softball debacle, maybe you can milk some apology about the Judo kick out of him, too."

"That would be fair," Tess said. "He laughed at me and ran away when it happened. I have yet to hear an apology about it. But I think I'll leave the dinner thing to you two, okay?" she said, looking at Rory oddly.

"Are you sure?" Rory said. "I could easily make it terms of my acceptance of said apology. There could be lobster involved, you know."

"Uh, no," Tess said, laughing nervously. "I think Kevin would put me in a headlock if I showed up for the big dinner date."

"It's not a date." Rory laughed. "It's payback for my pain and suffering."

Tess regarded Rory curiously, then reached over and patted her on her head. "Thank God you're pretty," she snickered. "You've got something to fall back on, at least."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"I'm home!" Luke called as the front door slammed behind him.

April closed the heavy textbook with a thud, jumped up, and began hurriedly shoving her notebooks into her backpack. Lorelai watched sullenly, the pillows rising up around her head as she sank further down in the bed.

"Thanks for coming over," she said lamely.

"No problem," April answered in a distracted tone as she heaved the heavy backpack up onto her shoulder.

"Hey," Luke greeted them as he appeared in the doorway.

"Hi," Lorelai answered with a weak wave.

"Hi, Dad. I'm ready," April said with a nod.

"Ready? Don't you want to stay for dinner?" Luke asked with a perplexed scowl.

"I really can't tonight," April told him with no hint of apology in her tone. "Too much work to do."

"Oh." Luke turned to Lorelai and asked, "You feeling okay?"

"I'm fine," she answered shortly.

He nodded and placed his hands on his hips as the tension sparked in the room. "Um, will you be okay while I run her home?"

Lorelai nodded and turned her attention back to the television. "Can I have a snack? Just to hold me until dinner?" she asked pathetically.

"Uh, sure," Luke answered slowly. "Hey, look, Mel Brooks, right?" he said as he gestured to the credits scrolling on the screen.

"Right," Lorelai replied in a sulky voice.

Luke cocked his head as April fidgeted impatiently. "What can I get you?"

Lorelai shrugged and said, "No big deal. I'll take an apple. You don't even need to bring the peanut butter."

Luke's eyebrows shot up in surprise as April chimed in saying, "I'll get it!"

April raced from the room and Luke turned back to Lorelai. "Everything okay?"

"Everything's fine," she answered too quickly.

Luke crossed to the bed and sat down gingerly on the edge. He leaned down and pecked a soft kiss to her lips. "How was the Inquisition? What a show, huh?" he joked lamely.

"Always is," she answered, giving him a ghost of a smile.

"Got it!" April announced as she appeared in the doorway with a shiny, bright red apple. She handed it to Lorelai and then turned back to Luke. "You ready?"

"Uh, yeah," Luke said as he pushed up off of the bed. He stared down at Lorelai worriedly and asked, "You want me to cut that up?"

"Nah, this is fine," Lorelai answered in a tone that made it clear that she was disappointed.

"Okay, cool. See ya, Lorelai," April said with a wave, and then turned to leave the room.

"I'll be right back. I was thinking chicken alfredo tonight," Luke said cajolingly.

Lorelai shook her head and said, "Maybe just some soup. I have indigestion."

"We'll figure it out when I get back," he assured her. Luke leaned down and kissed her once more, and then dropped a tiny kiss to the mound of her stomach. "Back in a few," he promised, then turned to follow April.

♫   ♫   ♫  

Luke jogged down the steps, cast a quick glance into the living room, and then hurried for the front door. When he looked out, he saw April already strapped into the passenger seat of his truck, texting madly. As soon as he opened the driver's door, April started in without even looking up from her phone.

"Oh my God, Dad, no wonder you're going nuts! I swear, Lorelai has the attention span of a gnat. Wait, that may be insulting to the gnat."

Luke chuckled and pulled the door closed as he cranked the ignition. He began to back down the drive, hooking one arm behind the seat as he said, "She's bored."

"She's like a two year old. I babysat Doula last weekend, and she wasn't even that bad."

"All right, all right," Luke said with a sympathetic laugh.

