A/N: Thank you all so much for your reviews. Trust me, this is as fun for me as I hope it is for you!
Worshipping and Handling Included
"Ello? Ellloooooo!" Luke heard someone call bright and early the next morning. "Ello?"
"I'm coming," Luke groaned as he rolled off of the bed. He paused in the doorway to push the leg of his sweat pants down with his toes and then stumbled down the hallway, rubbing the small of his back with his fingers.
"Ello?" he heard as he passed the guest room.
"I heard ya," Luke growled.
The guest room door opened a crack and Emily asked, "Is someone here?"
"It's just Josh," Luke said in a gravelly voice.
"Ello?" Josh called as Luke shuffled through the doorway.
"Hello," he croaked in reply as he spied Josh standing at the rail of his crib awaiting release.
"Hi!" Josh said brightly.
"Hi, hello, good morning," Luke answered as he lifted Josh from the crib with a grunt. "We need to get you a big boy bed," he said as he set Josh on his sleepered feet.
"Then they'll be free to run all over the place," Emily said as she stepped into the room knotting the belt of her robe.
"They're getting too big for the cribs," Luke said as he ran his hand through his hair, trying to flatten it into place. "I keep waiting for one of them to try to catapult their way out," he grumbled.
Emily looked at him closely and said, "You should go back to bed. You can't have had more then two hours of sleep," she said as Josh walked over to her and tugged on her robe.
"Hi!" Josh said with a flirty smile.
Emily leaned down to scoop him up and said, "Don't you try to charm me, young man."
Josh placed his hands on Emily's cheeks and pressed as he said, "Mam."
Emily smiled at him and said, "Mam will get you some breakfast. Let's let your father get some more sleep."
"Seep, Daddy," Josh ordered as he pointed to his crib.
"I'll take my own, thanks," Luke said with a chuckle as he followed them into the hallway.
"They were both doing well?" Emily asked.
"They were both perfect in every way," Luke answered.
Emily turned to him and said, "I don't understand why you two can't settle on a name."
Luke tried not to smile as he said, "Well, there was some discussion about a Christmassy name, since she was born in December."
"Christmassy?" Emily asked, aghast.
"Holly, Noel, Kris," Luke said with a smirk.
"Oh no," Emily breathed.
"Then is disintegrated into Carol, Joy and finally Frankincense," Luke said darkly.
"Frankincense?" Emily asked.
"Yes, we could call her Frankie," Luke said snidely. "Now you know why I had to nip that in the bud," he said as he rolled his eyes.
"Thank you," Emily said as she hiked Josh up in her arms.
"I promise you'll know her name today," Luke said as he stepped into their bedroom.
"Go back to sleep. I'll wake you in a couple of hours," she promised.
"Will you be okay with them?" Luke asked worriedly.
"Are you going to be good for Grandma?" Emily asked Josh indulgently.
"Good," Josh told his father.
"Gimme a squeeze," Luke said as he held his hands out for Josh to come to him. He hugged him tightly as he asked, "You ready to meet your baby sister, buddy?"
"Baby," Josh answered.
"Yes, she's a baby," Luke confirmed.
"Baby on belly," Josh said as he patted his own tummy.
Luke shook his head and said, "No, not on Mommy's belly anymore. The baby came out to see you."
"Jos!" he crowed happily.
"Yes, she came out to see Josh," Luke told him as he pressed his lips to the boy's temple. "You got one for me?" Luke asked as he pursed his lips comically.
"Hi!" Josh said as he held up his hand for a high five.
Luke laughed and said, "High five," as he slapped Josh's palm with his fingertips. "Kiss," he ordered.
"Mwah," Josh said as he opened his hand and blew Emily a dramatic kiss.
"Thank you," Emily said with an amused smile.
"No, a kiss of the old man," Luke said with a laugh.
"No!" Josh said with a grin.
"You used to like me," Luke protested.
"Kiss Mama," Josh said as he looked around for Lorelai.
"I'm subbing for her today. She said for you to give me her kisses," Luke said cajolingly.
Josh patted Luke's scruffy cheek and he said, "No."
"Too scratchy?" Luke asked his reached up to cover Josh's hand with his own.
"Owie," Josh howled loudly.
"Ah geez," Luke said as he rolled his eyes. "Mommy shouldn't have taught you that," he grumbled. When Josh grinned at him happily, Luke sighed and said, "Fine. If I shave can I have a kiss?"
"No," Josh said gleefully as he squirmed in Luke's arms, anxious to get away.
"I'm not chasing you right now, buddy," Luke said as he set Josh on his feet and gave him a pat on his butt.
"Get me!" Josh crowed.
"Not now. I'll get you later," Luke promised.
"Grandma will get you breakfast," Emily said as she bent over to get him.
"Make him step down the stairs, please," Luke reminded her. "We're trying to practice with them."
"That's right, yes, I will," Emily said as she offered Josh her hand.
Luke watched as Emily unlatched the baby gate at the top of the stairs and then waited patiently as Josh raised his foot up high to be sure he cleared it. Emily paused on each step as Josh clung to her hand with one hand and to the wall with the other. As usual, by the time they reached the landing, Josh had grown impatient with his own slow progress and dropped to his hand and knees to back down the stairs. "Feet," Luke called out from above them. He had to bite back a smile as Josh looked up at him in frustration, shooting him a glare that was so much like his mother's that it made Luke's resolve waver momentarily. "Are you a baby or a big boy?" Luke asked as he leaned over the banister.
"Big," Josh answered promptly.
"Big boys use their feet," Luke told him.
This time Josh's sigh was accompanied with a grunt and a scowl that transformed him from Lorelai into Luke as he rolled back over and stood up. Emily smiled patiently as she offered her hand again and Josh began to make his way down the stairs again.
