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[personal profile] dollsome
Title: The Best of It
Pairing: Rory/Paris, ft. the Stars Hollow ensemble
Chapter: 7 (Previous chapters here)
Word Count: 2,700



Part 7 – Oh, What A Night!

“Jess?” Rory gasps.

Jess gives her a sardonic wave. He looks just like the same old Jess, mostly, except for the fact that he's grown a beard. It's not too startling -- nowhere near an Iron & Wine situation -- but it makes him look like an actual grownup.

Oh God, they're all grownups. Shouldn't they be past the Stars Hollow shenanigans phase by now?

Apparently not.

“What are you doing here?” she asks, scrambling over to him.

“Oh, you know,” he says. “Enjoying this nice warm welcome.”

“We’ll have none of your lip, young man!” Taylor barks.

“Taylor!” Rory says. “Can you not?”

“Fine,” Taylor huffs. “But you’re on very thin ice, Mr. Mariano. None of us have forgotten Pierpont.”

“Who’s Pierpont?” asks ... someone. Clearly someone way out of the Stars Hollow loop.

For the first time, Rory registers that Jess isn’t alone. There’s a woman around his age sitting next to him. She’s got her long brown hair in a side braid that would make even Katniss jealous, and she’s wearing a pair of jeans, a flannel shirt, and a puffy vest with such effortless lazy poise that it kind of feels like she just stepped out of an L.L. Bean catalog. She looks vaguely familiar, and it takes Rory a second to place her.

Alex. Jess’s girlfriend.

It would be a lie to say Rory hasn’t done the tiniest bit of discreet Facebook stalking over the past few years. Usually after a fair amount of wine.

“I may or may not have stolen a garden gnome,” Jess mutters to her.

“Wow,” Alex says. “I am feeling ... sort of embarrassed to love you right now, frankly.”

“Careful, Bonnie,” Taylor says sternly, waving a finger at her. “Being flippant about Pierpont may be the last thing you ever do.”

“Did you just threaten to kill me?” she asks. “And ... call me Bonnie?”

“Of ‘and Clyde’ fame,” Taylor says impatiently. “Come now. Certainly even today’s young ruffians can pick up on that pop culture reference.”

“But did you threaten to kill me, though?” she persists, with a little mischievous twinkle.

Taylor grumbles gibberish for a few indignant seconds, then finally gives up and sits down next to Miss Patty.

“Um,” Rory says, turning to the crowd. “Thanks so much for letting me know, everybody, but I think I can take it from here.”

“You sure, sugar?” Babette asks. “We’re here for you! We’ll scare him straight! Won’t we scare him straight, Morey?”

“Sure will,” Morey says pleasantly.

“Please,” Rory implores. “Go home. Get some rest.”

Everybody agrees – some more willingly than others – and they all start shuffling sleepily out of the dance hall. Lane waves goodbye. Rory waves back.

“We stand with Pierpont!” Taylor thunders before Miss Patty steers him outside.

Then, blessedly, there is silence.

“Wow.” Alex pokes Jess in the side. “I didn’t know you were quite so notorious.”

“Well, we don’t get a whole lot of notorious here,” Rory says. “Honestly, when it comes to Stars Hollow controversies, Pierpont getting stolen is only trumped by the time a second town troubadour showed up.”

“Well yeah,” Alex says, unfazed. “This town is clearly only big enough for one troubadour.”

“Rory, this is Alex,” Jess says. “Alex, Rory.”

“Alex! I’ve heard of you.” Rory hopes that her tone projects a hearty sense of But I’ve totally never seen your Facebook page before. “It’s so nice to finally meet you!”

“You too,” Alex says, beaming. “I’ve been wanting to come here for like ever, but Jess so wasn’t into the idea.”

“Imagine that,” Rory says, smiling at Jess. He smirks back with good humor.

“But I was Facebook chatting with Liz and she mentioned the Firelight Festival was coming up, and it just sounded so cheesy – but, like, good cheesy – that I knew now was the time.”

“So you’re here for the Firelight Festival,” Rory says. She can’t quite resist giving Jess a Look at that news.

“Don’t rub it in,” says Jess.

“Anyway, I didn’t realize we’d be taken hostage within like five seconds of arriving,” Alex continues happily. “So already this is pretty much the most exciting vacation I’ve ever had.”

Rory cringes. “About that – I am so sorry.”

“Yeah, what the hell’s going on?” Jess says. “They just kept saying ‘He’ll ruin this for Rory’ over and over. Good to see that the public opinion of me has really evolved.”

