Patty looked down at the empty vodka bottle in her hand as if she had never laid eyes on it before. She swallowed hard, trying to push the hurt back down, and recapture a smidgen of the righteous indignation that had carried her through her third divorce, and the subsequent humiliation of finding out that her husband had indeed cleaned their accounts out. She had to stand before a judge and explain that she had no part of Sergio's business dealings other than to play hostess to his clients, and then learned that there was nothing, absolutely nothing, in his name or hers. The apartment, the car, the credit cards and the bank accounts were in his company's name, everything was mortgaged to the hilt, and she would be lucky to escape with the clothes in her closet, minus the furs, of course. She was granted thirty day's to vacate the apartment on the same day that Sergio took off with his lovely Lucy. Two weeks later, as the repossession men carried the last of the furniture from the apartment they had shared, Patty received a large manila envelope containing a letter asking for a divorce and promising a generous cash settlement, a brochure for a luxurious resort and a plane ticket to the Dominican Republic.

Two weeks later, Patty was back in New York with fresh divorce papers, a cashier's check for $50,000 and a tan. She had easily left the last of those nagging pounds and the diet pills that Sergio had procured for her on the island. She rented a modest studio apartment in a decent neighborhood, found a new dance studio nearby, and started getting in touch with old friends who had fallen by the wayside. Patty sighed as she opened a bottle of scotch and a bottle of gin and upended them into the punch bowl. "Old acquaintance," she murmured as she watched the liquid splash into the bowl. "Should one have so many old acquaintances at 26?" she wondered aloud.

New Year's 1974 was celebrated in the blissful quiet of her apartment. Unwilling to dip into her nest egg any more than absolutely necessary, Patty was working as a runner on a soap opera filmed in New York, and through another friend, landed a gig walking Joan Crawford's beloved Shih Tzu twice daily. As she happened past a coffee shop on east sixty-eighth street, she spotted a face she recognized. Patty paused for a moment, but quickly looked away when Sinjin caught sight of her and waved. She began walking quickly, tugging on the little dog's leash, impatient with its need to inspect every tree. She returned the pooch to her owner's housekeeper, craning her neck to get a peek into the Imperial House apartment, hoping for a glimpse of the screen legend herself before the door was closed in her face.

Three days later, Patty was leaving her apartment to head to Miss Crawford's apartment when her phone rang. "Hello?" she answered distractedly.

"Patricia LaCosta?" a man asked in a deep, slightly accented voice.

"Possibly, who's calling?" Patty purred into the phone.

"Ah, there is Patty," the man said warmly. "Patty, sweetheart, it's Jose, Jose Madera," the man identified himself.

"Jose! Oh, darling, it's so wonderful to hear your voice," Patty said, genuinely happy to hear from one of the boys from Tito Puente's orchestra.

"It's wonderful to hear yours too," he said softly. "I've had a difficult time tracking you down."

"You have? Do you need a dancer? I'd love to work with you all again," Patty said, a flush of pleasure tinting her cheeks.

"Patricia, darling, I'm afraid I have bad news," Jose said sadly. "John was killed in a car accident."

"No," Patty breathed, the color draining from her cheeks as she dropped onto her second-hand sofa.

"The boys and I, well, we wanted you to know," Jose said gently.

"Oh," Patty gasped, strangling on a sob. "Oh, John," she wept.

"We just, we thought you should know. He never stopped loving you, Patty."

"Oh, oh," Patty moaned as she cried harder.

"Do you want someone to come and get you for the service?" When she didn't respond, Jose gently prodded, "Patricia, querida."

"Please," Patty managed to eek out.

"I'll be around for you at nine thirty. Is this the correct address?" he asked as he rattled off her street number.

"Yes," she whispered, not even caring about how he could have possibly obtained her information. Patty hung up the phone, and buried her face in her hands, and wept for the man she loved, but not enough.