"I'm serious. I totally don't blame you for hiding out at the diner."

"I'm not hiding out, I'm running my business," he answered defensively.

"And I bet you love every minute of it," she muttered as she hit 'send'. "How Rory managed to get into Yale with Lorelai around, I'll never know."

"Hey! Lorelai is why Rory was able to get into Yale," Luke snapped.

April snorted and said, "Impossible."

"What happened?"

"Nothing happened. I got nothing done, and now I have to go home, invoke the cone of silence and work on this project all night so that I can get it done and turned in. Cassie is having a party this weekend, and I wanted to get this out of the way before that," April told him.

"Oh, well, you should have told me you were busy this week."

"I couldn't get anything done," she complained. "Ten million cooking shows. Why does a woman who can barely boil water need to watch all those cooking shows?"

"She likes food."

"And talk. She talks through all of them. Step by step commentary. Like she knows how to poach anything but lip gloss," April said derisively as her phone beeped and she focused on the screen.

"April," Luke growled.

"She's nuts," she murmured as she read.

"You said you wanted to help."

"Sure, but come on, Dad, she has to be the most high maintenance woman in the world. It's a wonder you can stand to even be in the same room with her."

"She's uncomfortable," Luke argued. "Jeez, kid, cut her some slack. She's pregnant."

"Not my fault," April muttered under her breath as she frantically pressed the keypad.

"No, it's my fault, okay?" Luke said, his frustration bubbling up. "And even if you didn't like Lorelai, and I thought you did, I thought you'd at least do this for me."

"I did do it for you," she pointed out.

"I don't get this," he said as he pounded on the steering wheel with the heel of his hand. "What? You hate Lorelai now?"

"I don't hate Lorelai," April said stubbornly.

"You're acting like it."

"I hate that Lorelai can't shut up long enough to let me do my homework. I hate that I'm gonna miss Focus Earth on Planet Green tonight because I have to work on this project."

"So, you're mad that Lorelai made you watch TV today instead of tonight," Luke concluded, his jaw tightening.

"Since when do you not care about the planet?" April practically shrieked.

"The planet's too big for me to worry about right now. We're having a baby! Or, trying to have a baby, if I can keep her in bed and quiet and calm. Don't you care about your little brother or sister?" Luke demanded.

"Do not try to guilt me, Dad. I live with Mom, and you've got nothing on her," April said snidely as Luke pulled to a stop in front of Anna's house.

"I'm not trying to guilt you, I'm just saying that I needed help, Lorelai needed help, and you said you wanted to help and now you're mad about it," Luke yelled.

"I'm not mad, I'm frustrated," April shouted back.

Luke groaned and leaned forward, pressing his forehead to his hands as he clutched the steering wheel. "Join the club, kid," he growled.

April reached for the door handle and said, "We should get t-shirts," as she hopped down out of the truck, hauling her laden backpack with her.

Luke sat back with a heavy sigh and turned to look at his daughter. When she raised her eyebrows and glared back at him defiantly, the muscle in his jaw jumped as he forced himself to unclench it. "Thanks for trying," he said at last.

April nodded once and said, "Good luck, Dad. You're gonna need it," she added as she slammed the door and hurried toward the house.

Luke let his head drop back against the seat and looked up as he whispered, "It's only been two days."

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Lorelai jumped as she heard the sounds of pots and pans clanking together from the kitchen below. She tried valiantly to suck her lower lip back in from its pout, knowing that she was somehow to blame for the excessive force being used in the post-breakfast, lunch and dinner clean up. She rubbed her hand over her stomach and whispered, "Daddy's upset."

When she felt an answering kick, she winced and said, "I'm sorry, I was bored out of my skull. I just wanted to have a little fun," she muttered as she sank back into her sulk. "This is your fault, anyway."

Her cell rang and she plunged her hand under the pillow to retrieve it. "Hello?" she said with an edge of desperation in her voice.

"Lorelai, the linens in the dining room look positively dingy. I think you need to have a talk with your supplier," Emily said tartly.

"Oh, Mom," Lorelai sighed tiredly.

"It looks horrible."