“You haven’t heard about ... the thing?” Rory asks tentatively.

“What thing?” Jess says.

“Me and Paris?”

“You guys still hang out?”

“Um,” Rory says. “You could say that. So you really don’t know?”

“Know ... ?” Jess says blankly.

“About Paris and Rory’s Modern Stars Hollow Family?”

Jess kind of looks like the words just punched him in the stomach. “What ... is that?”

“You haven’t been around the internet in awhile, huh?” Rory guesses.

“We were out at her parents’ cabin for a couple weeks,” he explains. “It’s sorta off the grid.”

“How Thoreauvian,” Rory says weakly.

“I like to think he would have been proud.”

“You were probably more Thoreauvian than Thoreau, even! Since he had his aunt bringing him lunch all the time, that big cheater, and you've got the beard and everything—”

“Rory,” Jess interrupts. He probably remembers Rory’s ability to go off on a serious Transcendentalists tangent. “You gonna tell me what Paris and Rory’s Stars Hollow Modern Family is?”

“Paris and Rory’s Modern Stars Hollow Family,” Rory corrects.

“Oh yeah,” Jess says mock-seriously. “’Cause that’s much better.”

Rory takes a deep breath, then tells the whole terrible tale.

Well, not all of it. She leaves out all the stuff about confusing emotions. Jess has never been very good with confusing emotions. At least not when they’re Rory’s.

“... and so,” Rory concludes, “I’m guessing there was a bit of a town panic when you showed up, because we kind of told the documentary crew that you were a girl.”

“So that’s probably why Kirk offered to put makeup on me,” Jess discerns.

“I mean, maybe,” Rory says. “You never know with Kirk.”

“May I just say: that might be the best story I’ve ever heard,” Alex says.

At least someone is happy.

Still, to be polite, Rory says, “I’m so, so sorry. It sounds like you guys had a really nice week planned, and you showed up in the middle of all this craziness, and now odds are you’re going to get sucked right into it—”

“Don’t worry about it. We’ll stay on the downlow,” Jess says.

“There’s not much of a downlow in Stars Hollow,” Rory says. “Unless you want to hide in Luke’s apartment all week, you’re probably going to run into the cameras.”

“Don’t worry,” Jess says. “We’re sneaky.”

“I’m just—I’m so happy right now,” Alex says, waving her hand in front of her face like a giddy beauty pageant winner. “This is the most beautiful thing that’s ever happened to me. Or around me, at least.”

“Shut up,” Jess says. Rory can see the corners of his mouth twitching.

“If this is your way of asking me if I want to move to Stars Hollow with you and spend every day of our lives ensconced in this madness,” Alex continues, going into more of a Melodramatic Southern Belle thing, “my answer is yes, yes, a thousand times yes!”

“Yeesh,” Jess says. “Now I’m embarrassed to love you.”

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a shit,” Alex says merrily.


+


And so finally, at 2:30 in the morning after quite possibly the most exhausting day since the Stars Hollow Dance Marathon of 2002, Rory steps out of the dance studio to walk home.

(Jess and Alex decide to sleep in their car, which is very old school Jewel of them.)

After about ten steps, her phone rings. The sound makes her jump, all shrill against the quiet.

She looks at who’s calling, then picks up. “Paris?”

“I’m sorry. I freaked out. I do that.”

Paris sounds like she’s come down out of Hulk mode, thank God. It’s an impressive recovery time, too; if that conversation had happened in high school, Paris probably would have shunned her for at least three months.

“You do,” Rory agrees. “It’s kind of your thing.”

“You’re not mad at me?”

“Paris, no. Of course not.” Rory is just going to blame exhaustion for the fact that she feels a sudden lump in her throat. “I’m just glad you called.”

“Good. Let’s—let’s talk, okay?”

“I would like that,” Rory says truthfully. But she knows she’s got to come clean about the latest twist in their little saga. It’s the right thing to do. “Um, I should probably tell you – well, you’ll never guess who’s here!”

“Is it Bill Maher? I swear to God, he thinks I’m joking when I tell him I know Krav Maga. It’s like he’s addicted to me spilling his tears.”

“Nope, not Bill.”

“This time,” Paris mutters darkly.

“It’s Jess, actually!” Rory cringes at how perky she sounds.

“Oh,” says Paris. Suddenly she doesn’t sound ready to tear Bill Maher to pieces.

“And his girlfriend, Alex!” Rory adds quickly. “He brought her here to meet the family. Isn’t that nice?”

“Yeah,” Paris says, sounding as tired as Rory feels. “Yeah, that’s nice.”