The following day, she dressed with care. Thinking of John, she pinned a bright red rose to her somber black dress, before slipping quietly into the car that waited at the curb. The service was packed with old friends. As far as the other musicians were concerned, Patty was John's widow, and was treated with kid gloves. Atop the closed mahogany coffin was a 8x10 glossy photo of John, tall and dapper, cradling his beloved trumpet. Patty watched with watery eyes as the mourners filed past, some stopping to talk for a moment, some simply nodding politely and moving on. She stared down at her hands clasped in her lap, berating herself for letting him go, searching her heart for a reason, any reason, why she couldn't have loved him more. She saw a pair of worn black wingtips in front of her, and slowly raised her eyes, taking in a well tailored, but clearly outdated black suit. When she met his gaze, Sinjin smiled softly and said, "I'm so sorry, Patty. I always liked John."

"What are you doing here?" she whispered.

Sinjin simply shrugged and said, "I heard what happened. I always liked John, he was a good guy," he said again.

"He was," Patty said softly, her voice breaking as Sinjin gave her hand a gentle squeeze and then moved on.

Patty turned in her seat, watching him walk to the back of the room and take a seat in the last row. When the service was over, Tito pulled a snow white rose from the spray on top of the coffin and handed it to Patty, kissing her softly on each cheek before he left the room. Jose helped her from her chair, keeping a steady grip on her elbow as he guided her toward the door. "Where is he going?" she asked softly.

"Home to Miami," Jose explained. "His mother and sister are there, he'll be buried with his father."

"They never got along," Patty murmured nonsensically.

"It'll all be okay," Jose assured her as they met up with Sinjin at the door.

"I can take Patty home," Sinjin offered.

Jose turned to Patty and asked, "Would you like me to see you home, or do you want to go with Sinjin?"

"I thought maybe we could have a cup of coffee and talk," Sinjin said softly.

Patty looked from one man to the other and then said, "That's fine, Sinjin can take me home."

"Are you sure?" Jose asked.

Patty nodded and then kissed his cheek. "Thank you, darling. You know where I am, don't be such a stranger," she said with a ghost of a smile.

Twenty minutes later, she sat across from her first husband, watching as he stirred his coffee just as she remembered. Sinjin tapped the spoon on the rim of the cup and then placed it on the saucer as he said, "I've been thinking about you a lot, Patty. I know that you saw me the other day. I couldn't believe that you ran away."

"I wasn't sure of what I was supposed to say. Should I have started out with, 'You're such a coward, leaving in the dead of night', or perhaps I should have asked how your fabulous career in Hollywood was going?" Patty asked stiffly.

"You know that I went to California?" Sinjin asked.

"Showbiz is a very small town, Charles," Patty said as she lifted her cup to her lips and sipped cautiously.

"And you know all about small towns, Patty," he said with a rueful grin. "My fabulous career now consists of doing commercial voice-overs," he said darkly.

"Well, you always did have the pipes," Patty conceded.

"I heard that you had married again. After John," he added.

"Yes, well, it didn't last either. I don't think I'm meant to be married," Patty admitted.

"Yes, you are," Sinjin argued.

Patty chuckled and said, "I haven't had any rave reviews yet."

Sinjin reached across the table and took her hand in his. "That's because your leading man flubbed his lines and tripped over the scenery. Those other guys, they tried to be good understudies, but it's hard to step into a role that isn't really yours."

"And whose role was it?" Patty asked, with a surprised laugh.

"Mine," Sinjin said confidently. "You know that I am the man for you, Patty. We were meant to be together."

"Kismet?" she asked archly.

Sinjin turned his palm up and said in a low, deep voice, "Take my hand, I'm a stranger in paradise."

"Please don't do this now," Patty said quietly.

Sinjin nodded his understanding, and slowly withdrew his hand. "I understand. But be warmed, pretty little Patricia LaCosta of Stars Hollow, Connecticut, you were meant to be with me. Together we have enough star power to light the night. Like Taylor and Burton," he finished with a smile.

"I hear they're getting a divorce," Patty replied with a smirk.

"All of the best couples do," Sinjin said solemnly.

And so, they did. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton divorced in June 1974, just one month after Patricia LaCosta gave way to Charles 'Sinjin' St. John's persistence, and agreed to marry him again. They made it to the courthouse in time to stand in line with the rest of the hopeful young couples. Patty looked around, wondering if any of the other women close to her age could boast three divorces. "I must be an overachiever," Patty murmured.

"What's that, darling?" Sinjin asked solicitously.

