Yikes! Has it really been 40 days since I last updated? My apologies! I really didn't mean to let the time get away from me like that. My classes were cause for a majority of that, and the fact that my sister's four kids whom I've helped raise all have September birthdays, so it was a busy month to say the least. I have a break from school this week before starting back up next week, but I'm hoping to not let Sweetest Devotion fall to the wayside as much as before.

Chapter 17

"Well, I guess we'll see you back here in a few weeks," Lorelai said as they got to the security checkpoint at the airport.

"August 3rd," April smiled, but shrugged her shoulders.

"Call us when you get to Albuquerque?" Luke asked as he hugged his daughter.

"Of course," she nodded.

"Hurry back," Natalie said as the two of them hugged.

"Don't let these two drive you crazy," April replied, pointing between Luke and Lorelai.

"Oh I won't," Natalie assured her with a grin, glancing back to the adults.

"If you need to talk, I'm only a text or a phone call away," April reminded her

"Thanks April," Natalie smiled.

"Make sure you give Calamity some extra attention for me," April said.

"I will," Natalie assured her.

"I love you, have a safe flight," Lorelai said as she hugged her stepdaughter tightly and kissed the top of her head.

"Love you too," April replied.

"Love you kid," he said as he also hugged her and kissed the top of her head.

"Love you too, Dad."

April said her final goodbyes before getting in line for security. She turned to wave at them one last time before she disappeared into the terminal.

"Anywhere else we need to go before we head back to the Hollow?" Luke asked.

"Can we go get snow cones?" Natalie wondered.

"Of course," he answered as they turned to leave the airport.

When they pulled up to the snow cone stand in the grocery store parking lot, Natalie excitedly jumped out of the car.

"What kind are you getting?" Lorelai asked the girl as she looked at the large list of flavors.

"Watermelon with Crybaby," Natalie answered.

"What's Crybaby?" Lorelai let out a laugh.

"They spray it on the snow cone to make it really sour," Natalie told her.

"Like the gumballs?" Lorelai asked

"Exactly."

"I think I'm going to get a Waikiki Sunrise," Lorelai said.

"Solid choice," Natalie commended, then looked to Luke. "What about you?"

"Oh, I'm not getting one," Luke said.

"Luke, this is one of the best snow cone stands I've ever been to, you have to get one," she told him.

"Fine…" he let out a sigh, putting his hands on his hips. "You pick for me."

"Cotton candy it is!" She said happily as she went up to the window to order.

"Can we get a watermelon with Crybaby, a Waikiki Sunrise, and a cotton candy," she said.

"Pink or blue cotton candy?" The girl at the window asked.

"Blue," Luke said quickly as he pulled out his wallet.

"I'll get it, I dragged you here," Natalie offered.

"Nope, I'm paying," Luke said, handing the money into the window.

"Thanks Luke," she said gratefully.

"Anytime kid," he smiled at her as her took his change.

A few minutes later, they had their snow cones in hand and were sitting in the SUV eating them.

"When do you start soccer practice?" Lorelai asked the girl. "I know it's on my calendar at work, but I couldn't remember what day."

"Tuesday," Natalie said.

"And when's your first game?" Luke wondered.

"September 8th, I think," she replied. "I have a schedule at the house."

"Stick it on the fridge, that way Luke and I will know when you have games so we can be there," Lorelai told her.

"You don't have to come to my games," she shook her head.

"But we want to," Luke added.

"Yeah, I want a Stars Hollow Soccer shirt," Lorelai added excitedly. "We're going to embarrass the heck out of you."

"Please don't," Natalie said in a serious tone

While she pretended she didn't want that, Natalie would be ecstatic to have someone embarrass her at her games, because that also meant someone would be there to cheer her on.

"Oh yeah, I want one of those foam fingers with you jersey number on it," Luke added as he laughed.

"Wait…Luke, smile," Natalie said as she leaned into the front seat.

When Luke smiled, Natalie and Lorelai saw that his lips and teeth were blue, and they went into a giggling fit.

"What?" He asked as he looked in the rear view mirror. "Ah geez."