Luke chuckled and scratched his side as he shuffled tiredly back into their bedroom and fell face first back into his pillow. He groaned as he slid his arms up under it and cradled it as he turned his head to the side and closed his eyes. But instead of dropping off to sleep, he thought about the changes the last few months had brought. As soon as Lorelai's pregnancy was confirmed, they began working with both boys. Little things like making them walk instead of being carried, waiting for the use of words before responding to their cries, and in Luke's case, instruction on how to care for a pregnant mommy. Soon, Jake became Lorelai's go to guy, always willing to carry messages from one room to another, although sometimes they got lost in translation. He was an excellent gofer, and displayed his father's love of neatness and order by picking up his toys and placing them back into the box under the table each night. Josh, on the other hand, was a little more like Lorelai. He would gladly go to the kitchen to fetch Luke, but you ran the risk of him being distracted by a dust bunny in the hallway. He also volunteered his services as a gofer, but usually wanted a cut of whatever it was he had been sent after as a reward, something that didn't always play well with his mother. But unlike Jake, Josh was fascinated by Lorelai's growing belly. He liked to cuddle up beside her and press his face to the mound of baby. Jake was a little more stand offish, puzzled by the changes in her appearance and her often cranky tone of voice. It had not been an easy pregnancy, despite the lack of morning sickness. During her second trimester she was placed on bed rest after a terrifying episode of bleeding which resulted in a diagnosis of Placenta Previa. As her third trimester progressed, it was determined that the occlusion was correcting itself, and that if Lorelai were to remain on bed rest for the duration of the pregnancy she should be able to deliver the baby herself rather than undergo another caesarean.
Luke rolled onto his back and blinked up at the ceiling, trying to will his overactive brain into neutral so that he could catch just a couple of more hours, but he knew it was a lost cause. The past two months had been a roller coaster ride, and at the moment, even running on two hours of sleep, Luke felt more relaxed than he had in a long time. There had been fights and tears and tense stand offs. He had wanted her to schedule the caesarean, frightened by the information he had gathered on the internet about the risks of a hemorrhage. Knowing that this would likely be her last pregnancy, Lorelai was determined to have this baby vaginally, if possible. She tried to explain the strange detachment she had felt as they had watched the doctors remove the twins from her body without being able to feel a thing. She tried to be patient with him, knowing that he was petrified of losing her, and tried to reassure him that the doctors would step in if anything should go wrong. But Luke being Luke could only stew and fret. Recalling the day that Dr. Morgan had told Lorelai that she should have no trouble delivering, he covered his eyes with his hand and took a deep breath. Lorelai had turned to look up at him with such a look of pure joy that he resolved then and there to say no more about it. And for the last three weeks, it had been the polar opposite of the end of her previous pregnancy. Lorelai was warm and affectionate, teasing him as she stretched out on the couch with her feet in his lap, and watched the boys play. She accepted their gifts of balls and blocks gracefully, pressing loud smacking kisses on their cheeks, and rubbing her nose against theirs until they giggled and pushed her away, only to come back moments later for more. Bored and in need of constant stimulation, Lorelai did whatever she could to keep Luke near her in that last month, even going so far to agree to Emily's offer to hire a Mother's Helper come in each day for a few hours to help take care of the house and assist with the boys.
Charlotte Givens was a god send. After interviewing a parade of candidates that seemed to stretch for miles, they were beginning to give up hope when Charlie appeared. She was in her early sixties, a former third grade teacher who had taken early retirement when two school districts in neighboring towns had consolidated. She bustled into the room, her steel grey hair cut into a no nonsense wedge and her bowling bowl body stuffed into an outfit adorned with feathers beads and tiny round mirrors. She answered all of Luke's questions in a simple direct manner while Lorelai sat on the couch petulant and cranky. When Luke turned and asked if she had anything she wanted to ask, Lorelai looked the woman in the eye and asked, "Can I call you Alice?"
Charlie's eyebrows shot up as she said, "Only if I can call you Carol, but I'm telling you now, I'm not sleeping with the butcher, no matter how good of a bowler he is."
Lorelai grinned for the first time in days as she looked Charlie in a whole new light. "But Sam was kind of a hottie," she pointed out.
Charlie wrinkled her nose and said, "Only if you like men who smell like meat all of the time."
Lorelai glanced over at Luke and said, "Oh, I do."
Charlie frowned and asked, "All I know is that Mike must have been one crappy architect of he couldn't add a couple of bedrooms and another bath onto that house."
"You're hired," Lorelai said with a laugh.
And that was that. Charlie showed up at the house five days a week from ten until two. She kept the laundry caught up, and did a little light housekeeping in addition to preparing lunch for Lorelai and the boys. It wasn't unusual for Luke to come home to find Charlie sitting on the floor teaching the boys their colors or numbers while debating with Lorelai over whether Tom Corbett and Mrs. Livingston were having a torrid affair on The Courtship of Eddie's Father, or if Mrs. C was getting a little in the Fonz's apartment over the garage. It was Luke's fervent hope that Charlie would stay on even after Lorelai was back up on her feet. The boys adored her, and she was lavished all of her grandmotherly attentions on them since her own grown children had not provided her with any of her own. She fit into their household seamlessly, and was rapidly becoming more of a family friend than an employee. As a matter of fact, Luke's fourth middle of the night phone call had been to her, and Charlie greeted the news of Caroline's arrival with the same relieved joy that the rest of their family and friends had, releasing a long held breath along with a silent prayer of thanks.
Luke glanced over at the clock and saw that it was nearly eight. He rolled off of the bed and walked toward the bathroom, stripping his t-shirt over his head as he went. He turned on the shower and while he waited for the water to come to temperature he took a good hard look in the mirror. With a grimace he noted that the bags under his eyes were roomy enough to carry most of Lorelai's shoes, and that the ten pounds of pregnancy weight he had gained had settled around his middle. He rubbed his hand over his scruffy beard and muttered, "Deny me kisses," as he grabbed a fresh razor from under the sink and then stripped off his sweats.