Patty looked up at him and said, "I must be too much of a believer. You had better do better this time."

"I will, I promise," Sinjin said earnestly.

But once the ring was on her finger, it seemed that all bets were off. Patty had lost the dog walking gig for Joan Crawford when she took off for John's funeral. She was still working as a production assistant on the soap, but dancing opportunities were few and far between. On New Year's Eve, Sinjin got ridiculously drunk on cheap champagne and tried to waltz Patty around their cramped studio apartment. As the clock struck midnight, Sinjin was lost in the past, recounting their glory days at the Hartford Club and the Copacabana, reciting lines from Oklahoma! and Showboat instead of kissing his wife to welcome in the new year. As Patty guided him stumbling to the couch, Sinjin pronounced in his best voice-over voice, "Yes, ladies and gentlemen! You too can go to the Big Apple and become a washout before the age of thirty! You too can be a mediocre actor married to a fat dancer who can fetch coffee and deliver scripts with the best of 'em!"

"Who the hell are you calling fat, you big oaf?" Patty demanded as she pushed him onto the cushions.

"Aw, Patty, don' be mad. I like you like this," he said as he made a futile attempt to reach for her. "Big, soft, beautiful girl. Come here, let me take a bite out of you."

"Go to hell," she spat.

"Aw, come on Fatty Patty," Sinjin mumbled before he passed out cold.

Patty stared down at her husband, once again wondering how she could have let this happen. How could she be married to this man? Again? She glanced down and saw the extra pounds she had packed on since John's death, and wondered where they had come from. She spotted the third bottle of cheap bubbly that Sinjin had opened before his impromptu ballroom attempts, and picked the bottle up by the neck. With one last glance at her snoring mate, Patty sat down on the floor and tipped the bottle up to her lips. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and muttered, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

Misery begat misery. Both she and Sinjin watched as roles they would have killed to have went to the younger, slimmer, prettier competition. Patty kept dancing at the tiny studio near her apartment, hoping to keep the weight gain at bay, desperate to hang onto that which she loved the most. Carla, the woman who ran the studio, was a Broadway veteran, a chorus girl of the old school, whose head was never quite turned by the men that pursued her. Instead, she kept the dance as her only lover, using the men that came and went to satisfy her more carnal needs, but never, ever giving them her heart. To Patty, she was the epitome of a strong, independent woman; the kind of woman that she fancied herself, at least, until she walked through the apartment door and tripped over Sinjin's shoes.

Perhaps that was why she drank a tad too much. Why not? Her husband drank far more than too much. He started missing commercial calls, whiling the mornings away nursing his epic hangovers before heading down to the neighborhood bar for a round or six of the hair of the dog that bit him. Sometimes, Patty would leave work after another challenging and creative day of handing out the daily script pages, and hunting down missing props, and go directly to Clancy's where they would listen to jazz and drink until the sharp edges were blurred.

One night in late 1975, they were enjoying the background music provided by the lanky piano player almost as much as they were the cleansing burn of Jameson's Irish as it slid down their throats. Patty was in the middle of complaining about her latest humiliation at work when the pianist took a break and a short blond woman with wildly curly hair approached their table. "You're Patty LaCosta, ain'tcha?" she demanded. Patty looked up slowly, her face flushing as she wondered which production this woman could possibly remember her from. "Sorry I've been starin' atcha all night, it just took me a while to place the face, but I neva forget a face!" the woman screeched.

"Yes, yes, I am," Patty said, sitting up a little straighter and smiling broadly as she caught the look of envy that flashed across Sinjin's face.

"I knew it! Ya probably don't remember me, I'm Babette Stivic, I was a coupla years behind you at Stars Hollow High!"

"Oh," Patty murmured as Sinjin tried to smother his laughter. "Oh, yes, Babette, it's nice to see you."

"You look just the same, well, a little heavier, but who isn't, huh?" Babette said with nudge. "That's my boyfriend, Morey, playin' the piano. I came down for the night to hear him."

"Oh, how nice," Patty said politely. "Do you still live in Stars Hollow?"