Lorelai and Natalie continued to laugh hysterically.

"You look like you ate a Smurf," Lorelai said through her laughter.

Their laughter was contagious and Luke couldn't help but join in. He was just happy Lorelai was smiling again, after the last few days of tears.

"Never again am I getting a blue snow cone," he announced.

"Aww, I think it's a good look on you," Lorelai grinned as Natalie continued to giggle in the backseat.

Later that evening, Lorelai appeared in the doorway of Natalie's room, knocking lightly on the door frame.

"Dinner should be ready in about 10 minutes, Luke's making chicken enchiladas," she told her.

"Okay, I'll be down in a few minutes," Natalie replied as she pressed on the top and bottom of her shoe at the toe. "I'm trying to glue the sole of my cleat back together."

"What happened to it?"

"Oh, they're just old, I've had them since freshman year," she explained. "I had to get a new pair for high school soccer, but Coach Jenkins knew I couldn't afford a pair every year, so she let me keep these, I got them glued back together last spring, but they've come apart even more since then, so I need to get them fixed since I start practice in three days."

"Luke may have something to fix that, I'll go check," she said as she quickly exited the room in an attempt to hide her tears.

When she got back into the kitchen, Luke was putting the rice into a serving dish.

"Hey, you think Natalie would want to help me make something for dessert?" He asked as he looked up.

"I bet she would," Lorelai replied with a sniffle.

"What's wrong?" He asked, immediately at her side when he noticed her tears.

"Her shoes are broken," she answered simply.

"I'm gonna need more than that," he tilted his head in confusion.

"Her shoes…her soccer shoes—"

"Her soccer cleats," he said, putting an arm around her waist. "They're broken?"

Lorelai wiped the tears from her cheeks, not wanting Natalie to come downstairs to find her crying.

"She's been playing soccer in the same cleats since she was a freshman," she said quietly. "They're falling apart, she was up there trying to glue them back together."

Now he understood, it was the look of heartbreak on his wife's face.

"Then we'll get her a new pair," he said, kissing her forehead as he gave her waist a squeeze.

"You don't mind?" She asked.

"Of course not, she needs shoes, she gets shoes," he shrugged as he checked on the enchiladas in the oven. "And whatever else she needs…we can go to the sporting goods store tomorrow."

"You're the best," she grinned at him, watching him take the dish out of the oven.

Natalie came down the stairs a few minutes later as Luke and Lorelai were putting the food on the table. They sat down, Luke looked to Lorelai and smiled.

"Lorelai told me your cleats are falling apart," Luke said to Natalie, passing the rice to her.

"Yeah, I had some stuff in my bag that I use when they start doing that, so I got them back together as best as I could," she replied. "Do you have something that might help?"

"Yeah, it's called new cleats…we're going to the sporting goods store tomorrow," Luke replied.

"No, you don't need to do that, I think I can make these last until the spring and then if I get a scholarship for college, that will cover cleats for college soccer," Natalie replied.

"No, because if you get injured because of your shoes being broken, I won't forgive myself," Luke argued. "We're going tomorrow…whatever you need, we'll get it."

"Thank you," she said gratefully as they began to eat.

The next day, they made their way to the shoe department of a large sporting goods store.

"Oh, look at that skirt!" Lorelai exclaimed as they walked through women's clothing.

"That's a tennis skirt, you don't play tennis," Luke reminded her.

"I might if I had that skirt," she retorted.

"No, you wouldn't," he said honestly.

"I would too, we could play tennis together," she continued to argue.

"We're here to buy cleats," he replied.

"You're no fun," she said with a frown.

"Here they are," Natalie said as she got to the aisle with the soccer cleats.

After looking for a moment, Natalie reached for a shoe, Lorelai quickly noticed it was the cheapest soccer cleat they offered.

"What about these?" Lorelai suggested, pointing out a flashy pair of Nikes.

"Those are too expensive," Natalie shook her head.

"Natalie, we've seen you play…you need a pair of shoes that will last, even if you get new cleats in college, you can use these for practice," Luke pointed out. "Get the pair of shoes you want, the price doesn't matter."

