"Careful there, Kirk."
Kirk kept his eyes shut and lifted his hand to his aching forehead. There was a bump. Why did he have a bump? His head didn't normally have bumps, except for his nose or his ears. Or that weird spot under his jaw.
"Why is there a bump on my head?"
"You ran into a tree." That sounded like Lulu. But the first voice had been a man's. He waited for the man to say something else, so he could identify the voice. Nothing. He was going to have to open his eyes and find out if he was naked. Hadn't he been naked not too long ago? Cool breeze blowing against his skin and his...other parts?
"I'm not naked." In fact, he was in his room at the Dragonfly Inn, in his bed, wearing his special pajamas with the train cabooses on them. He'd bought them just for this night with Lulu.
Lulu smiled down at him. "Luke helped me get you dressed."
"So I was naked at some point in the past."
"Yeah," Luke said. "You were naked. You had naked night terrors and bolted out the front door. Can we quit having any conversation involving the word 'naked' now?"
"I think he's okay," Lulu said. "You should get back to your room and get some sleep."
Maybe it was the double vision, but Kirk thought he saw Luke blush. "Ah, right. Back to my room. Night, Lulu, Kirk."
"Good night, Luke. Thanks again for the help." Lulu escorted him to the door and closed it behind him.
"I think I might have a concussion," Kirk said, poking the bump on his head. "How can you figure out if you have a concussion?"
Lulu tucked the covers in around him, then used her thumb and forefinger to pry apart his eyelids. Kirk had never noticed how scary she looked from that angle, although probably anyone would look scary six inches from your face and staring into your eyeball.
"Kids in my class get concussions all the time, Kirk. You're fine."
Kirk decided not to mention that Lulu's head seemed to be glowing. It was kind of pretty, actually. It made her look like an angel with a halo. Unless she was glowing because she was radioactive. Oh, god! Had he accidentally done something to make Lulu radioactive while he was running around with his night terrors?
"Lulu?" He almost asked a question about toxic waste dumps, until a memory from earlier that night came flashing back. "I think I saw Luke and Lorelai kissing."
"Really? Oh, that's so romantic!" Lulu pulled on her nightgown. Sometimes she slept in pajamas with sheep on them, but she saved the nightgown for special occasions, like the first time they'd had sex, or the first time they'd had sex at some place that wasn't his mother's house. Kirk had never been brave enough to tell her he liked the pajamas better.
He scooted over to let Lulu climb into bed. "Unless it was a hallucination. But I think it came before the concussion."
"You don't have a concussion. Why don't you ask Miss Patty or Babette? If anyone knows, they will."
Kirk thought about that. Maybe Luke and Lorelai would want to keep it a secret. But the whole town knew that they were bound to end up together sooner or later. Taylor had dropped hints about a secret plan in case of "consummation and breakup", as he called it, although he'd refused to tell Kirk exactly what his plan was. He had promised that Kirk would get to help whenever the plan was implemented.
"Hey, Kirk?" Lulu was still glowing, little sparkles of light floating around her hair and her face. "You could have told me about the night terrors."
"I know," he said. "I was just worried that you'd decide I wasn't worth the trouble, or that I'd think you were a ninja and try to push you out a window, and you wouldn't like me any more."
"Of course you're worth the trouble," she said, snuggling closer. "Besides, I took a self-defense class. I know just where to kick you to stop you in your tracks."
That made Kirk feel better.
Kirk stopped in at Doose's to buy some paper towels and frozen dinners. Sometimes Lulu made him get stuff for her, since she liked to cook, and once she'd made him prove that he loved her by buying tampons, but when Kirk came out of the store crying, she'd hugged him and promised never to do it again.
He was especially glad he wasn't buying anything embarrassing, because Taylor and Miss Patty and Babette were clustered around the cash register.
"I completely agree, Patty," Taylor said, picking up one of the frozen dinners and scanning it. "It's a concern for the entire town. The effects could be disastrous."
"Aw, they're fine, Taylor. Leave 'em alone," Babette protested.
"It's been months, and the two of them haven't moved beyond casual dates and covert assignations. The moral implications alone --"
"It is a little strange, when you think about it. Oh, hello, Kirk." Miss Patty started tossing his purchases into a bag. "I'm not surprised that Lorelai is trying to take things slow, but Luke! Luke's always been such a gentleman. So reliable."
"What did Lorelai and Luke do?" he asked.