"Well, tell Michel to call Manny and let him know that the cream tablecloths are too creamy for you," Lorelai grumbled.

"And I think that you should consider having your floral arrangements replaced three times each week. Or choose better flowers. These daisies you insist on having look like weeds after the first day."

"Mom, why are you still at work?"

"What? Oh, well, you father has a function tonight, and since you can't be here, I thought I would take a little extra time to check up on a few things," Emily said offhandedly.

"The tablecloths and flowers?"

"These things make an impression, Lorelai. You run a small, boutique inn. Attention to detail is imperative."

"No, making sure that people have a place to sleep and a decent meal to eat, is imperative, the rest is just gravy," Lorelai said, bristling.

"If you're feeling too unwell to make the calls, I'd be happy to do it for you," Emily offered.

"No, Mom. You don't need to make any calls. You don't need to stay late to check on things. You don't need to alienate my staff or my suppliers, and you don't need to call me every time something doesn't measure up to your impossible standards!"

"Lorelai, please don't be upset. I'm simply trying to help."

"Well, you aren't helping when you call every forty-five minutes with another complaint," Lorelai said stubbornly.

"I'm not complaining. I am trying to point out a few things that may have escaped your notice. You have a lot on your mind," Emily said, clearly trying to placate her.

"No, at the moment, I have a lot on my bladder, and somehow I'm going to have to haul myself out of this bed, waddle into the bathroom and try to pee and nothing will come out. Nothing!" she ranted.

"Lorelai, calm yourself."

"And then, my loving husband will come up here, see that I'm not in this stupid bed and start yelling at me through the bathroom door to get back in bed, and trust me, he doesn't want to do anything fun there!" Lorelai continued.


"Do you think I want to lay here like this? Do you think I'm lounging around, popping bons bons like Peg Bundy? Hell, I can't even score a Pop Tart because the food Nazi watches every little thing I eat! I'm enormous. My ankles are defying gravity and blowing up like balloons. I have two thousand cable channels and can't even find anything to mock. Today I watched Deadliest Catch for three hours! Three hours of fishing for Alaskan King Crabs. I hate crab legs! Sure, they're delicious, but it's too much work for very little return, if you ask me."

"Lorelai, please," Emily said worriedly.

"All those years. I used to dream about winning the lottery and being able to stay in bed all day if I wanted. Let me tell you, it's not as much fun as I imagined."

"I suppose it isn't," Emily conceded.

"Do me a favor; do not touch a petal on those daisies. If the tablecloths are really bugging you, let Michel or Sookie know, and they will handle it. Otherwise, leave my inn alone. I gave birth to that inn just like I'm gonna give birth to your grandchild, and so help me, if you try to interfere in any way..."

"I understand perfectly," Emily said, abruptly cutting her off. "I won't bother you anymore," she added in a haughty tone and then disconnected.

Lorelai stared at her phone for a moment, her chest heaving with exertion. "Uh oh," she murmured as she tossed the phone aside. She heard a loud crash from the kitchen below and a string of muffled curses. Gnawing her lip, she glanced at the door and then at the discarded phone. She took two deep breaths murmuring "Hyper-calm, uber-calm" as she looked down at her bulging stomach. "Well, I feel better now, how 'bout you?" she asked unhappily.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

The following afternoon, Emily pushed through the kitchen door. "Sookie, can I trouble you for a cup of coffee?" she asked, drawing to a halt as she saw the frenzy of activity. "What on Earth?"

"I'm sorry. Things are crazy. Help yourself, I have to get dinner prepped in the next twenty minutes," Sookie trilled as she whirled from one end of the room to the other, an army of assistants in her wake.

"Twenty minutes? It's not even two o'clock," Emily said as she stepped aside.

"Oh, it's no big deal. It happens every couple of months. This time it's Wanda. She had a little sniffle this morning, but the daycare called and now she is running a fever."

"Oh no," Emily said sympathetically. "Is there anything I can do?"

"We have an emergency plan," Sookie said with a reassuring smile as she dropped peeled potato chunks into a pot on the stove. "We change the menu to comfort food. Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, glazed carrots. Vegetable lasagna," she added with a grimace of distaste. "I keep one frozen at all times."