"These are even Stars Hollow school colors," Lorelai nodded animatedly.

Natalie let out a sigh and looked at some of the more expensive shoes, eventually grabbing one that Lorelai had pointed out. After trying them and a few other pairs on, she decided to go with the ones Lorelai had picked out.

"Now, we need some practice equipment for the house," Luke said as he started for the soccer section of the store.

"Wait, what kind of practice equipment?" Natalie stopped him.

"Some soccer balls, maybe a goal, whatever else you need," he shrugged his shoulders.

"You don't have to do that, I can go to the school for all that," Natalie said.

"I know, but this way you can practice whenever you want," Luke told her.

"Natalie, I'm sure April has told you that Luke likes to spoil the women in his life, and with the exception of April being on the swim team in junior high, you're the only athletic person in the family, let him enjoy getting to buy sports-related stuff," Lorelai said, resting her arm casually on the girl's shoulder.

She let out a sigh. "Okay."

"Thanks kid," Luke smiled as he squeezed her other shoulder.

Natalie continued on to the soccer equipment. Lorelai winked at Luke with a smile.

"You love having a sporty kid, huh?" She asked him.

"Oh yeah," Luke grinned as they followed Natalie through the store.

Two days later, Sookie came up to the reception desk where Lorelai was working.

"Is everything okay?" She asked her friend. "I've barely seen you all day."

"Yeah, I was dealing with check-outs this morning, and then I'm trying to get some of this stuff sorted out for Michel before I have to leave to take Natalie to soccer practice," Lorelai explained.

"Soccer practice…" Sookie said dreamily. "You're a soccer mom now."

"I guess I am," she smiled widely as the realization hit her.

"How are things going with just Natalie here now?" Sookie asked.

"They're going well, she seems to have adjusted to being with just Luke and me," she told her. "We went and bought everything she would need for soccer…Luke may have gone a little overboard, he bought her a few soccer balls and a goal for the backyard."

"Well yeah, he finally has someone around who is interested in sports, he has to overindulge somewhat," Sookie said. "I should send Davey to your house, I've been trying to talk him into playing soccer, but he doesn't seem interested."

"Well, if anyone can make it interesting, it's Natalie," Lorelai nodded.

"So you and Luke have been pretty busy this summer," Sookie said nonchalantly.

"We have, between rearranging schedules for April, and taking Natalie in, we haven't had time for much else," she replied, focusing on moving files on the computer from one folder to another.

"Like a little baby-making?" She grinned curiously.

"Sookie!" Lorelai exclaimed, then lowered her voice. "Of course we've had time for that, it would be a waste of money to be going through all these treatments and then not even try."

"I know, I just wanted to make sure it hadn't taken a back seat to your busy summer," she replied.

"It hasn't…I'm hoping our busy schedule has helped the process along somewhat, since we haven't had as much time to obsess over getting pregnant," Lorelai admitted.

"You're going to have a full house once you have a baby," Sookie said excitedly.

A voice came over the two-way radio Lorelai had sitting at the desk. "Lorelai, it's Rylie, are you there?"

"I'm here, Rylie," Lorelai replied into the radio.

"I need you to get down to where the horse trail meets the footbridge," Rylie said.

"Why, what's wrong?" Lorelai asked as she and Sookie exchanged panicked glances.

"It's Natalie—"

Lorelai took off out the front door of the inn before Rylie could even finish her sentence. Sookie took off after her, both of them jumping in the golf cart, taking off to toward the nature trail.

"Rylie, I'm on my way," she told her.

Once they got close enough, Lorelai could see the six horses near the water, while Rylie was hovered over Natalie, who she had lying on the ground. Four of the Dragonfly guests were standing nearby, unsure of what to do. She parked the cart far enough away so she wouldn't spook the horses.

"What happened?" Lorelai asked, rushing from the cart over to the girl, kneeling down in the dirt next to her.

"She was on Thor, I guess he got spooked, because he reared back and when he did, Natalie got bucked off," Rylie explained. "I think she landed on her arm."