After a long hot shower, he felt much better. He dressed in jeans and a sweater, his hair towel dried and combed into place and his cheeks smooth and scented with aftershave. He made his way down to the nursery and found Jake sitting up in his crib, blinking blearily as he tried to decide is he really wanted to be awake or not. "Hey," Luke said softly as he approached, knowing that Jake shared Lorelai's views on waking up in the morning. Jake blinked up at him solemnly as Luke wrapped his hands around the rail of his crib. "How's it going?" Luke asked him.
"Up," Jake answered as he lifted his arms.
"I thought so," Luke answered as he lifted Jake from the crib and then held him close for a moment.
"Tink," Jake said as he wrinkled his nose and turned his face away.
"Man, I just can't please either of you," Luke said with a laugh. "Your brother made me shave," he said as he carried Jake over to the changing table to check his diaper. "The stinky stuff isn't for you anyway," he explained as they went through their morning routine. "Mommy likes it."
"Mama," Jake said as he turned his head to look at the empty doorway.
"Mommy isn't here, but we're going to go see her in a little bit," Luke told him. "You want to go? You want to go see Mommy and maybe meet your baby sister?" he asked cajolingly.
"Mama," Jake answered.
Luke frowned and asked, "You don't want to see the baby? It's the baby that was in Mommy's belly," he added enticingly.
"Baby Marfa," Jake said soberly.
"No, not Martha, but a baby girl like Martha," Luke said as he snapped Jake's sleeper closed again. "You ready to hit the bricks?" he asked as he picked Jake up and set him down on his feet.
"Num!" Jake said as he made a beeline for the door.
"Yes, we're gonna go eat," Luke said with a chuckle as he turned and took off after his son.
Jake peeked over his shoulder, saw Luke pursuing him, and let out a squeal of delight as he said, "Me!"
"Yes, I'm gonna get you," Luke said in a deep rumble.
Jake reached the gate at the top of the stairs and said, "Help! Help!" as he clung to the plastic latticework.
"What's wrong?" Emily called as she rushed from the kitchen.
"Oh, nothing, Emily," Luke called back quickly. "We were just, I was, uh, chasing him," he explained.
Emily pressed her hand to her heart and said, "You scared me to death!"
"I'm sorry," Luke said as he opened the gate and led Jake through it, waiting patiently as Jake paused to study the stairs he was about to conquer. "Jake likes to cry wolf," he said with a helpless shrug. "We've read the book, but the moral of the story is completely lost on him," he said as he watched Jake take the first two steps cautiously.
"I've made eggs. I was just about to come up to check on him," Emily explained as she looked up at Luke with a frown. "You're dressed and ready," she observed.
Luke shrugged as he and Jake took the next step down and said, "Too ansty to sleep."
"I'll heat some water for tea," Emily said as she turned back toward the kitchen.
Luke looked down at Jake's fingers wrapped tightly around his own and felt his heart miss a beat. He stepped down onto the landing and then waited for Jake to join him. Luke squatted down and said, "You're getting so big."
"Big boy," Jake answered with a nod.
Luke pressed his lips together as he thought of the tiny girl he had held just a few hours before, certain that she had already grown some and he had missed it. When Jake tugged at his hand, anxious to get to his breakfast, Luke wrapped and arm around him and said, "I'm a bigger boy. Let me carry you." When Jake clung to his neck, Luke lifted him up with an exaggerated groan and asked, "When did you get so big? You weigh a ton."
"Ton," Jake agreed happily.
When they entered the kitchen, Josh had already finished his breakfast and was holding his sippy cup in one hand as he picked up a section of the newspaper that Richard had discarded and offered it back to his grandfather. "Oh, thank you," Richard said as he carefully placed the section on the top of the stack.
Luke set Jake on his feet and said to Josh, "You owe me, buddy."
"Daddy!" Josh cried jubilantly.
"Yeah, the same guy you wouldn't have anything to do with this morning," Luke said as he bent over and swooped Josh up into the air.
"He just finished eating," Emily warned.
Luke looked up at Josh's laughing face and said, "Don't puke on me."
Emily rolled her eyes as she spooned some eggs into a plastic bowl for Jake. "Richard, would you pour Jacob some milk, please," she said in an impatient tone.
Richard lowered his newspaper to find Jake staring at him intently. "Hi, Mpaw," Jake said shyly.
Richard's smile was instantaneous as he said, "Good morning, Jacob. Would you like Mpaw to get you some milk?" he asked as he reached for the second cup Emily had placed on the table earlier.
"Pease milk," Jake said with a nod.
"You gonna kiss me now?" Luke asked Josh as he held him over his head.
"No!" Josh giggled.
"No?" Luke asked as he collapsed his arms and Josh squealed. He straightened them again and asked, "Now you gonna kiss me?"
"No!" Josh crowed.
"No!" Jake chimed in.
"Pipe down, you. He doesn't need you egging him on," Luke told Jake as he lowered Josh down to his hip. "Who loves Daddy?" Luke asked Josh in a low voice.
"Jos," Josh answered with an emphatic nod.
"That's right, Josh does. So, maybe Josh can put one here?" Luke said as he tapped his cheek. When Josh finally leaned in and pressed his mouth against his cheek, Luke smiled and said, "I knew I'd get one."
