A/N: It's early, and I'm impatient. A birthday fic dedicated to JavaForever, who will be celebrating a birthday of her own on the 24th. Be sure to give her some birthday love. I thought of this idea on my own birthday. Dialogue borrowed from "Rory's Birthday Parties". HAPPY BIRTHDAY STELLA!

Rory looked at the cake that sat on the kitchen counter. At twenty four, she didn't really care about the cake's appearance, she just wanted to eat it. But for some reason, she found herself standing over it, marveling at it. It wasn't the cake that was important, it was the meaning behind it.

It was the cake she'd dreamed of on her fifth birthday. It was a chocolate cake, with a light pink icing and white flowers on the edge. "Happy Birthday Rory" was written in script with white frosting. She felt silly for being attached to the cake she never got until now, but thinking back, the cake said more than she ever thought it could.

Five year old Rory sat on the bed in the potting shed, letting her feet swing off the edge. Clicking the new shoes together that she received from Emily and Richard seemed to be entertaining her for the moment, but she had a feeling she'd have a long time to wait.

Her daddy was supposed to be coming to her birthday. All she could remember was that Lorelai had called and called, asking him to dress up like Prince Charming. Sixth birthdays were princess birthdays, and they needed a Prince Charming, right?

Rory's princess crown slipped down over her eye and she quickly straightened it. Maybe it was time that she changed into her full princess costume. She slid off the bed and poked her head out the door of the shed where Mia was trying to comfort an obviously upset Lorelai. She watched as her mom groaned and threw her arms up in the air, and stared as Mia put a hand on Lorelai's shoulder, reassuring her that it would be okay.

Creeping back into the shed, Rory knew exactly what was going on. She wasn't going to have a Prince Charming at her party. Feeling the tears fall, Rory sniffled and wiped them away. She was five, a big girl. She had to be strong.

"Something wrong with the cake? I didn't spell your name wrong or anything, right?"

Rory turned around, surprised that Luke had jarred her out of her thoughts so easily. "No, no, it's the perfect cake, Luke. Thank you," she said, giving her stepfather a hug.

He smiled as he returned the hug and walked over to the stove. "You're welcome. If I'd have known you'd be back this early, I would have hidden it somewhere."

"Where would you have hidden it?" she giggled.

"I don't know. You've seen it now, so I guess the surprise is gone," he said, pouring noodles into a pot of boiling water.

"I still love it. When I was five, that's the cake I dreamed of having," she said.

Luke turned around. "Yeah?"

She nodded. "Mom told you, didn't she?"

"She told me what colors. I did the rest, with a little help from Sookie on the decorations. You know I don't bake well," he chuckled.

"I appreciate it, nonetheless," Rory said, pouring herself a cup of coffee.

Birthdays were special in the Gilmore house. She remembered her fiesta birthday, her teddy bear birthday, and her space birthday, but the next birthday that stuck out was her thirteenth birthday party.

Lorelai ran down the stairs, obviously trying to grab the phone before Rory woke up. "Hello?" she whispered.

Rory rubbed her eyes and sat up in her bed, listening to the phone conversation going on between Lorelai and the person on the other line. She turned to look at the clock. It was just past eight and she was nowhere near ready to grace the world with her presence quite yet, especially after the annual four in the morning ordeal she went through.

"You're serious?" Lorelai hissed, her voice raised to a frustrated whisper. "Our thirteen year old kid isn't going to believe that your car broke down for the third year in a row, and guess what, neither am I. It's a load of crap, Christopher."

Rory slumped down in her bed, feeling the tingle in her stomach that she felt when she was let down. Even though she was a realist at 13, she still had that little hope inside that hated to be crushed when she got her hopes too high. She pulled the covers over her shoulders and closed her eyes, trying her hardest to go back to sleep.

She heard her door creak a few hours later, and the smell of coffee floated in the door. Rory rubbed her eyes and sat up, slowly forcing herself to get up and get out of bed. She put on her slippers and trudged into the living room.

"Hey, there, birthday girl," Lorelai said, patting the seat next to her on the couch. "I have located all the karaoke CD's in town, so this party will be super fantastic. Everyone's names are on them with post-its, so when someone wants to sing something, we need to put someone in charge of placing them in the right cases when they're done. And you want to make a list of songs?"

Rory nodded. "I'll make a list," she said, reaching for the legal pad sitting on the coffee table and picking up the fluffy pink pen that sat on the floor. "Convenience," she said, pointing the fluffy end of the pen at Lorelai.

"While you make the list, sweets, there's something I want to talk to you about," Lorelai said, shifting her coffee from her left hand to her right.

"Dad's not coming," Rory supplied, not bothering to look up from her list.

"You heard the phone?"

"I'm okay, I'm kinda used to it by now," she said, continuing to make the list.

Lorelai patted Rory's knee as a means of comforting her. "Well, the party will start soon, I'm going to go take a shower so I look amazing. Let me know if you… want to talk or anything."

Rory smiled and nodded, dedicating herself to her list. She finished the list and got changed into her purple sequined top that was purchased especially for her 'superstar karaoke' birthday. Before she knew it, guests were arriving and checking out her list of songs. The living room was full and the door opened once again.

Luke stood in the doorway, holding a pink bag with tissue paper sticking out of the top. Rory waved from the couch, getting up to greet him. "Luke, thanks for coming," she said.

"This is for… you. Happy Birthday," he said, handing her the gift.

She took the bag and flashed a smile. "Thank you, come on in, I think someone's bound to make a fool of themselves today," she teased.

"This could be entertaining," Luke grumbled, giving Rory a wink, and sitting on a chair by the entryway, just far enough away from the crowd to look like he was involved, but not too close as to be squished between Patty and Babette.