"How are you feeling?" Lorelai asked the girl.

"My wrist hurts and my head," she admitted.

"Yeah, you may have a concussion," Lorelai told her. "Let me see the arm."

Natalie had been holding her right hand over her left wrist against her chest, when she lifted the injured arm up, it was obvious it was broken. Lorelai let out a gasp.

"Yeah, we have to get you to the hospital, that needs to be x-rayed," she told the girl.

"But what about the guests?" She argued. "And Thor?"

"I will take care of the guests, and I will get Thor back to the stables," Rylie assured her. "You need to have your head and arm looked at."

"Thanks Rylie," Lorelai said, then stood up and looked to their guests. "I'm sorry for the inconvenience everyone, you're going to be short a guide for the rest of your ride, but I can assure you that Rylie will take care of you."

"Is she going to be okay?" The woman asked with her arm around her small son.

"Yeah, she's one of the toughest kids I know, she'll be fine," Lorelai replied, then turned back to Natalie, helping her up off the ground as Thor walked up to them.

"It's okay, bud," Natalie said as the horse nuzzled her cheek, she rubbed his neck. "I know you didn't mean to."

"Lorelai, do you need to call her parents?" One of the guests asked. "I have my phone."

"She's mine," Lorelai replied as she and Natalie exchanged knowing glances. "But thank you."

"Oh, okay, no problem," he replied.

Natalie kissed Thor's nose before they walked back to the cart. Lorelai sat with her arm around the girl in the back of the cart as Sookie drove back to the inn.

"Now DHS is going to think I'm abusing you," Lorelai said, half joking.

A look of panic came over Natalie's face. "Are they going to take me from you?"

"Honey, no...you had plenty of witnesses, the Kellers have stayed with us multiple times, if we need them to verify, I'm sure they will," Lorelai assured her.

"And I was with Lorelai at the front desk when it happened," Sookie added from the front seat.

"Why didn't you have your helmet on?" Lorelai asked.

"I did, Rylie just took it off after I fell," Natalie said.

"Good," Lorelai rubbed her hand nervously up and down Natalie's arm.

"Oh no!" Natalie cried.

"What?" Lorelai asked, panicking at Natalie's outburst.

"I'm gonna miss soccer practice!" She exclaimed.

"Sweetheart, it's okay, we'll call your coach, I'm sure she'll understand," Lorelai assured her, pulling her phone from her pocket. "I need to call Luke."

"Will I still be able to play with a cast on my arm?" She wondered.

"We'll ask the doctor when we get there," Lorelai assured her as she dialed the number at the diner.

"Luke's."

"Luke, it's me, I need you to do me a favor," she said. "I think Natalie broke her arm, we're—"

"Broke her arm? How?" He asked.

"She fell off a horse," Lorelai answered.

"You need to take her to the hospital," Luke said before Lorelai could continue.

"That's what I'm calling to tell you, we're heading to the hospital, but I need you to run by the house and get the paperwork that shows we can get her medical treatment," Lorelai told him.

"Okay, I'll go get it and I'll meet you at the hospital," he said.

"Thanks Luke, love you," she replied.

"Love you too," he said before hanging up.

They got back to the inn and Lorelai helped the girl into the Jeep as Michel pulled into the employee parking lot.

"Where do you think you're going?" He asked.

"Natalie broke her arm, I'm taking her to the hospital," Lorelai said. "I didn't get everything sorted out, Michel. I'm sorry, but I'll try to come back later and finish."

"Don't worry about it, I'll figure it out," he offered.

"Thanks Michel, if you have any questions, just text me," Lorelai replied, then looked to Sookie. "Thanks for driving us back."

"No problem, let me know what they say," Sookie said.

"I will," Lorelai replied before closing her door and driving off.

Luckily, with it being the middle of the day, the emergency room was almost empty and they were in a room quickly. It wasn't long before there was a knock on the door and Luke entered the room.

"Here are the papers," Luke said, handing them to Lorelai.

"Thanks," Lorelai replied as he rubbed her shoulder and pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "I'm going to go give them to the nurse."

