"Mommy, mommy, look!!!"
A little girl, no more than four, with auburn hair and bright blue eyes came running towards Rory through the twilight, cupping something in between her palms.
"What is it, baby girl?" she called back from her position on the porch steps.
"I caught you two fireflies, Mommy, look!" she cried with delight as she opened her palms slightly to show her mother the glowing insects. "Aren't they pretty?" she said almost reverently.
"They certainly are, but you had better let them go, some things aren't meant to be caged. They should be beautiful over by the flowers and with their friends."
"But I want to keep them, Mommy! I chased them down and everything," she pouted, her lower lip jutting out in a look of stubbornness mirroring the way her father's jaw would set when he wanted his way.
"I know, littlest Lorelai, but look how pretty they are over there, like little fairies in our garden. If you were to try and keep them in a jar, they would die because they need to sunlight and fresh air, and freedom to play with their friends. You wouldn't want to be kept in a jar, would you?" Rory reasoned, pulling the little girl onto her lap and running her hands over her back in a gesture of comfort.
"No…" Lori said in a small voice, leaning into her mother's embrace.
"And neither do fireflies. They'd rather be outside where you can chase and play with them. You like chasing after them, right?"
"Yes! They're hard to catch, like when I play with Auntie Lane's boys, 'cause they're so much faster than me."
"They're hard to catch because they're playing a game with you, like tag. Why don't you let these two go and go see if you can catch them again, okay, Lori?"
"Okay, Mommy," she said, pulling apart her hands so the fireflies could escape back into the garden. She wriggled a bit to slide off of Rory's lap and watched them fly away. "When's Daddy coming home? I want him to chase the fireflies with me!"
"He should be home from work soon and then he can play with you a bit before bedtime, but you have to be in bed early because we have a big day tomorrow, remember?"
"Yes, we're flying to see Grandma and Grandpa Luke and Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa and Auntie Lane and Auntie Honor in Stars Hollow," Lori replied excitedly.
"Exactly, and I can't have you all cranky and getting on a plane, because it will be a long flight into New York and then we have to drive to Connecticut, so you need to behave at bedtime tonight." Rory paused, considering her daughter's nighttime ritual. "And so does your father, come to think of it. No pouting him into three bedtime stories, Lori," she warned.
"Yes, Mommy. And it will be cold there, right? I want to see snow again!"
"When I spoke to your Grandma earlier she said it was starting to snow, so you should have all the snow you want," Rory informed her daughter with a smile.
"Yay! I don't like that it doesn't snow in Palo Alto, Mommy. Why doesn't it snow in California?"
"Because we're so close to the ocean, and this ocean is warmer than the one near Stars Hollow. That's how we can be outside in November without mittens and a hat or boots."
"Oooh, look at the squirrel!"
As Lori raced off to chase the squirrel around the trees in the background, Rory stood up to refill the glass of lemonade she was enjoying and ran headlong into the very solid form of her husband.
"Nice to see you, too, Ace," he grinned at her, tipping her face up to meet his in a kiss.
"Ew, Daddy, don't kiss Mommy!" Lori's voice was heard from across the yard as she raced over to welcome him home from the office, brown curls streaming behind her as she ran up to him. He easily swung her into his arms, twirling her around and then settling her on his hip.
"How are my two favorite girls?" he asked Lori very seriously.
"I'm good, Daddy! I heard the nanny tell Mommy that I was an angel all day when Mommy came home from work and then we had dinner. I've been playing tag with the fireflies and was trying to play tag with the squirrel but he didn't seem to want to stop; he just kept going and going but I got tired and ran out of breath and couldn't chase him anymore! And Mommy told me that I can't pout my way into three bedtime stories tonight because I have to get sleep so I'm not cranky on the flight to Stars Hollow tomorrow."
Logan and Rory exchanged an amused glance over Lori's head at her recap of the evening.
"Well it sounds like you've had quite the evening then. Is your Mommy tired out at all or did you take good care of her and your little brother?" he said, patting Rory's baby bump through her top.