Sipping her coffee, Rory remembered Luke's presence at that party. It was her first birthday party at the house that Luke had attended, and she was truly grateful.

"You having a good birthday so far?" Luke asked.

Rory nodded. "You've done so much for me already," she said. "Thank you."

"It's no big deal, I know you love birthdays," he said, stirring the pasta.

Taking another sip and putting the coffee mug down, Rory shook her head. "I'm not really sure if you know how much it means. My dad's an okay guy, but he never showed up to one of my birthday bashes. You baked me a coffee cake and blew up balloons. You brought ice for my sixteenth birthday, which made my mom thrilled beyond belief. You gave me your mother's necklace, which I love. And last year… had to be my favorite birthday."

Being in a hotel room for her birthday wasn't really what she'd anticipated, but it would have to do. Being in a different time zone than her family was on her birthday was going to be weirder. Rory set her alarm for seven and slipped into bed, falling asleep almost instantly.

A knock on the door woke her suddenly in the middle of the night. She groaned, throwing on her bathrobe and opening the door, trying to focus on who was in the hallway. Once she realized who was in the hallway, she smiled.

Lorelai opened her arms. "Happy birthday, little girl," she whispered, trying not to cry.

Rory ran to Lorelai, hugging her tightly. "Hey," she responded, trying to go with the usual routine.

Lorelai invited herself in, lying down on Rory's bed, motioning for her to come over. Rory obliged, lying down on the bed next to her mom.

"I can't believe how fast you're growing up," Lorelai said, wiping some tears away.

"Really? Feels slow," Rory replied, giggling and wiping away some tears of her own.

Lorelai shook her head. "Trust me, it's fast. What do you think of your life so far?"

"I think it's pretty good," she replied, snuggling close to Lorelai, still in shock that she was there.

"Any complaints?"

She thought for a moment, knowing exactly what she was going to say, because she's wanted the same thing every year. "I'd like that whole humidity thing to go away."

"All right, I'll work on that," Lorelai replied, playing with Rory's hair.

She looked to Lorelai, flashing a smile. "So do I look older?"

Lorelai smiled and nodded. "Oh, yeah, you walk into Denny's before 5, you've got yourself a discount!" she teased, kissing Rory on the cheek.

"Good deal," Rory replied, forgetting for the moment that Denny's food was not nearly as good as Luke's. And suddenly her mind went to Luke. Was he here, too?

"So you know what I think?" Lorelai asked.

"What?" Rory asked, trying to continue with the saga as she did every year.

Lorelai took a deep breath. "I think you're a great, cool kid, and the best friend a girl could have."

"Right back atcha," Rory replied.

"And it's so hard to believe that at exactly this time many moons ago, I was lying in exactly the same position…" Lorelai started.

Rory groaned. "Oh, boy, here we go."

Lorelai continued. "Only I had a huge, fat stomach and big fat ankles and I was swearing like a sailor…"

"On leave," Rory added.

"On leave -- right! And there I was…" Lorelai explained.

Rory smiled. "In labor."

Lorelai nodded. "And while some have called it the most meaningful experience of your life, to me it was something more akin to doing the splits on a crate of dynamite."

Rory smiled. "I wonder if the Waltons ever did this," she wondered aloud.

Lorelai continued to reminisce. "And I was screaming and swearing and being surrounded as I was by a hundred prominent doctors, I just assumed there was an actual use for the cup of ice chips they gave me."

"There wasn't," Rory said.

"But pelting the nurses sure was fun," Lorelai added, in a sing songy voice.

"I love you Mom," Rory said, smiling. The speech is almost through, it was definitely her birthday. She was never going to get to sleep knowing that Lorelai was really there. When the speech was over, Rory turned to Lorelai. "What are you doing here?" she asked.

"Kicking out the woman who did the splits on a crate of dynamite for you, kid?"

Rory shook her head. "No! Just… I'm surprised! What convinced you to come here?"

"Luke," Lorelai whispered.

Luke came into the room, almost on cue, dragging Lorelai's bags and his own and giving Rory a wave. "Happy birthday," he said.

Rory ran up to him and gave him a hug. "Thank you, Luke," she said, wiping away some more tears. "You have no idea what this means to me."

Luke shrugged again. "I just thought you'd want to be together on your birthday, that's all."

"You've been there for me on every birthday of mine since we met you. I mean, we finally convinced you to come to a party when I turned thirteen, but still, the birthday cupcakes, and the coffee cake, and everything you did for me really meant a lot over the years," Rory said. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," Luke said, giving Rory a slight smile.

Lorelai entered the kitchen, crossing her arms. "You can't father-daughter bond without me. It's a rule, you know."

Rory giggled. "That top looks cute on you, Mom."

"I look stupid," Lorelai said, motioning to her stomach. "Seriously, I don't remember looking this stupid the last time I was pregnant. Although realizing the concept of the age at which I was pregnant last, maybe I did look stupid."

Rory got up to hug her mom. "All you missed was me thanking Luke for being there on my birthdays."

"He is a good birthday guy," she said, flashing Luke a smile, walking past him and pinching his behind.

"Stop it," Luke grumbled.

"I'm at that stage in pregnancy, what can I say?" Lorelai giggled, reaching for Rory's coffee. "You know in some countries the birthday person gives presents to those they love, to thank them for being in their lives? How about a present?"

"I wouldn't live to see another birthday," Rory said, winking at Luke.

Watching as Lorelai and Luke bantered back and forth about the coffee, Rory took a long sip. She liked that Luke was permanently in her life. Having that father figure she'd always wanted was the true birthday present.