"Nothing!" Taylor snapped. "That's the problem."
"We think it's time for them to take the next step, honey," Miss Patty said.
"Or at least talk about it. Four months after Maury and I started dating, you couldn't pry us apart with a crowbar. We were like Siamese twins joined at the crotch!"
Taylor winced as he took Kirk's twenty. "Honestly, Babette. The real concern here is the town. What happens if the owner of the diner and the owner of the Dragonfly Inn split up? There are economic concerns, aside from the disastrous creation of a rift. If they don't take the next step in the next few weeks, I think it might be time to start making pink and blue ribbons."
Kirk had pressured Taylor into giving him the details of his Luke-and-Lorelai-break-up contingency plan several weeks ago. "Taylor, do you have a plan if Lulu and I break up?"
"What, Kirk? Of course not."
"Why not?" Taylor was silent, and Kirk knew what that meant. "She teaches at the school, and I have twenty-three different jobs around town. Twenty-four, if I get that herding job at the petting zoo. Wouldn't it affect the town if we broke up?"
Taylor sputtered. "Well, Kirk, it's just that...."
Miss Patty took over. "You and Lulu are different, Kirk. No one expects you to break up."
"Because I've never had a girlfriend before, so everyone thinks that I'll do anything to keep her, no matter how humiliating?"
Babette patted him on the arm. "A little bit, sugar."
Kirk shoved his change in his pockets and grabbed his groceries. "Well, that's insulting. Not that you're wrong. But you could at least have a plan, Taylor. A map of the town with a line drawn on the middle, and one side marked 'Kirk' and the other side marked 'Lulu.' Lulu and I haven't taken the next step either, so maybe you should be worried."
He stomped out the door, but thought of something, and went back inside. Taylor, Patty, and Babette still looked shocked. "Unless you mean sex," Kirk clarified. "Because we've had lots of sex."
Luke and Lorelai showed up at the movie theater that night. That was the one thing Kirk didn't like about Stars Hollow. Whenever you didn't want to see somebody, you could be sure that you'd run into them and be forced to serve them popcorn and Junior Mints.
"And a giganto-size Mountain Dew," Lorelai said.
Luke rolled his eyes. "You're going to have to get up in the middle of the movie to go to the bathroom, and you're going to step on my foot."
"That's half the fun. The other half is making you tell me what I missed while I was gone."
"Go," Luke said, gesturing with his wallet in his hand. "Sit down. I will bring you the snacks."
Lorelai hadn't even noticed that Kirk hadn't said anything, even though he always tried to sell her a combo pack with a pretzel. Stupid Lorelai. Stupid Luke. Stupid Luke and Lorelai and their stupid next step.
"You okay, Kirk?" Luke slipped the Junior Mints into his pocket.
"You were kinda muttering to yourself there."
"Oh," Kirk said. "What if I don't want to take the next step with Lulu?"
"What next step?"
"Whatever the next step is." He thought for a moment. "Commitment? Buying property together? Do you think we should get matching tattoos? I'm not very good with needles."
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Luke said.
"I don't know what's supposed to happen next." Kirk only knew that he liked being with Lulu. He liked having someone to watch TV with, someone who called him on the phone, someone who bought special nightgowns but wore pajamas with sheep on them.
Luke shifted his weight from one foot to the other. "This is none of my business, Kirk. It's between you and Lulu. It's not like there's a schedule or anything."
"You and Lorelai don't have a schedule?"
"That's none of *your* business," Luke said. "Look, are you happy?"
"With Lulu? Does she make you happy?"
"I think so," Kirk said.
"Do you make her happy?" Luke asked.
"I don't know." She smiled when she was around him, but she smiled when she was with her class, or when they were having dinner with his mother. She smiled a lot. "How do you know if someone is happy if she's smiling all the time?"
Picking up the popcorn, Luke balanced it in the crook of his arm and grabbed the Mountain Dew. "I'd say that's a pretty good sign, Kirk."
He watched as Luke handed the Mountain Dew to Lorelai. Luke knew what would happen if Lorelai drank an entire giganto-size Mountain Dew, but he gave it to her anyway, because it made her happy.
He picked up the phone and dialed.
"Hi, Kirk. Are you finished with work already?" She sounded...happy. And that made him happy, no matter what Taylor or Miss Patty thought of him.
"No, the second showing just started. I just wanted to ask you something." He took a deep breath. "How do you feel about tattoos?"