"I think Mommy and the baby are good, Daddy. Do you think my new brother will like to chase fireflies with me when he's big enough?" Lori asked anxiously.
"I'm sure he will," Rory replied, rumpling Lori's hair as they started to move indoors to get Lori ready for her bath and bed. "It seems to be something you get from the Gilmore side of the family."
Rory jerked awake with a start, having fallen asleep on the porch steps of her mother's house in Stars Hollow. Rubbing her face with her hands in frustration, she tried to remove the images from her dream from her mind.
In the week since she turned down Logan's proposal, she had dreamt their lives together in California until it seemed so real. She hadn't just dreamt that they were together and had a child; every time Rory fell asleep she would pick up exactly where the last dream had left off. It was as if her subconscious was showing her exactly what she had turned down and it was frustrating her to no end. The pro-con list showed so many more cons than pros and she liked that her life was currently wide open.
They were so young, she didn't have a job lined up yet, and moving cross-country was such a big deal.
But there was one pro that outweighed all the other cons, and the nagging voice in the back of her mind told her she made the wrong decision.
"Shit," she cursed, standing up to go into the house. Her mother told her it would hurt less until she got over it, but Rory wasn't sure she wanted to get over it. Why did a wide-open life have to exclude Logan? And would marrying Logan have shut other doors?
And did she really trust her mother's love advice? If she objectively looked at Lorelai's love life, there wasn't much there to suggest a positive role model. Maybe she should have followed her heart and trusted that everything would work itself out.
Shaking her head, she walked into the house and closed the door behind her. Thinking about what could have been wouldn't get her anywhere. Logan was gone and he wasn't coming back.
"Push, Rory, push!" the doctor exclaimed from his position between the stirrups. Rory closed her eyes, gritted her teeth, and pushed with all her might, willing her son to come into the world on this go.
"You're doing great, Ace, just keep going," Logan tried to soothe as Rory's grip on his hand intensified.
"Don't speak to me, Logan," she bit out angrily as she tried to catch her breath, panting from the exertion. "Our son clearly has your stubborn streak, you smug, arrogant ass! I am never letting you touch me again!"
"Whatever you say, baby, whatever you say," he replied, pushing her hair out of her eyes and pressing a quick kiss to her forehead so she couldn't see his amused smile. "You're almost there. Just think of holding the baby in your arms."
"The head is about to crown, Rory, so we'll need just one or two more pushes," the doctor told her as the next contraction started to rip across her pelvic region.
"The. Epidural. Isn't. Working!!!" she screamed as she pushed with everything she had.
A piercing cry rang out through the room and Rory and Logan both stared at the baby, transfixed, while the doctor and nurses started to clean him off.
"It's a boy!" the doctor announced, slightly needlessly, as he placed the baby in Rory's arms for the first time.
As the baby continued to cry, Logan leaned down to kiss Rory's forehead again as she just stared at the baby, the miracle that they created together. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she cradled him against her chest.
"He's so perfect and little, Logan," she whispered, touching his little ears, fingers, and toes in wonder.
"What have you decided to name him?" one of the nurses inquired discreetly, waiting with the birth certificate information.
"Richard Lucas Huntzberger," Logan replied instantly, looking at Rory for confirmation.
"Named after two of the greatest men I've ever known. Grandpa will love it, but Luke will be so embarrassed."
"Luke will love it, too, you know that. Even if he can't show just how much he loves it. Are you sure Christopher won't mind?"
Rory sighed and rocked the baby, smiling as he started to calm down. "I've given Dad every chance to change, to be different. And he never follows through on his promises and he never is there when he says he will. He's not out in the waiting room pacing. Luke is. He didn't hand make Lori and Richard their cribs. Luke did. He didn't hover over me at the holidays, stopping me from lifting anything heavy and making sure I put my feet up in the afternoons. Luke did. I don't think Dad has a leg to stand on, and I don't think he'll be upset."
One of the nurses came over to get the baby, to do the normal tests and to get him dressed in his first diaper and a blue onesie. Rory let him go very reluctantly, especially as he started to cry again, having just quieted down.