Lorelai was awake when the nurse came in to check on them just after eight o'clock. After feeding Caroline at six, Lorelai had told the nurse that she wanted her nearby. She drifted in and out of sleep, opening her eyes to peer through the Plexiglas bassinet to check to be sure that her baby was indeed here. She never would have admitted as much to Luke, but there were times when she wasn't sure they were going to make it this far. No, he was scared enough for the both of them, so she bit her tongue, plastered on a confident smile and assured him over and over again that everything was going to be fine. Of course, Luke would probably been happier if she admitted that she was a scared as he was, but she just couldn't. She couldn't voice those fears aloud. It was okay for him to say them, but what if Caroline heard the doubt in her voice? What if Caroline knew that every day her Mommy lived in fear of losing her? She knew that Luke had only been thinking about what was best for her and for Caroline. She couldn't explain why she had dug her heels in about the caesarean, other than to say that scheduling it seemed to be admitting defeat, and she wasn't about to do that. As far as Lorelai was concerned, if they had to do it because one or both of them were in distress, that was one thing, but scheduling it to happen was almost as if she was saying that she couldn't handle it. And she had proved them wrong.
Of course, the pain was another matter. She had purposefully not thought about that. The pain made it real though. The pain had made it an accomplishment. She wanted to turn to Luke and say, 'Look at what I did,' but when the moment came, she saw in his eyes that he had never really doubted her at all. No, it wasn't that he didn't believe in her, it was simply that he didn't trust his old nemesis Fate when it came to wreaking havoc on his life. When she squeezed Luke's hand, crushing the bones together until she felt them shift beneath his skin, she knew he knew. When she cussed him up and down and he just smiled and told her to breathe, she knew that he knew that she could do it. Even when she threatened his manhood with manicure scissors, he didn't flinch. Instead he kissed her hand and told her that she could do anything she wanted to him, but they had to finish what they had started first. When she dropped back against the mattress, limp and panting, she looked at him and said, "I don't wanna do this anymore."
Luke simply smiled and said, "Yes you do. You can't wait to meet her either. Let's meet our little girl, Lorelai," he whispered into her ear, helping to support her back as she sat up and prepared for one more big push that turned into three more big pushes. And then suddenly, she was there, slimy and squalling as they placed her on Lorelai's stomach, she was possibly the most beautiful thing Lorelai had ever seen. Not that she would ever admit that to Rory, Josh or Jake, Lorelai thought with a smirk. They were all the most beautiful creatures in that moment. She looked up at Luke and saw that his mask was wet with tears as he watched the doctor clamp the umbilical cord and nodded as they asked him if he would cut it. After completing his task, they whisked Caroline away to clean her up, weigh and measure her. Luke looked up at Lorelai, and she saw the wonder in his wide blue eyes.
"Kiss me, Burger boy," she said softly.
Luke lunged for her, and Lorelai laughed as she tugged down the mask he had forgotten about and pressed her lips to his. "Lorelai. Oh, Lorelai," he whispered in a choked voice.
"Shh, shh," she soothed him as she pressed her palm against his cheek.
She heard the doctor clear her throat gently and say, "We still have a little more work to do guys."
"Right, right," Luke said as he pulled back and took Lorelai's hand in his. "Might as well use this one, I think it's already broken," he said gruffly, smiling behind his mask, his eyelashes wet and spiky.
Lorelai smiled as she slowly pushed herself up and peered over the edge of the isolette. She stared at Caroline's tiny bow of a mouth and the dark lashes that shadowed her cheeks. "Ah, baby girl," she sighed as she gently stroked her cheek with the back of one finger. She smiled as Caroline wrinkled her tiny nose and shifted away from her mother's touch. "Oh, no you don't," Lorelai said with a grin as she reached in to pick up the sleeping baby. "You're not getting away from me for a long time, kiddo," she whispered as she pulled the blanket down slightly to get a better look at her. She gently pulled the pink knit cap from her head, revealing a shock of fine dark hair that stood straight up. Lorelai smoothed the hair down, stroking it into a swirl over the baby's brow as she asked, "How long do you think Daddy can stay away from us?"
Lorelai's question was answered when the door to her room opened and Rory poked her head inside. "Are you awake?" she whispered.
"I am but she's not," Lorelai said as she nodded to the baby sleeping in the bassinet next to the bed. "She woke up, chowed down and conked out again," she reported as Rory stepped into the room with Jess, Emily and Richard following close behind. "Hi guys," she said softly as they filed into the room and walked directly to the bassinet to peer down at the new arrival. Lorelai smirked and said, "Hello, Lorelai, how are you? I'm fine, just had a baby. Yes, we heard, but we just wanted to stop by to make sure that you were feeling alright," she mimicked.
"Hi Mom," Rory said with a sheepish grin.
"Honestly, Lorelai," Emily said as she shook her head.
"You look well, Lorelai. Were you able to get some rest?" Richard asked politely.
"A little," Lorelai said as she watched Jess hang back as the three of them hovered over the baby. "Would you like me to introduce you?" she asked with an impish grin.
Emily looked up and asked, "You've decided on a name, then," in a cautious tone.
Lorelai smiled and said, "Mom, we've had her named since I was two months pregnant. We just didn't want to tell anyone, or get any commentary on it," she explained.
Emily looked at Lorelai and said, "Please tell me that you didn't name her Frankincense."
"No, but I thought that was cute," Lorelai said defensively. "Of course, I'd had a little something to take the edge off," she added with a smirk.
"Are you going to tell her?" Rory asked impatiently.
"Do you know?" Emily demanded.
Rory shrugged and said, "I didn't, but Luke slipped up one day."
"I grilled the man and he didn't cave," Emily said indignantly.
Lorelai shook her head and said, "You can't get to Luke that way. He's too stubborn. You have to worm your way around him." She looked at Emily and said, "Go ahead, Mom, pick her up."
Emily didn't have to be told twice. She handed her purse to Richard, who stared at it blankly, gently lifted the baby and placed her into the crook of her arm. She smiled softly and said, "Hello, baby girl, I'm your Grandma. Who are you?" she asked as she used one finger to pull the blanket away so that Richard could have a better look at her.