Luke turned to Natalie when Lorelai walked out of the room. "How are you feeling?" He asked her.

"My wrist hurts, so does my head," she answered.

"Did you not have your riding helmet on?" He asked as he sat down in the chair Lorelai vacated.

"Yeah, but I landed pretty hard," Natalie told him.

"So no soccer practice today," he realized aloud.

"Nope, I called Coach Jenkins on the way here," she replied. "They can do a certain type of cast that is allowed in soccer, so I'm hoping they can do that here."

"I'm sure they can," he assured her.

Lorelai re-entered the room. "Okay, we are all set, the nurse said someone will be here shortly to take you to radiology."

"Okay," she said.

"Have you ever had x-rays before?" Lorelai asked her.

"Yeah," she nodded as she looked down at her lap, when she looked back up she had tears in her eyes.

"Oh hon," Lorelai said, going over and putting an arm around her shoulders.

"A couple years ago, my stepdad dislocated my shoulder," she explained. "They did x-rays to make sure it wasn't broken."

"Was that when they were investigated by DHS?" Lorelai asked.

"Yeah," she nodded. "But my mom made me tell them it happened at soccer practice, she told me if I didn't, she would kick me out of the house."

"Natalie, I wish we had known," Lorelai said as she squeezed the girl's shoulder.

"It's okay…what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?" She offered, pulling her phone out of her pocket.

"Did that happen today?" Lorelai asked, noticing the crack on the screen.

"Part of it, some of it happened the night I left my parents'," Natalie told her. "It still works though."

There was a knock on the door before a woman in scrubs came in.

"Natalie?" She asked.

"That's me," Natalie said.

"Date of birth?"

"Nine-seven-ninety-two," Natalie answered.

"Awesome, I'm Mikayla, I'm going to take you to radiology, it looks like we're doing x-rays of your left wrist and a head CT," she said, reading the chart.

"Guess so," Natalie shrugged.

The woman pulled a wheelchair into the room and Natalie got in it.

"Mom, Dad, you can walk down there with us, but you'll have to wait in the hall once we get there," Mikayla told Luke and Lorelai.

None of them had the heart to correct the young woman, and they weren't sure they wanted to. Luke and Lorelai had bonded with Natalie in their own ways, and they already knew she would forever be a part of their family.

Following her trip to radiology, the doctor came in, checked her vitals and such, then placed her films on the light board for them to see.

"Well Natalie, it doesn't look like you have a concussion, so you were lucky there," he said as he looked at her chart. "This says you fell off a horse. Were you wearing a helmet?"

"Yeah."

"Good girl," he smiled at her, then looked to the x-ray of her wrist. "However, your wrist is definitely fractured, as I'm sure you already assumed…luckily, it was a clean break, so it will be a lot easier to heal."

"You'll have to put a cast on it?" She asked.

"We will, six weeks in a hard cast—"

"Will I be able to play soccer with that?" Natalie asked immediately.

"You can do whatever you want, but I know high school soccer has regulations on the type of cast you can play in," he said.

"Soccer is her life," Luke told him.

"Well, we can definitely get her in a cast that conforms to those regulations," he replied. "It won't be the normal hard cast though, so you will have to be a little more careful."

"I will," she assured him.

"Yeah, she'll only have practice until the first part of September, so she may be out of the cast by the time the actual season rolls around," Lorelai added.

"Good…you'll just have to take it easy, don't overdo it, and definitely don't get injured further," he advised.

"I won't," she said.

"Good to hear…someone will be in to do your cast shortly," he said, putting his pen in his pocket.

When they walked into the house that evening, Natalie plopped down on the couch, exhausted.

"You need anything?" Lorelai asked, leaning over the back of the couch to look at the girl.

"No, I'm fine, just tired, it's been a long day," Natalie answered.

"Okay, if you need anything, let me know, Luke's bringing dinner home from the diner," Lorelai said.

"Spaghetti Tuesday!" Natalie realized.

"He knew you'd like that," Lorelai smiled at her.


A little fluff and a little drama. Let me know what you think!