"You weren't feeling so kindly to Luke at the time, if I recall, since he'd banned the entire town from giving you coffee," Logan grinned.
"Yeah well, luckily the brain blocks out particularly traumatic memories, otherwise we'd have stopped having children with Lori," Rory laughed, meeting his eyes. Their faces were both lit up with joy and happiness at the healthy delivery of their son. After stealing a quick kiss, Rory pushed him away, instructing him to go let the group in the waiting room know that all members of the Huntzberger family were happy and healthy and that they would be expecting visitors once Rory and Richard got back to their room.
After Logan had left and the nurses did their thing with her and the baby, she cuddled him to her breast for the first time, hoping he would take to breast-feeding as much as Lori had, because Rory was convinced that it deepened the bond between them. Feeling the familiar, slightly painful tug at her breast, Rory looked down at him and smiled, smoothing back his blond hair and feeling an almost scary feeling of contentment wash over her.
Rory awoke with a start, sitting straight up in bed and looking around confusedly, covered in a sheen of sweat.
It took her a minute to realize she was in a hotel room at the Fairmont in San Francisco. In the past year she had many such nights, awakening in the dark, confused about where she was. It was part of the wear and tear of the campaign trail, she supposed, and the constant change in surroundings led her to ask her doctor for some sleeping pills to help her sleep at night.
Well, the constant change in surroundings and the dreams she still couldn't shake, though they were less frequent now. The sleeping pills and constant exhaustion meant that she could go a week or two at a time without dreaming of the life she almost had.
They haunted her waking hours, and Logan was never far from her mind. When she had gone home at Thanksgiving and Christmas, everyone exclaimed over her appearance. She had lost a lot of weight, her skin was pale and almost waxy, and her eyes had lost their luster. The constant travel, sleeplessness, and the stress of her first job out of college had all taken their toll.
Of course, everyone thought there was another reason for her appearance, but everyone loved Rory too much to mention Logan around her. Emily and Richard seemed to have an idea of where he was and how he was doing, and she knew that Colin and Finn knew exactly where he was and how he was, but they avoided the topic as if Logan had never existed.
Keeping it light, frivolous, and fun was their specialty, after all.
But now it was May and she was in San Francisco for a fundraising event with the governor. She was attending as a guest of Hugo's, as the brightest new reporter on his staff and a rising journalistic star. Her writing had gained some attention over the past few months as Rory threw herself into her work body and soul.
She knew Hugo was worried about her, she knew everyone was worried about her, but the only way she could deal with her life was through her work. Her tiny Hells Kitchen apartment in Manhattan was barely lived in, with many of her things still in boxes from her apartment in New Haven. Only her books and her bedroom were unpacked and arranged so she at least had a little space for sanctuary. She spent so much time on the road, however, covering the campaign trail that her suitcase was starting to seem more and more like home.
Rory got out of bed and flipped on the light. Grabbing a bottle of water from the minibar, she walked over to the window and took in the vista of the San Francisco Bay. From her lofty perch atop Nob Hill she could see down to the water and Alcatraz.
It was what she couldn't see that was plaguing her. Once Hugo informed her that she would be needed in San Francisco for a few days her mind went into overdrive. She had so far avoided being that close to Palo Alto, avoided knowingly being in the same vicinity as Logan and her almost-life. She tried to get out of it, but Hugo insisted, telling her that meeting some West Coast movers and shakers would be great for her career and she couldn't argue with him on that point.
Sighing, she closed the curtains, got back into bed, turned out the light and tried to sleep, her mind praying that Logan wouldn't be at the gala tomorrow, her heart hoping against hope that she would see him again.
Rory stood with Hugo chatting with some of the other guests, her figure draped in a one-shouldered plum silk gown that her mother had coerced her into purchasing on one of her shopping trips into New York. She felt slightly uncomfortable in it as it was too form fitting for her usual taste, but she was trying to fake it until she could make it, and was too focused on trying to charm the big donors at the ball to really think about her appearance.