"Mom, Dad, I'd like you to meet Caroline Emily Danes," Lorelai said with a pleased smile.
"Oh!" Emily gasped as he eyes flew to Lorelai's.
"Such a lovely name," Richard said with a pleased smile as he gently placed his hand in the small of Emily's back.
"Caroline was Luke's mom's name," Lorelai explained as she waited for Emily's reaction.
Emily linked rapidly as she looked back down at the baby in her arms and said, "That is a lovely name."
Rory nodded and said, "I was a little surprised, since Luke was so adamant about not wanting to name the boys after anyone."
Lorelai smiled and said, "Yes, well, he suggested it, and I thought it was a good idea." She looked around and asked, "Speaking of Luke, is he still sleeping?"
Emily chuckled and asked, "Are you kidding? He was up when the boys woke up this morning. He should be here shortly, he said they had an errand to run."
"I see," Lorelai said as she struggled to keep the petulant tone out of her voice.
Emily looked up sharply and said, "He left just before we did, so he should be here soon."
"You know, Emily, just because she's named for you, it doesn't mean that she belongs to you," Richard said as he looked at the baby pointedly.
"Oh for heavens sake, Richard, I've only been holding her for a moment," Emily said in an exasperated tone.
"No bickering over the baby," Lorelai warned them.
"I can solve this," Rory said as she tapped Emily's arm. "May I hold my little sister, please?" she asked politely.
Emily pursed her lips but offered no argument as she handed Caroline to Rory. "Well played, Sweets," Lorelai said with a nod.
"Thank you," Rory answered as she looked down at the baby. "She's like a little doll."
"I know, and we get to dress her up like one," Lorelai said with an excited grin. "The little underpants with the ruffles on the butt, the tiny patent leather shoes," she cooed.
"Isn't she cute?" Rory asked as she turned to Jess.
Jess held his hands up and said, "Too tiny."
"Josh and Jake were smaller and you held them," Lorelai pointed out.
Rory nodded to the recliner and said, "Sit down, I'll give her to you."
"Hey, I believe that I should be next," Richard protested.
"Let her grandfather hold her," Jess said quickly.
"Bwak!" Rory squeaked at Jess as she turned to pass the pink bundle on to Richard.
"Bwak!" Josh squealed as the door swung open.
"Bwak bwak, bwak," Jake echoed as he followed Josh into the room with their father close on their heels with an empty stroller.
"Who let these chickens in my room?" Lorelai demanded, he face lighting up at the sight of their tousled blond curls.
"Mama! Bwak!" Josh said as he danced with excitement.
"I am not a chicken, Jess is," she said indignantly as she pointed to their cousin.
"Jeh chickie," Jake said with a nod.
"Am not," Jess mumbled.
"Chickie!" Josh said as he pointed to Jess.
"Come here," Jess growled as he swooped down to pick Josh up and tossed him over his shoulder.
"Easy there," Luke cautioned as he parked the stroller against the wall. He walked over to the bed and kissed Lorelai hello. "Hey," he said softly. "You sleep?"
"Apparently more than you did," she said with a smile.
"Too excited," Luke answered quietly. "And then these guys got up," he said as he straightened up.
"Did you get the morning hellos?" Lorelai asked.
"Yes," Luke said as he turned to see Richard standing slightly apart from them, entranced by his granddaughter.
"What do you think?" he asked Richard.
"Emily," Richard croaked without taking his eyes off of Caroline. "Emily, look," he said in a hushed voice.
Emily stood on her toes to peer over the edge of the blanket and was met with a pair of bright blue eyes. "Oh," she gasped as she pressed her hand to her heart.
Richard looked up at Luke and nodded to the tiny pink cap Caroline wore as he asked, "May I?"
"Sure," Luke answered as he shot Lorelai a bewildered look.
Richard removed the small cap and sighed happily when he saw the shock of fluffy dark hair on Caroline's head. "You look just like your mother," he told his granddaughter in a voice hoarse with emotion.
Lorelai looked at Luke, surprised by the overt emotion her parents were displaying. Emily pressed her hand to her mouth for a moment and then asked Richard, "May I hold her?"
"Certainly," Richard whispered as he handed the baby over to Emily once more.
Luke cleared his throat gently and then asked, "She looks like Lorelai did?"
"I thought Rory," Lorelai admitted.
Emily shook her head as she sank down into the chair next to the bed and said, "No, although Rory did look a great deal like you. Her hair was lighter, her eyes too." She smiled as Caroline expressed her boredom with the conversation with a gaping yawn and said, "She is Lorelai. Look at how bright her eyes are. Just like Jake's now that Josh's have gotten darker. But the hair," she said softly. "Fluff, we called it," she said with a fond smile. "Of course, it was just baby hair, it all came out. But when it came back in, it was so curly. Tighter curls than the twin have," Emily said with a nod. "It always amazed me, how this hair could be so straight and fine, and then suddenly she had a head full of wild curls."
"Clown hair," Lorelai said as she rolled her eyes.
Emily smiled up at her and said, "It made me crazy. It was impervious to barrettes, refused to stay in hair bands or ribbons." She looked down at Caroline and said smugly, "Now your mommy will know."
"Know what? The trials and tribulations of piggy tails?" Lorelai asked with a smirk
Emily looked up at Lorelai with a devilish grin as she said, "Pray that she gets Luke's temperament."
Lorelai blinked and then asked, "Why so that she can rant and rave about the decline in the quality of Play Doh these days?" She nodded to Jake and Luke picked him up and placed him on the bed with her. Lorelai held her arms out and said, "Tell them who the little Luke is in this family."
Jake scooted up to her and said, "Juke"
"That's right, you're your Daddy's boy," she said as she shifted with a grimace and tried to sit up more.
"Here," Luke said as he quickly raised the head of the bed and helped to arrange the pillows behind her.