"Oh yeah, you know, nothin' ever changes in that town. Well, you caused quite a stir when you left. I swear, my parents installed two new deadbolts on the doors that only worked with keys. Bill Danes told them that they were a fire hazard when they bought them, but you never could tell Daddy anything. Oh, hey, I'm sorry your mom ain't doing so well. I keep meaning to take a casserole or somethin' over, but I'm not very good at those things," Babette confessed, wrinkling her nose.

"No, no, that's alright," Patty murmured.

"She talks about you all the time. Shows off the pictures of you dancin' and starring on Broadway. She's real proud," Babette said with an enthusiastic nod.

Patty thought of the backstage shots she had carefully staged and sent to her mother over the years and winced as she remembered the embellishments she added in each short note. "Yes, well, it's a difficult profession," Patty began to say. She desperately searched her brain to figure out a way to ask this woman for more information on her mother, and what could possibly be wrong with her, but could not come up with anything.

"Oh, I can believe it. I'm not much good at anything, I had a job as a receptionist for this lawyer in Litchfield. He was a little hard of hearin' so he liked that I could turn the volume up a little, ya know?" she said as she gestured to her throat. "But he took on a new partner, and the guys said that they wouldn't need me anymore, so I'm back in Stars Hollow. Got a job at this new store that just opened, the Cat Club, it's called, but they spell it all funny and french-like," Babette babbled.

Patty had tuned out, thinking instead of the telegram she had received when her father had passed away. The bus and trunk show had just pulled into Baltimore for a week long run, and there was no way that Patty could get away for the funeral. She sent a lavish spray of flowers, and a note to her mother, and then stepped onto stage to sing and dance to 'Pet me Papa' with the rest of the Alley-Kittens.

"What are ya starrin' in now?" Babette asked, jolting her from her reverie.

"Excuse me?"

"What show are ya starrin' in? Maybe Morey and I can get tickets. It'd be a real kick to be able to tell everyone in Stars Hollow that I got to see ya on stage," Babette said enthusiastically.

"Oh, well, I'm between shows at the moment. Actually, I'm working on a soap opera at the moment, as one of the producers," Patty added quickly, causing Sinjin to choke on his whiskey. "Ice cube, dear?" Patty asked as she slapped him too heartily on the back. "I'm so sorry, Babette Stivic, this is my husband, Sinjin. Sinjin, Babette is from my hometown," she added with a pointed stare.

Sinjin rose to the occasion, turning on the charm while the tall man took his seat at the piano bench once more. Patty pointed to him and said, "I believe he's about to start again."

"Oh! I should siddown. Morey don't like it when I talk while he's playin'." She waggled her fingers and said, "Good to see ya. I'll tell everyone that you said hi."

"You do that," Patty said with a tight smile. As soon as Babette's back was turned, Patty looked at Sinjin and said, "Let's go."

"Yes, Madam Producer," Sinjin said smartly as he stood up and braced one hand on the table to stop the swaying. "Shall we, Your Majesty?" he said as he gestured to the door.

They stopped going to Clancy's, switching their patronage a few blocks west to Calhoun's, where the clientele was not as musically oriented, and as a bonus, the drinks were a bit cheaper. Another New Year's Eve passed, another drunken fight that ended with a drunken man slurring slurs from his stupor on the couch. 1976 came in with a groan as Patty dragged herself off to the television studio day after day, and danced off her frustration in front of a mirrored wall night after night, dreading going home to the smell of whiskey and the knowledge that her own hangover was soon to follow. She was delivering script changes to the actors in hair and make-up when she heard a rumor that Rita Moreno could be making a guest starring appearance on the show. This news cheered Patty out of the funk she had been in since she had heard the Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were divorcing, again. She couldn't help comparing the apparent failure of her own marriage with that of the fabled love affair between the two superstars. Even so, the prospect of meeting the Puerto Rican Tony award winner was more exciting than she could hide. Patty practically skipped her way down the steps to the prop room. As she neared the bottom, she stumbled and fell down the last few stairs, landing badly. The tearing pain she felt in her left knee was nothing compared to the gaping hole in her heart as she sat on the floor, cradling her leg, and knowing that all of her hopes and dreams had just slipped away for good.