Being an East Coast Gilmore certainly had its advantages, she mused an hour later as she stood on the balcony with a glass of Champagne. Many of the bigger names at the event knew her grandparents or friends of her grandparents and were very friendly to her, including her in their conversations and introducing her to other guests.
She had just managed to escape the clutches of a gaggle of her grandmother's DAR cronies when she saw him across the room. He was with a pretty blonde girl and they were in conversation over drinks. Feeling panicked, Rory ran for the nearest refuge she could find that was empty – a balcony overlooking the sparkling lights of the city.
"I didn't know he would be here," a low voice said behind her ten minutes later.
Turning slightly she saw Hugo approaching warily. "I promise, Rory, I wouldn't have brought you here if I knew he would be here. I had it on good authority he would be in Los Angeles this weekend."
Rory took a deep breath and turned towards him, smiling. "It's okay, Hugo, really. It's not your fault and I appreciate that you even bothered to check his schedule. We're adults, we haven't seen each other in a year, and it was just a shock to see him."
With a girl, her mind added silently.
"I just needed to get away momentarily. Between the DAR ladies and Logan, it was just too much. I'll be back in a minute," she reassured him.
She turned back to the view, taking a sip of Champagne. She heard Hugo leave the balcony, letting her mind return to overdrive. She was so lost in thought that she didn't hear someone approach five minutes later.
"Hey, Rory," he said softly, and she froze.
Turning slowly, hands shaking as adrenaline coursed through her system, she raised her eyes to his and softly replied.
"Daddy, tell me the story of how you and Mommy met!" Lori demanded from her spot on Logan's lap. They were sitting on the porch swing at twilight, Rory's favorite time of day, enjoying the last bit of summer warmth in their backyard.
"No, Daddy, tell the one of how you asked Mommy to marry you," Richard cut in from his place on Rory's lap. The four year old stuck out his tongue at his older sister and settled further against Rory, loving how she would rub his hair and back before taking him up for his bath time. "You told Lori the one about how you met yesterday and today is my day to pick the story!"
"You're right, buddy, today is your day to pick the story. Are you sure you want to hear this again, though? You've both heard it dozens of times."
Lori chimed in, wanting to hear it as well. It was their favorite bedtime story, other than some of the ones about the time Mommy threw Daddy his first fun birthday party when he was 25 or how Mommy knew the President from her time covering his campaign.
"Well, many years ago, before you both were born, your Mommy and I both went to a school called Yale," Logan began, but was interrupted by Lori.
"I know that, Daddy, get to the good stuff!"
"Patience, Lorelai Grace, patience," Rory chided. "Let your father tell you the story."
"Right, as I was saying before I was interrupted," he said, tickling her a little bit, causing her to giggle.
"Your Mommy and I met at Yale. And at her graduation party I asked her to marry me in front of all her friends and family."
"Grandma and Grandpa, too?" Richard interjected.
"Your Grandma was there, and Grandpa Chris was there, but not Grandpa Luke. And your Great-Grandparents and Auntie Lane were all there, and I asked her to marry me."
"But she said no," Lori added sadly, her big blue eyes filled with tears, even though she knew how the story ended.
"She said no because she needed to find her own way before she could find her way back to me. So I let her go and walked away. I moved to Palo Alto and started working at my job. A year later, I was in San Francisco for a big party."
"And Mommy was there!" said Richard.
"Yes, your mother was there in the most gorgeous purple dress I'd ever seen. She looked beautiful in it, like a princess, but she also looked sad," Logan continued, eyes locking with Rory's above the children's heads.
"She missed you," Lori said with some satisfaction in her voice.
"Yes, she missed me. She said no because she needed to explore all her options."
"But I had closed the door on the one option that mattered above any other," Rory added softly, emotion clogging her voice. "I needed to see that the other options didn't matter unless your Daddy was with me."
"Then what happened?" both children asked together.