"Oh, well, that's good," Emily said as she edged closer to the coffee pot.

"I just feel so bad. I was supposed to go sit with Lorelai for a while this afternoon, you know, hang out and play Yahtzee. I had to call and cancel on the poor thing. She's going crazy, and I think she's taking everyone with her. I remember what it was like when I was on bed rest. It was horrible," she said with a shudder, kicking the oven door closed with her heel and pirouetting with shocking grace to the cutting board to begin prepping the carrots.

"Yes, it must be very difficult."

"And Lorelai isn't really good at sitting still, if you know what I mean," Sookie said with a giggle. She tossed a handful of perfectly sliced carrots into a bowl, and lined up the next victims. "Yesterday was a bad day," she added, casting Emily a sidelong glance.

Emily turned and poured herself a cup of coffee. "I'm afraid I didn't help matters," she said without looking up.

Sookie nodded as she continued to chop. "You might be able to help today," she said cautiously.

"How is that?" Emily asked as she turned, a note of hope lifting her voice.

"Go sit with her for a while."

"Oh, no. Lorelai doesn't want to see me," she answered dismissively.

"Trust me; she'd be happy to have the distraction. Don't talk about the inn or the baby, just hang out with her," Sookie suggested.

"Hang out?"

"Play games, gossip, eat chocolate," Sookie said with a shrug as she dumped more carrots into the bowl.


"Cards, Yahtzee..."

"I don't know what Yahtzee is."

"She'll teach you," Sookie said as she transferred the contents of the bowl to a skillet. She turned and looked at Emily over her shoulder and said simply, "Go. Luke leaves the back door open."

♫   ♫   ♫  

Emily stepped cautiously into the kitchen holding her purse and an armload of magazines. She walked softly through the kitchen to the steps, and then paused with her foot on the bottom tread. Pursing her lips, she peered up the stairwell to the second level, and then turned slowly toward the living room. With a sigh, she placed the magazines on the coffee table and then sat down on the sofa, clutching her handbag in her lap. After a moment, she opened the flap and pulled out her cell phone.

♫   ♫   ♫  

Lorelai lifted her arm listlessly and stared at the number displayed on her phone. "Ugh, no," she muttered as she let her arm fall back to the bed, still clutching the vibrating phone. She flipped through a few more channels, brightening only a bit when she found an old rerun of The Courtship of Eddie's Father on TV Land. A few minutes later, the phone chirped once to let her know there was a message waiting, and Lorelai glared at it.

"What? Were the throw pillows out of alignment in the parlor? For God's sake, do not count the number of copies of The Secret Life of Bees on the shelf. I can't help what people leave behind," she muttered as she flipped the phone open and pressed the key to retrieve her voicemail.

"Lorelai, it's your mother. I suppose you already know that. Sookie had this wild idea, that since she was unable to come to sit with you this afternoon, that I should. I don't know what I'm doing here. You don't want to see me. I just, well, I'm sorry I was being so difficult yesterday. I know this is a hard time for you, and I know that you must be worried sick." There was a slight pause, and then Emily rushed on, "I'm worried, too. I know that you think I'm silly, worrying about insignificant little details. I worry about the little things like tablecloths and foot lotion because I'm not allowed to worry about what I'm really worried about." Lorelai blinked back a sudden rush of emotion as her mother's voice wavered a bit. "But, I am your mother. It's my job to worry about you. But, you never let me worry about you." There was another pause as Emily drew a breath. "I brought you some magazines. I don't read any of them, and I imagine that they are not very good, but two of them have pictures of George Clooney on the cover," she said quickly. "I'll leave them here on the coffee table, and perhaps Luke can bring them up to you when he comes home. Goodbye, Lorelai. Call me if you need..."

Lorelai pulled the phone from her ear and called out, "Mom?"

A moment later, Emily answered, "Yes, Lorelai?"

"You can come up, you know," Lorelai called back. She waited, and when she heard the sound of Emily's pumps on the wooden steps, Lorelai made a feeble attempt to straighten the covers and everything within reach. When Emily appeared in the doorway, Lorelai tried to push herself up against the pillows. "My back hurts," she complained.