Patty walked slowly to the back of the studio and pulled two cans of fruit punch from a Doose's Market bag. Cradling them to her bosom, she walked back to the punchbowl, unconsciously giving way to the slight limp she struggled daily to hide. She placed the cans on the table and looked around for the can opener. With a heavy sigh, she ambled back to the other end of the studio and rummaged through a drawer until she found what she was looking for. Patty returned to the table and precisely punctured two triangular holes in each can before emptying them into the bowl containing a lethal mixture of alcohol. She stared at the red liquid pouring into the bowl, purposefully not thinking about the miserable months that followed her fall. The hospitalization and subsequent therapies meant that Patty had to dip into her secret nest egg, bringing the money she had gotten from Sergio to Sinjin's attention. For his part, her husband had been very attentive in the months following the operation that would allow her to walk normally, but never really dance again. In her heart Patty hoped that Sinjin's devotion had been brought to the forefront by her misfortune, but when Patty found a stack of unpaid medical bills shoved in a drawer, she checked her bank balance and learned that Sinjin's gentle pushing of the pain pills that had been prescribed for her was not in fact because he couldn't bear to see her in pain, but because he couldn't bear to have her money go anywhere but directly into his pocket.

Patty stirred the punch slowly as she recalled her friend Carla's visit to her shabby little apartment the day after the discovery. The former chorus girl sat perched on the edge of her seat, her head held high as if she were sporting a headpiece of sequins and feathers as she said, "Well, there you have your answer."

"My answer," Patty murmured as she stirred the punch. She stared at the framed photo of her now departed friend and sighed. "You were right. It was time to come home," she told her.

After confronting Sinjin, Patty promptly cleaned out her back accounts, stuffed the cashier's check into the bra, packed a single suitcase with clothes, and boarded a bus to Connecticut. The ride was long, punctuated by stops and the nearly constant throbbing in her leg. She finally stepped down off of the bus near the gazebo where Tommy Patterson had kissed her a lifetime ago, and the bells rang just for them. She stared blankly around the square, looking for signs of change, hoping for a familiar face.

"Excuse me, can I help you?" a bearded young man asked.

"Oh, no, thank you, sweetheart, I'm just heading home," she demurred with a flirtatious smile

"Home? Are you from here? I don't recall hearing anything about someone new moving in at the last town meeting," the man mused aloud.

"You're the Doose boy. Tyler, right?" Patty said as recognition finally dawned.

"Taylor," he corrected automatically. "Do I know you?"

"Probably not, dear, you were a bit young for my tastes," Patty purred. "I'm Patricia LaCosta," she said as she held out her hand.

Taylor's eyes widened as he recognized the name that had been bandied about town for more than a decade. "You're Patty LaCosta?" he asked incredulously, as he eyed the heavy set woman in front of him.

"I am," she said with her head held high. "Do me a favor, darling? I have a bum knee. Can you carry my bag to the house for me?" she asked with a slow smile filled with promise.

Taylor Doose gaped at her for a moment and then asked, "What house?"

"My parents' house, of course," Patty said with a shrug.

"It's been empty since your mother passed a few months ago," Taylor said in a disapproving tone.

"Yes, I know. You see, I had just had surgery on my leg, and I was unable to travel, but it's my house now. I'm assuming that the locks have not been changed," she asked archly.

Taylor rolled his eyes and asked, "Why bother? No one uses them in this town anyway."

"Walk me home, Taylor Doose?" Patty asked as she trailed her fingers over the sleeve of the dingy grey cardigan sweater he wore, hoping he'd just be content to carry her bag.

Patty smirked as the door to the studio opened and Babette came hustling in. "I brought cookies and some chips," she said as she dumped an armload of bags onto the table that held the punchbowl. She hurried back to the door and called, "You can come in, Morey. I promise, we'll go home and come back when we're fashionably late," as she pulled her husband into the studio by the arm.

"I hate being early," he muttered.

"We're not early, we're just droppin' stuff off," Babette said as she plucked the bags from his arms and put them on the table next to the others. "Anything else you need, Doll?" Babette asked Patty.

"I think I'm ready," Patty said as she shook her head slowly. "See you in about forty-five minutes," she added as Morey hurried for the door.

"Back soon!" Babette called as she followed him out of the studio.