"Commere my baby boy," Lorelai said as she gather Jake close to her. "How's my best fella?" she asked him quietly.
"Hi Mama," Jake said as he snuggled into her neck.
"Hi baby. I missed you this morning. Did you miss me?" she asked as she rubbed his back.
"Num," Jake answered.
Lorelai's eyes widened as she asked, "You had breakfast without me?"
Jake nodded as he looked at her somberly and said, "Ughs."
"You had ughs without me?" she asked in an injured tone. When Jake pointed to his belly she smiled and said, "You were hungry? Well, okay, I guess that it's alright that you had ughs without me if you were hungry." She ran her fingers through his soft curls and asked, "You wanna know a secret?"
"Huh," Jake answered.
"See that baby Grandma is holding?" she asked him.
"Marfa," Jake said with a nod.
"No Doll, that's not baby Martha. That's Caroline, she's your little sister," Lorelai told him. When Jake looked at her blankly, Lorelai asked, "Remember the baby in my tummy?" When he nodded she pointed to her stomach and said, "She's not there anymore. She's right there," she said as she nodded to Caroline.
"Huh," Jake said as he started to squirm from her grasp.
"Where are you going?" Lorelai asked.
"Down," Jake said as he scooted for the edge of the bed.
Luke picked him up and lowered him to the floor as he said, "He's not impressed."
"Nope, not interested," Lorelai agreed with a laugh. "I guess all those times we had Sookie bring Martha over didn't pay off after all."
Luke shrugged as he perched on the edge of the bed and said, "He's the same way with Martha, though. Babies don't do it for him."
Lorelai smirked and said, "I knew someone like that once."
"Really? Who?" Luke asked.
"Cranky guy, owned a diner, always wore a blue baseball hat backwards," she teased.
"Sounds like the guy was an idiot," Luke said nonchalantly as he watched Rory and Jess keep Josh entertained with some toys they had pulled from the diaper bag. Jake toddled over to see what was happening, and soon he sat down to join in on the fun. He looked over at Emily and said, "I think I've shown great restraint."
Emily smiled and asked innocently, "Oh, did you want to hold her?"
Luke gave her a quelling look as he stood up and leaned over to take the small bundle of baby from her grandmother. "Hey, sweet pea," Luke whispered as he settled her into the crook of his arm.
Emily and Lorelai shared a smile as Emily murmured, "Besotted."
"Unapologetically so," Lorelai said as she nodded in agreement.
Rory tried to distract Josh from systematically unloading the entire diaper bag by saying, "Hey, don't you want to meet our sister? Wanna see baby Caroline?" She led him over the where Luke perched on the side of the bed and then waited as Luke squatted down to show the baby to Josh.
"What do you think, buddy?" Luke asked.
"Hi baby!" Josh said and then quickly turned to go back to his task.
Lorelai laughed as Rory shrugged and said, "Okay, so she isn't a big hit with the under two crowd."
Luke smiled at Caroline as he straightened up and sat back down on the bed. "I can't imagine why, I think you're pretty great," he said softly as he stroked her tiny fist.
"Your father and I thought that we would take the boys on a little excursion today," Emily told them.
"Excursion?" Lorelai asked.
"The Friends of the Public Library sponsor an afternoon story time at the main library. We thought we could take the boys for a few hours, have some lunch and then we'd bring them home in time for dinner," Emily explained.
"They would love that, but I have to warn you, they'll try to make off with the books," Lorelai said with a laugh.
"Well then, we may have to stop by the bookstore while we're out too," Emily said with a nod. "Anyway, that would free Luke up to stay here with you for a little while. I know he said he wanted to be home to make their dinner," Emily said as she glanced at Luke.
Luke nodded and said, "We want to keep their routine as normal as possible. I'm going to do dinner and bath time, and then once they're ready for bed, Rory and Jess are going to take over so I can come back tonight," he explained to Lorelai.
"You don't have to come back. They're going to release us the first thing in the morning," she said with a shrug.
"First thing will turn out to be eleven or twelve," Luke grumbled.
"Well, we'll let you work out the details. I'm happy to stay another night if it will be a help," Emily offered.
Luke shook his head and said, "No, there's no need for that. Rory and Jess should be able to handle them. Besides, they'll probably be asleep before I leave."
"Thank you, though," Lorelai said quickly.
"Oh yeah, thank you," Luke said with a sheepish smile.
"I believe that little girl has stolen your husband," Emily said with a wry smile.
Lorelai shook her head and said, "I know how to get him back. She doesn't have enough hair to flip yet."
After Rory and Jess headed back to Stars Hollow and Luke had transferred the boys' car seats to Richard's new Jag, he stepped back into the room to find Lorelai dozing lightly as Caroline slept at her mother's breast. When he lowered himself into the recliner, Lorelai stirred and said, "Hey. Everyone all loaded up?"
Luke nodded and said, "Someone lost interest," as he jerked his chin at the baby.
Lorelai tucked her chin to her chest and said, "She not getting much right now. We're just practicing." She glanced up at the clock and said, "She's about due for a bottle, and then I think we should have a nap."
Luke rubbed his hand over his face and said, "Nap sounds good. Do you want me to go see about a bottle?" he asked.
"Nah, they'll bring one in about five minutes anyway," Lorelai said as she shook her head. "How's Daddy?" she asked with a knowing smile.
"Coming down, I think," Luke answered.
"Wow, not even twelve hours old and she's already passé" Lorelai said with a sad shake of her head.
"Nah, she's a classic, they never go out of style," Luke said as he turned to look at her with a smile.
"Hello?" Sookie whispered as she opened the door and poked her head in.
"Come in, Sook," Lorelai said with a smile.
"Oh my goodness!" Sookie said as she pressed her hand to her mouth and stepped into the room, letting go of the door, which promptly smacked Jackson in the forehead as he tried to peer into the room.