"I saw her go outside and I wanted to talk to her but I was scared. I was there with a friend and she convinced me that if I didn't go talk to her, I would never forgive myself. So I went out to see her. We talked a little bit about something, I'm sure, but I don't remember what it was. I was too nervous. We ended up going up to her hotel room to – erm – talk." He paused, shooting Rory a slightly lecherous glance.
"And you asked her to marry you then?" Richard asked.
"No. I panicked and I left in the morning without saying good-bye. I was about halfway back to my apartment in Palo Alto when I realized I was being silly, and turned around to drive back. She was still there, crying because I left her again, but she let me in and I told her that even if she and I never got married I wouldn't care because I wanted her in my life forever."
"And then she moved out of her New York apartment, moved here, and you've been together ever since, right Daddy?" Lori asked happily.
"Yes, baby girl, that's exactly what happened. We eloped to Fiji, came back and had you, your brother, and little no-name who will be with us soon."
"It's such a pretty story, Mommy," Lori said very seriously to Rory.
"It is a pretty story, especially the ending," Rory replied, smiling at her family.
Rory jolted awake, tangled in the sheets of her room at the Fairmont. Wondering why she felt so achy and tired, she rolled over towards the nightstand with the intention of getting herself a drink from the water bottle still sitting there from the night before.
Cursing the dreams that never seemed to stop plaguing her, she took a sip and pushed herself into a sitting position against the headboard. She was trying to grasp the fuzzy remnants of the dream when she realized that she was naked beneath the sheets.
The previous night came flooding back to her in flashes; seeing Logan on the balcony, the short but excruciatingly awkward conversation, their swift exit from the gala, and the barely restrained passion with which they made love. Cringing, she let her head fall back against the headboard, trying to will herself to forget the way he made her feel last night.
How could he just leave her in the middle of the night? Had she really been reduced to the level of one of his one-night stands? Rory felt the tears come quickly, and soon she was sobbing into the pillows, sliding back down the mattress and holding onto the sheets for dear life.
Sobs wracked her frame as she remembered the way he looked walking away from her at her graduation. The year of loneliness and heartache that followed as she tried to start her career and make a name for herself. The way her breath caught in her throat as she saw him in his tuxedo across the room last night. The way his lips felt moving down her body as his hands roamed her skin so possessively. The feel of him inside her as she cried out his name in release. The way he held her afterwards as they drifted into a sated sleep, his hand running lazy circles up and down her naked spine. The smell of his cologne as it lingered in the room.
Having never allowed herself to cry for him until now, it was like a dam that had burst open. Rory cried for every look, every touch, every loving word they had ever shared and she cried for the end of it all, convinced that she would never see him again.
Some time later, Rory's sobs had subsided into slightly drunken-sounding hiccups. Slipping into one of the hotel's plush terry robes, she padded into the bathroom with every intention of washing her face and getting ready for her flight back to Manhattan, trying to put on a brave face on, as if to try and help her heart accept that she would eventually be okay.
A series of frantic knocks on the door halted her progress into the bathroom, and she paused, wondering who it could be.
Debating on whether or not she wanted to see anyone, but also wondering if she'd managed to order room service in her sleep again, she crept over to the peephole to see who was on the other side.
"Rory, open up!" Logan called loudly, knocking on the door even harder. "I need to talk to you. I've been a complete ass."
An inelegant snort from Rory alerted him to her presence on the other side of the door.
"Rory, please, open up. Please let me talk; let me explain!"
"Be quiet!" Rory hissed. "Do you want to wake up the entire hotel? Someone will call security!"
"Ace, I don't care if the cops come and they take me away kicking and screaming. You are listening to what I have to say, so you have a choice: out here in the hallway for all to hear or in the privacy of your room with the knowledge that you can kick me out at any time and I will go quietly."
Rory paused, chewing her bottom lip slightly in consternation. She would rather not have him in her hotel room again as things tended to escalate pretty quickly when they were involved. But having him wake the entire floor didn't seem like a great option, either.
"Please, Ace, let me in," he called softly.
Damning him to hell for all eternity for knowing that a softly pleading "Ace" would always melt her heart, she turned to doorknob and opened the door slowly.