Emily nodded sympathetically and asked, "Would you like help rearranging your pillows?"


As Emily busied herself with trying to make her more comfortable, Lorelai muttered, "My back hurts, my legs hurt, everything hurts. I can't just lie here for another two weeks," she murmured, her voice wavering.

"It will be over soon," Emily said consolingly.

"My butt is numb."

Emily nodded as she stepped back and reached for her handbag. She opened the flap and pulled out a silver foil packet. "Perhaps this will make you feel a little better," she said as she offered the package to Lorelai with a small smile.

"Pop Tarts? You smuggled me in Pop Tarts?" Lorelai asked in a voice filled with wonder.

"I kept the rest of the box. Luke isn't entirely wrong, you know," Emily said as she perched daintily on the side of the bed.

"Thanks, Mom," Lorelai said as she tore open the wrapper. "I've had the worst indigestion," she complained as she broke off a chunk of Pop Tart and shoved it into her mouth.

"Is there anything I can do?"

"Wanna play Yahtzee with me?" she asked, her cheeks stuffed and her eyes hopeful.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Rory opened the door, and blinked in surprise as she saw Kevin on the threshold holding up a bag of frozen peas.

"I brought you something," he said with a winning smile.

"Peas?" she asked as she took the bag from his hand.

"I thought it would be good for you to have them on hand, just in case a plate jumps up and bites you in the face."

"Uh, very thoughtful," Rory said with a frown as she surreptitiously eyed the dress pants, button down shirt with the collar open, and most alarmingly, the sportcoat that hung open over those pants and that shirt. She glanced down at her jeans and sweater self-consciously as she stepped back. "Uh, come in. I was running a little late, so I still need to change," she lied badly.

"Not to try to please me, I hope," he answered with a grin as he raised his other hand to present her with a bouquet of tulips. "Billy Joel would kick my ass."

"I just, uh, thank you, these are beautiful," she stammered as she took them.

"I'm just really sorry about the shiner. Tess told me you've been getting some grief about it."

"It's fine," Rory said quickly as she turned toward the kitchen to get a vase.

"I can do that. You go do your manicure or whatever girls do when they say they are going to get ready," Kevin said as he followed her.


"Well, I know it takes longer than changing your clothes. Tess takes a year to come out of her room."

Rory opened a cabinet and pulled out a vase. She handed it to him and said, "Okay." She shot him one last puzzled frown and then shook her head a bit. "I'll go change," she murmured as she pointed toward the hallway.

"You're not a shape shifter are you?" he called after her. "Can I go get my camera? My friend Jeff would be so jealous."

"No shifting. Besides, I met Jeff. He would be jealous if you showed up at the door in a purple cape," Rory answered as she scurried into her room, pulling her cell from the back pocket of her jeans and dialing even as she closed the bedroom door.

"Tessssssss," Rory hissed into the phone. "Kevin's here and he's all dressed up! He brought me peas. And tulips."

"I'm sorry, peas and tulips?"

"Yes! A bag of frozen peas and beautiful tulips," Rory whispered as she yanked her trusty black skirt from the hanger.

"Oh, peas for your eye. Wait, isn't your eye healing up?"

"He said they were in case he injured me tonight." Rory shimmied into the skirt and yanked the zipper into place. She glanced down at her sweater and then scowled as she surveyed the contents of her closet. "He thinks it's a date," she whispered.

"Well, maybe he does. Do you think it's a date?" Tess asked calmly.

"I don't know! All I know is that your brother is standing in my living room with a handful of tulips. They aren't even tulips he swiped from someone's yard. They're real tulips. Perfect tulips in a nice green cellophane wrapper! Those are not 'Sorry you have a shiner' tulips!" She yanked a top from its hanger and tossed it onto the bed before rushing to her dresser. "I can hear him out there. He's making fun of me," she grumbled as she picked through her jewelry box.

"Well, that does not sound like a date," Tess said doubtfully. "I'm sure that even Kevin knows that rule number one is that you do not mock your date until after they pony up their half of the bill."