"Ah!" Jackson cried.
"Shh!" Sookie hissed. "She's sleeping," she admonished as they crept into the room. "Hi Cookie," she said to Lorelai. She waved Luke back down in the chair and said, "Don't get up."
"Mmm, cookies," Lorelai said as she glanced over at Luke.
"I'll bring some back tonight," he answered automatically.
"Way ahead of ya," Sookie said as she began to pull Tupperware from her cavernous purse. "We can't stay. Jackson's sister is sitting with the kids. I just wanted to run up to take a quick peek and make sure you weren't eating hospital food," she said with a grimace. "This has turkey and ham Panini, this has potato salad, and the cookies are in this one," she said as she pointed to the largest container.
"Thanks, Sook," Lorelai said with a grin. "We've been too out of it to even think about food," she admitted.
"I figured, what with this one deciding to wake up the world," Sookie said as she leaned over the bed to get a better look at Caroline, and almost fell into Luke's lap.
As he caught her, Luke looked up at Jackson and said, "Not copping feel, honestly."
"Although it has been quite a while, so I'd watch him," Lorelai said with a grin.
"Lorelai," Luke growled.
"Babe, I figure that they know what bed rest means, considering that Sookie was on it for the last month with Martha," Lorelai said drolly.
Luke looked up at Jackson desperately and said, "Uh, how 'bout those Celtics?"
Jackson laughed and said, "I feel your pain. She's a beaut," he said as he nodded to Caroline.
"We like her," Luke answered.
"Okay, well, we're going to go," Sookie said with a nod. "Try to get some rest. One of us will stop by the house tonight to make sure everything's okay," she promised Lorelai.
"Everything's fine," Luke insisted.
"But that's nice of you, thanks," Lorelai added quickly.
Sookie nodded and as she hustled to the door she said, "I have a casserole I'll bring over."
"Appreciate it," Luke called after her.
"We'll see you tomorrow," Sookie said as she breezed out of the door with Jackson right behind her.
Luke turned to Lorelai and said, "Like a hit and run."
"But with food," Lorelai said as she eyed the containers Sookie had left on the tray.
"Here," Luke said as he took Caroline from her. "You go ahead and eat, I can handle this one."
Lorelai smiled and said, "Any excuse to get your paws on her," as the door opened again and the nurse appeared with a bottle of formula.
"Nothing yet?" she asked Lorelai.
Lorelai shook her head and said, "Not really, but she is latching on."
"Good, just keep working with her," she said with a nod. She turned to Luke and asked, "Your turn?"
"Yes," Luke answered as he reached for the warmed bottle she held out to him.
"Okay, well, call if you need anything," she said as she turned to leave the room.
Lorelai looked over at Luke and watched as he brushed the nipple across Caroline's lips. Instinctively, she began to suckle without really waking up. Luke smirked and said, "I love that. Totally something you would do."
Lorelai nodded and said, "Eat and sleep at the same time, you betcha."
Lorelai tucked into one half of a sandwich as she watched Caroline stir and take a more active interest in her lunch. "So, Rory thinks Caroline is too formal of a name to call her," she said as she chewed.
"We are not calling her Carrie," Luke said as he shot her a dark look.
"God, no," Lorelai said with a giggle as she pried the lid from the container of potato salad. She frowned and said, "Huh, no forks," and began to pick chunks of potato out with her fingertips. When Luke groaned, she looked over at him and asked, "Are you going to deny me potato salad because we lack utensils?"
"Um, nope," Luke answered quickly.
"Good answer, smart boy," she said as she went back to her attack on the salad.
"Man, she's a guzzler," Luke said as he frowned at the rapidly emptying bottle. He pulled it gently from her mouth and smiled as she opened her eyes, and knit her brow in protest. "Gimme one," Luke said as he held her up to his shoulder and gently patted her back. After she bumped daintily, Luke grinned and said, "You're such a girl," as he lowered her and offered the bottle to her again.
"You say that like it's a bad thing," Lorelai said as she chewed a bite of sandwich.
"Definitely a good thing," Luke said quickly.
After Lorelai and Caroline had finished their lunch, Caroline allowed her doting father to change her diaper before she drifted back to sleep. Lorelai lowered the head of the bed and rearranged the pillows behind her. As Luke started to lower himself into the chair again, she said, "Nuh uh."
Luke looked up as he paused and asked, "You want her?"
Lorelai scooted to the far side of the bed and said, "I want both of you."
Luke smiled and said, "Okay, here," as he handed Caroline to Lorelai and then began to unlace his boots. He crawled into the hospital bed, and lay on his side facing her. Lorelai kissed him gently as the baby snoozed contentedly on her chest. "Hey," he said softly as she pulled away.
"Missed you," she whispered.
"Missed you too," he answered.
"Let's have a snooze," she said softly.
"Sounds good," he answered, his eyes moving from her face to Caroline's and back again. "I'm a lucky guy," he said with a small smile.
Lorelai let her eyes close as she felt Luke drape his arm gingerly across her waist. "Carly," she said quietly. "Rory thinks we should combine Caroline and Emily and call her Carly for short."
"Carly," Luke said as he studied their sleeping baby. "Carly Danes," he said softly. "That could work."
"Yeah," Lorelai said sleepily as she rubbed her cheek into the pillow.
Luke moved his arm, gently covering both of the girls he loved in his protective embrace as the three of them slipped off into dreamland.
Later that evening, Luke had gone home to have dinner and bath time with the boys, Carly was sleeping in her bassinet, and Lorelai was flipping through the channels for the third time, trying to find something she wanted to watch. She heard a soft knock on the door, and assuming it was one of the nurses, called, "Come in."
When the door swung open, Emily stepped into the room and said, "Hello, Lorelai."
"Oh," Lorelai said as she sat up a little straighter in bed. "Hi, Mom."