Patty finished her party preparations, humming softly as she realized that the past quarter of a century could have been much worse. She had a flourishing business, loads of friends, and whenever the mood struck her, a lover, or two. She had to chuckle to herself whenever someone commented on her fabled sexual prowess, knowing that they would be shocked to know how conventional she was at heart. More often than she would care to admit, Patty wished that she had that special person to share her life with. Sometimes her affairs were a little more circumspect than others. Sometimes the fire burned a little more brightly, sometimes it was just a matter of having a warm body nearby. But even more often than that, after years of trying to conform to what she thought her life should be like, Patty realized that it was more important that she was comfortable with herself, in control of her own life, and could be her own woman. Every day she smiled at the framed photo of her old friend Carla, and silently checked in with her to see how she was doing.

Thirty minutes later, Patty had a dozen guests milling around the studio. By the time Babette and Morey reappeared, she had more than two dozen crowding the dance floor. Patty smiled and gave Kirk a little nod as he switched from one CD to the next, keeping the music up-tempo and lively. Soon the dancing lights and the rhythm pulsing against the wooden floorboards had seeped into her blood and Patty could not help but tap her toes as she sat talking to Gypsy and Lulu.

Eleven had come and gone, half of the town was there, and Patty was in her element. She performed an impromptu rendition of 'I'm Still Here' to the hoots and whistles to an appreciative audience, and then followed it up with a sultry rendition of 'Fever', just to keep the ball rolling. As Andrew offered a hand to help her down from the tiny stage, Patty saw the door slide open and heard Lorelai's laugh before she saw her.

"Get in here," Lorelai said as she tugged hard on Luke's arm.

"I hate parties," Luke grumbled.

"Loosen up, have some punch, it's almost a new year, Burger Boy," Lorelai said as she slipped her coat from her shoulders, knowing Luke would catch it.

Luke sighed and folded her coat over his arm as he said, "We're staying until 12:01, no later."

"Whatever you say," Lorelai said as she flashed him a brilliant smile. "I'll get the punch," she said as she turned and dove headfirst into the crowded room.

"None for me!" Luke tried in vain to call after her. With a long suffering sigh, he draped her coat over the back of a chair and added his to the pile before leaning back against the wall and shoving his hands into the pockets of his grey dress pants.

"My, my, my, you are far too handsome to be a wallflower," Patty said as she sidled up next to him.

"Uh, hi Patty," Luke said as he shifted his weight onto his other foot, granting himself four more inches of space.

"Did you two lovebirds go out for a romantic dinner?" she asked.

"Yep, we ate dinner," Luke said with a nod, craning his neck to try to catch sight of Lorelai.

"Were there candles and soft music?" Patty asked in a dreamy voice. "Did you dance with your girl, Luke?"

Luke cut his eyes toward Patty nervously and said, "There was a candle. I don't remember if there was music."

"There should always be music, Luke," Patty chastised gently. "Music feeds the soul and opens the heart."

"How many cups of punch have you had?" Luke asked suspiciously.

Patty smiled and shook her head as she said, "Hardly touch the stuff."

"Uh huh, sure," Luke snorted.

"I rarely drink on New Year's Eve, it's too dangerous," Patty murmured.

"You drivin'?"

Patty chuckled and said with an enigmatic smile, "No, I just have a tendency to be a little too reckless when Guy Lombardo plays."

"I see," Luke said as he continued to scan the crowd.

Patty could see his shoulders relax the moment he sighted her talking to Babette at the punchbowl. She tilted her head, catching sight of the beautiful dark haired woman. "Have you told her yet?" she asked quietly.

"Told her what?"

"How madly in love with her you are," Patty answered with a smug smile. When Luke blushed and looked away, seemingly watching the dancers gyrating on the warped wooden floor, she smiled and said, "Sweetheart, it's as plain as the nose on your very handsome face."

"Leave me alone, Patty," Luke growled.

Patty threw her head back and laughed. "Oh, that may work on some people, but it doesn't work on me, Luke Danes." She saw his eyes follow Lorelai as she made her way around the room greeting friends and neighbors as she clutched two paper cups of punch. "Tell her, Luke," Patty said, her voice low and urgent. "Tell her that she's your world. Hold her close, kiss her at midnight and let Guy Lombardo work his magic, you won't regret it. You'll never regret it," she promised.