Rory paused, a long silver necklace dangling from her fingers as she met her own panicked gaze in the mirror. "Maybe it isn't a date," she breathed.

"Maybe not."

"Maybe it is a let-me-make-it-up-to-you dinner," Rory said, her brow puckering.

"Maybe that's all it is."

Rory turned from the mirror and leaned back against her dresser. "Why isn't it a date? I'm dateable, aren't I?"

"Do you want it to be a date?"

"I don't know, but I don't know if I want him to think it's not a date," she pouted as she tugged at the hem of the sweater she still wore.

"Rory? You don't mind if I just curl up here on your couch and die of starvation, do you?" Kevin called from the hallway.

Rory pressed the phone to her ear as she whirled to glare at the door. "Did you hear that?" she asked Tess.

"I heard him, but I didn't hear what he said," Tess answered cautiously.

"So not a date. I guess he's just sick of Pizza On the Go," Rory said as she blew out a breath.

"Well, there you go."

"All right, well, I have to get changed. Thanks, Tess," Rory said, as she quickly closed her phone. She looked down at the top she had chosen and then turned back to her closet. She pulled another hanger from the rack and surveyed a top with a deep vee neckline. "I am totally dateable," she muttered as she yanked it from the hanger.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

"So, I took his word for it," Kevin said as he leaned back in his chair, fiddling with his dessert fork.

"You went to the teeny bopper dance club?" Rory said, snorting.

"Hey, he said it was recommended by his older brother," Kevin said.

"You teach middle school," Rory said, smothering a laugh. "Did it never occur to you by 'older brother' he meant his fifteen-year-old brother?"

"Come on, it wasn't obvious," Kevin said. "Have you seen high school girls lately? They don't exactly look their age anymore."

"And the words 'Under 21 Club' on the sign out front meant nothing to you?"

Kevin scowled. "Maybe I didn't see the sign, okay?"

"Well, no," Rory said. "I've seen those high school girls. The sign was probably the last thing on your mind."

"Actually, I was so obsessed with the Loser stamp the bouncer had just smacked on my hand, I never took notice," Kevin said. "Lesson learned."

"Please tell me the lesson was learned in under two minutes," Rory said.

"Oh yeah," Kevin said, shaking his head. "I ran out of there faster than Marion Jones hopped up on performance enhancing drugs."

"I find it sad that you just spontaneously compared yourself to a female runner," Rory said.

"Well, I've been told I do run like a girl," Kevin said. He picked up the guestcheck holder and inspected the bill, then grabbed his wallet from his back pocket. "What do you say, ready to get out of here?" he asked as he slid money into the holder.

"Couldn't eat another bite if I tried," Rory said as she dropped her fork and reached for her purse. "Oh," she said as Kevin quickly got up and walked around the table, grasping the back of the chair for her. "Thanks," she said, smiling up at him as she rose to her feet. "Thanks for dinner," she said as they walked toward the door, receiving a nod from Kevin in response. She paused as Kevin opened the door for her, and cleared her throat nervously. "I've never been here before," she babbled, her eyes widening as she felt his hand gently touch the small of her back. "Really great food; I could live here. Did I mention I never ate here before?" she rambled.

"Once or twice," Kevin said, smiling. "You should get out more, Gilmore. There's a whole world beyond the bookstore, I hear."

"You don't say," Rory said, frowning when she felt his hand move from her back.

They turned the corner and slowly headed toward their apartment building. Kevin chatted easily while Rory stole sidelong glances at him. Trying to fill the conversation void on her end, she blurted out, "Hey, did I tell you I interviewed Joe Lieberman?"

Kevin glanced over at Rory. "Wow. Lieberman? That's a pretty big fish to land. What were you using, Powerbait?"

"I wooed him with my pretty black eye," Rory said, cringing as Kevin flinched at the comment.

"Damn," he sighed. "I know it's getting redundant, but I'm really sorry about all this. I hate that you've had to put up with all the teasing from everyone. Did I mention that I was sorry?" He chuckled nervously.