"We were just on our way home, and I just wanted to check to see if you had everything that you needed," Emily told her.
"Oh, yeah, I'm fine. Luke's going to bring me a burger when he comes back," Lorelai told her.
"He's very indulgent," Emily said with a wry smile. "Most women would want diamonds."
"I've got those," Lorelai said with a dismissive wave of her hand. "A nice juicy cheeseburger, I do not."
Emily smiled and said, "Well, call us if you need anything."
"I will," Lorelai assured her. When Emily hesitated for a moment, she asked, "Did you have a nice time with the boys today?"
Emily's smile blossomed as she said, "Oh yes. We took them to the pizza parlor where they have the games and play area," Emily told her.
Lorelai reared back as she asked, "You mean Chuck E Cheese?"
"Yes, they had a large mouse that did some kind of stage show," Emily said with a nod. "Your father had a wonderful time," Emily said with a pointed look. "The boys kept wanting him to play that game when you use a mallet to hit a gofer or something," Emily said with a nod.
"Whack-a-Mole," Lorelai said in an awed voice.
"Yes, that's it. They had a big pool of plastic balls that children were jumping into, but it didn't look terribly clean," Emily confided. "So I kept the boys away from there by wowing them with my SkeeBall skills," Emily said with a triumphant toss of her head.
"You have SkeeBall skills?" Lorelai asked incredulously.
"Well, I was young once too, Lorelai. I was young in the days when Coney Island was the place to be," she said archly. "Anyway, after we had pizza and played for a little while, we went to the library, and then to Barnes and Noble," she said with a nod. "I'm afraid that the boys didn't have much of a nap, they only dozed in the car, but maybe that will be better for tonight. Luke can put them to bed a little earlier," she said with an approving nod.
"Yes, I'm sure they're worn out," Lorelai murmured in disbelief.
"Well, I should go. Your father is waiting in the car. He didn't get his nap today either," she added with a smirk. She turned and peered into the bassinet for a moment, and didn't lift her eyes as she said, "Thank you, Lorelai."
Lorelai smiled as she heard the catch in her mother's voice. "You're welcome, Mom. It seemed only right. The men are represented by the Gilmore and Danes, but I think that naming a girl after her grandmother isn't such a bad thing," she said gently. "Gets them back for having to change our names on all of those forms."
"Yes," Emily said as she looked up. She smiled tremulously and said, "That is a nice revenge, isn't it?"
Lorelai shrugged and said, "I think so."
"Goodnight, Lorelai," Emily said quietly.
"Goodnight, Mom," Lorelai said as she watched her mother walk to the door.
Emily paused in the doorway and said, "She's beautiful," and then she was gone.
Luke appeared two hours into the America's Next Top Model marathon Lorelai had found on one of the channels. Lorelai eyed the small duffle bag in his hand and said, "You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille."
Luke smiled and said, "I got a free pass for the night."
"Really? How?" she asked as she pushed herself up in the bed.
"Lane is going to stay the night with Rory tonight, that means Mrs. Kim is on standby, and so is Babette, if they need her," Luke said as he leaned over and kissed her gently. "I must have looked pretty forlorn when I got home," he said with a chuckle.
"Well, it was a really nice nap," Lorelai said with a shrug.
"Very nice. I hated to leave," he said as he sat down on the edge of the bed. "Oh, and Charlie is coming in early tomorrow to help," he told her.
"That's nice of her," Lorelai said with a smile. "So you packed your panties and high-tailed it over here?" she asked as she stroked the back of his hand.
"Uh huh," Luke said with a nod. He reached for the bag he had dropped on the floor and said, "This way, I can just bring my girls home as soon as they say go."
"Good thinking, we're bored and miss our boys," Lorelai said with a nod.
Luke unzipped the bag and said, "Speaking of the boys, they sent you a present."
"They did?" Lorelai asked, her eyes lighting with delight.
"Yes, they helped me pick it out earlier, along with some other stuff," Luke said as he reached into the bag. He turned to look at her and said, "This is the closest you're going to get to that dog you want," as he pulled a stuffed dog with long golden hair from the bag.
"Hubble!" Lorelai exclaimed.
"Hubble?" Luke asked as she snatched the dog from his hand and hugged it tightly.
"Hubble was the golden boy. Robert Redford," she said as if it made perfect sense. "I love him, and so much easier than cleaning up after a real dog," she said with a knowing smile.
"That was my thought," Luke said dryly.
"What else you got in that bag of tricks, Felix?" Lorelai asked. When he looked at her quizzically, she rolled her eyes and said, "Felix the Cat, Luke."
"Uh, okay," Luke said blankly. He quickly busied himself with pulling a large shopping bag out of the duffle. "Okay, this is from me, but I want to issue a disclaimer," he said as he held the bag out of her reach.
"Gifts with strings, nice," she said as she stuck her lower lip out in a pout.
"The only thing I'm going to say is that we will not be using what is in this bag in conjunction with that stuffed dog, no matter how funny you think it will be," he said sternly.
Lorelai's eyes widened as she said, "Now I am intrigued. Gimme!"
"Okay," Luke said cautiously as he handed over the bag. "I thought we could use them tomorrow, and then you may never see mine again," he added in a low voice. Lorelai reached into the bag and pulled out a stack of clothing. Her eyes widened as she dropped the slick navy blue material into her lap and looked up at him with her mouth agape. "Or not," Luke said quickly. "You said you wanted them…" he trailed off.
"You bought us matching jogging suits?" Lorelai asked him in an awed tone.
"And a golden retriever," he said as he pointed to the stuffed dog.
Lorelai pressed her hand to her heart as she stared at him in disbelief. "God, I love you," she whispered at last.
Luke smiled slightly as he leaned in to kiss her and whispered, "The feeling is entirely mutual."