Luke turned to look at her questioningly. "What's it to you?" he asked curiously.

"You don't know how rare it is. Look at her," Patty said as she saw Lorelai seek him out and smile warmly as she began to cross the room. "She's crazy about you. I've never seen her so happy. I want you both to be happy. Tell her, Luke, you'll make her the happiest woman on earth, let her make you the happiest man."

"Hi!" Lorelai said brightly as she reached them. "You hittin' on my man, Patty?" Lorelai asked with a grin.

"Dear, if I really hit on him, there'd be nothing left of him when I was done," Patty purred.

Lorelai snorted and said, "I don't doubt that," as she handed a cup of punch to Luke, who took it automatically. "The party is really swinging this year, Patty."

"Yes, we've had a good turnout," Patty said with a smug smile. "I'm so happy that you two came. I think I'll ask Kirk to slow the music down a bit, let everyone find someone to dance cheek to cheek with before the clock strikes twelve." She patted Lorelai's arm and said, "You two kids have fun," as she scooted past them, sending Luke one last look as she headed for the makeshift DJ booth Kirk had set up in the corner.

She murmured a few words in Kirk's ear, and then turned to survey the room as the music slowed and the lights were dimmed a bit more. Patty watched as Lorelai turned to face Luke, chattering away happily as he glanced every so often at the dance floor and the couples swaying slowly to the beat. She saw him lean over and whisper something in Lorelai's ear, and then watched as the younger woman's smile lit her from within. Patty sighed happily as Luke offered Lorelai his hand to lead her to the dance floor. They placed their untouched cups on a nearby chair, and Luke folded Lorelai seamlessly into his arms.

Patty stood riveted as she watched them, Lorelai fingertips curling into his hair, Luke's hand splaying over her back, pulling her closer as he turned her in a slow circle. A faint blush of pleasure tinged Lorelai's cheeks as Luke kept his dark blue gaze focused intently on her. Without thinking, Patty felt herself drawn to the edge of the dance floor, unable to pry her eyes from the handsome couple who couldn't keep their eyes off of each other. She pressed a hand to her heart to keep it from leaping from her chest. She realized that although she was only twice as old as Lorelai, she had lived three times as much. It was clear to anyone who bothered to look, that Lorelai Gilmore was experiencing her first real love. Patty watched as the vivacious young woman she loved like a daughter danced in the arms of the man she so obviously adored; the young man that Patty's own heart had ached for as she watched him endure year after year of loss and disappointment.

And then suddenly, the room was transformed to the ballroom of the Hartford Club, a hotel suite in Atlantic City, the chapel in the Aladdin Hotel, and finally a dreary judge's chambers in a decaying old building. Vaguely, Patty became aware that the crowd was counting down the last few seconds of 2004. "Tell her," she whispered under her breath. The clock struck midnight and Patty stood rooted to the spot, holding her breath as she watched Luke lower his lips to Lorelai's to kiss the new year in. When he pulled away, his eyes stayed steady on hers as he softly told her how he felt. Lorelai's smile was incandescent as she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him down to him again, pouring her heart and soul into the kiss.

"That's nice, huh?" Babette said as she nudged Patty gently.

"It's wonderful," Patty agreed softly.

"Well, we made another one. Not bad for a coupla old broads," Babette said with a shrug.

Patty smiled at her dearest friend, and said, "No, not bad at all." She looked back at the dance floor and saw Luke leading Lorelai through the crowd to the chair where he had left their coats. Patty watched out of the corner of her eye as Luke helped Lorelai with hers and then slipped his arms into his black leather coat. She turned and saw Luke pull the door back, and with a small wave, he followed his girl out into the crisp Stars Hollow night.

Patty turned back to Babette and said, "Oh my, I must be slipping! I need New Year's kisses! I think I'll start with your husband," she said with a cackle as she tugged on Morey's lapel and lifted her cheek for his kiss. "I'd better get to work, so many men, so little Patty," she said with a dramatic sigh as she latched onto Joe and planted one on him before he could protest. She grinned over her shoulder at Babette and said, "After all, a girl needs all of the New Year's luck she can get, right?"