Rory looked down, startled when she felt Kevin's hand briefly brush the back of her own. "Yeah, you've mentioned that," she murmured. "We're good. I promise."

"Good," Kevin said, striding up the stairs to the apartment door and holding it open for her. "I'm glad we're good."

They walked up the stairs to Rory's apartment, and she nearly giggled out loud when she felt his hand return to the small of her back.

"Something wrong?" Kevin asked, a ghost of a smile flitting across his lips. He leaned against the door frame as Rory dug through her purse for her keys.

"Nothing wrong at all," Rory said, looking up when she realized how close they were standing. Her breath caught in her chest as he leaned forward, his smile widening. She felt herself sway toward him ever so slightly.

Kevin cleared his throat. "I need to get back to my place," he said. "As much as I'd like to ignore them, I have a stack of papers that need to be graded, stat."

"Right," Rory said, nodding. "Young minds to mold, and all."

"Yeah," Kevin said. He lowered his chin to his chest. "So, uh, apology officially accepted now?" he asked in a deep voice.

Rory looked up, feeling a blush creep up her neck as she gazed directly into his eyes. "Apology accepted."

"Good." Kevin smiled. "Glad to hear it."

"Thanks again for dinner," Rory said. "It was lovely."

"You bet," Kevin said, reaching out and tapping her on her shoulder with his fist. "Have a good night, Rory."

"You too," Rory said, watching as Kevin turned and descended the stairs. She stared at the empty staircase for a moment, then walked into her apartment, gently closing the door behind her.

♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫   ♫

Luke stumbled toward the kitchen, his arms filled with empty plates and utensils. "Caesar, how are those chili fries coming?" he yelled as he slammed his hip into the counter corner. "Son of a bi..." he muttered under his breath, nearly dropping the stack.

"I'm waiting for the chili to turn into chili, and the fries to become something other than frozen potato popsicles, okay?" Caesar hollered back.

"Make it happen faster," Luke growled as he dumped his armload onto the counter. "I have two tables waiting for them."

"Make the jocks stop coming here to eat," Caesar shot back.

"Sure," Luke said, restacking the dirty plates. "Let's send them to Al's for some blue manicotti. Who needs a paycheck, right?" He looked up as another wave of short people wearing baseball caps swept into the diner. "Oh, for the love of God," he said. "Get more fries ready, Caesar!" he bellowed over his shoulder.

"I'm still waiting for some coffee over here," a woman at the end of the counter said, waving her empty cup in the air.

"I'm working on it," Luke said, cursing under his breath as a plate slid off the stack he was building and shattered on the floor. "Crap," he said. "What the hell else can go wrong today?" He closed his eyes as the phone began to ring. "Oh, right." He sighed. "That could happen."

"Hey, coffee?" the customer said as Luke turned around and reached for the phone.

"I'll get on that after I answer the phone, and my left eyeball explodes, okay?" Luke said sharply. He picked up the phone. "Luke's!" he said, steeling himself for what had to be yet another Lorelai call.

"Luke?" she said hesitantly.

"As previously stated," Luke said, gritting his teeth. "Lorelai, I'm up to my eyeballs in softball players. I don't have time..."

"I know," Lorelai interjected. "It's important this time, I swear."

"You remember the story about the boy who cried wolf, Lorelai?" Luke said, losing his cool. "No more spiders, no more misshapen loaves of bread, no more red vine shortages, no more 'I can't find my favorite nail file, you know, the one with the little hearts'. I'm not coming home unless it's a real emergency. You got that?"

"Luke," Lorelai said.

"I mean, it," Luke said. "I'm busting my ass, here. I can't be in two places at once."

"Luke!" Lorelai said, raising her voice.

"I swear, if you even utter the words 'Pop Tart'..." he began, freezing as he heard Lorelai gasp, then groan loudly. "What's wrong?" Luke asked, panicked when she promptly burst into tears. "What happened? I'm sorry, okay? I didn't mean it, I was just... Do you want Pop Tarts? I'll bring you Pop Tarts. Anything you want, okay? Just don't cry. I'm sorry!"

"I'm in labor," Lorelai wailed, snuffling loudly into the receiver.





To be continued...  




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