"You have five minutes, so start talking."
"I don't care if we get married, I don't care if we have to do the long-distance thing while you figure out your career, but I can't let you go again. I need you in my life," Logan implored, reaching out to pull her closer, forcing her to look at him. "I love you," he whispered, gathering her even closer in his arms, knowing by her eyes that she loved him too. "I never stopped loving you."
"I tried to stop loving you," Rory tearfully admitted. "But I couldn't. I couldn't force my heart to stop loving you."
The kissed briefly, not the fierce, passionate kisses from the night before, but a kiss filled with promise and love.
"I'll call movers once I get back to Manhattan."
"I know it's a girl," Rory smiled smugly at Logan, putting her feet on his lap as they sat on the porch swing of their new home, enjoying the last light of day and the fireflies in the yard. "So you can put away all those books with boy names, because we need to focus on girls."
"Ace, I believe in women's intuition and all, but your confidence is astounding. And I have a 50 per cent chance of being right, so you just might be eating those words one day!" Logan retorted as he squinted and the many names in small print in the book in front of him. "What about Jebediah?" he joked, rubbing his hands absentmindedly up and down her shins.
"Lorelai Grace Huntzberger," she stated calmly. "That's going to be our girl's name. Lori for short."
Rory could see Logan mulling it over in his head and knew he'd agree, though he'd continue to ask about boy names.
"I like Lori…but what if it's a boy, Ace, we should be prepared!"
"I'm thinking Richard Lucas if it's a boy, but it's a girl, so we'll save that for the next one."
"You seem so sure, Rory, what's the deal?" he asked, puzzled by her certainty.
"In that year we were apart," she started slowly, slightly hesitant about sharing this with him, "I had dreams constantly about our life together. At the time I thought it was all could-have-beens, but I realized it was our future together when saw this house and this porch swing and in those dreams our first child was a girl. Lorelai Grace. She has brown hair and blue eyes and I have to fight you to keep you from spoiling her rotten. Four years later we will have a boy, Richard Lucas, who has blond hair and your hazel eyes and four years after that we will have what you referred to in my last dream as 'little no-name,'" Rory concluded with a smile.
Seeing the skeptical look on Logan's face, Rory continued. "I know it sounds crazy, but every one of those dreams about our life together has come true so far, so why should this be any different?"
Shifting on the swing so that she was leaning against his chest, she softly added, "I know it's hard to believe, but the morning you proposed to me, I dreamt us telling Lori and Richard about it. We have this beautiful routine; similar to the way my mom tells my birthing story to me at 4:03 on my birthday. We were telling the kids our story, the story of how you proposed at Yale and then again in the Fairmont, about how I needed to see that having every choice open to me meant nothing when the one thing I wanted I couldn't have."
Rory leaned up to press kisses along Logan's jaw line. Feeling a bizarre fluttering from her growing belly, she grabbed for one of his hands and put it under hers over her stomach.
Logan looked at her in askance, and asked her if everything was ok. In response, she just looked up at him with a joyful look on her face.
"I felt the baby kick."
As they both waited for the baby to kick again, Rory snuggled down into his arms, her arms around his with both of their hands on her stomach.
"Twilight really is my favorite time of day," she whispered as she tipped her head up to his for a kiss.
A slight pressure to the outer wall of her stomach seemed to confirm that Lori agreed with her.
Author's note: so there it is, my latest creation! I was in a car from Manhattan to Vermont this past weekend and at dusk I could see so many fireflies in the woods. This idea just popped into my head and I couldn't do anything until this was on paper. I really loved writing this one shot and will have a chapter of "All I Want Is You" up soon, I promise. I'm working on the next few chapters so I can post the remainder of the story fairly quickly once I'm back from all my travels over the next couple of weeks.
Please let me know if you enjoyed the story – I really appreciate feedback. Also, I couldn't figure out how to get the page break to work, so if anyone has any tips on that, that would be great – I'll re-upload the story with the HTML code. I'm a bit of a moron technologically speaking, so help would be fab!