“I thought so,” Rory says.

Silence.

“I’ll talk to you when I get home, okay?” Rory says.

“Yeah,” Paris says, and hangs up.

It’s official. This day has had more unnecessary drama than Bates and Anna on Downton Abbey.

“Stupid day,” Rory mumbles.


+


When Rory gets home, she finds Paris lying on the couch, tucked up in a blanket and looking very small. Usually, when Paris is up and in action, it’s easy for Rory to forget how tiny she is. It is hard to feel taller than Paris Geller even when you have a few inches on her.

Right now, Rory feels taller.

“Do you hate her?” Paris asks without looking up.

“Who?” Rory says, playing dumb.

“You know who.”

Rory bites back a super hip Voldemort reference. “Why would I hate her? She’s really nice, and surprisingly pro-shenanigans. And she can seriously hold her own against Taylor. I think you’d be impressed.”

“This is the same girl whose Facebook page you obsessively study every time you get tipsy and emotional, yes?”

“Not every time,” Rory protests. “Maybe once or twice.”

Paris finally looks up at her. And it is not a look of ‘I support you, friend!’. Just pure and utter ‘You’re full of crap, Gilmore’ skepticism.

“Okay, three times!” Rory admits. “At the most!” (Maybe four.) “Can we not talk about that? I thought we were going to talk about ... you know. Us.”

“I figured The Emo Kid That Got Away trumped whatever relationship drama we’ve got going on.”

“Well, he doesn’t. Jess was my high school boyfriend. And not even my most serious high school boyfriend! It’s been, what, ten years? I promise, I’m over it.”

“You sure?” Paris says, eyeing her doubtfully.

“Yes,” Rory says, eyeing her sincerely. Or, well, trying. It is really hard to eye someone sincerely and look convincing!

Paris doesn’t look convinced, that’s for sure. “Because I know how you feel about him.”

“You mean fondly nostalgic but otherwise completely over it?”

“Oh, come on, Rory. Everyone knows he’s that guy for you.”

“What guy?” Rory demands.

Paris sighs impatiently. “That guy that you always kind of hope in the back of your head will be there waiting for you when you’re finally ready to settle down and do this love thing for real.”

Rory decides to tackle the most pressing issue first. “Do this love thing for real? What is that, like, a bad romantic comedy title?”

“Is there such thing as a good romantic comedy?”

“Bridget Jones’s Diary is solid and you know it,” Rory says stubbornly. “And also, Jess is not my someday guy.”

“Oh yeah?” Paris challenges.

“Yeah!”

“Since when?”

“Since pretty much always! Dean was my someday guy. And that someday’d a long time ago.”

“Please. Farm Boy was never a serious contender in the Game of Rory and you know it.”

“What are you talking about? I was hung up on Farm Bo– Dean way longer than I’ve ever been hung up on Jess!”

Paris takes a deep breath. Within the length of that breath, Rory realizes exactly what’s going to come out of her mouth next.

Sure enough:

“You danced with Jess at your mom’s wedding, and you thought something was going to happen, and there was a moment where you thought he might kiss you, and then instead he told you that he was seeing someone else, and you were so bummed out about it that I watched the entirety of The Six Wives Of King Henry VIII with you during what was frankly one of the most depressing wallowing weekends in history. That’s not a thing that a person just forgets, Rory.”

“I know,” Rory says, resisting the urge to cringe.

“To this day I wonder, ‘Why King Henry VIII? Why?’” Paris laments.

“Sometimes it’s just nice to be reminded that there are other ladies out there who’ve had it worse than you in the romance department!” Rory says defensively.

“Say what you want about Catherine of Aragon, but at least her boo didn’t skip town without telling her.”

“I mean, he kind of did. If you replace ‘town’ with ‘their marriage’ or ‘Catholicism’.”

“You seem really eager to talk about the fabulous foibles of Henry VIII when you should be talking about Jess,” Paris says accusingly.

“You brought it up!”

“And you glomped right onto it, didn’t you?” Paris picks up a throw pillow and squeezes it so hard Rory fears for its fluffy pillow life. “Anything that’ll change the subject from Mr. Kerouac’s Number One Fan.”

“Paris, my mom and Luke got married three years ago. I’m over it now. I swear.”

Paris stares at her for a long time. “If you’re sure,” she says at last.

“I’m sure,” Rory says firmly. “Yes, there might have been a quick little bittersweet twinge at seeing him with someone else, but that’s just how it is with exes, isn’t it? Anyway, he and Alex seem really happy and I’m ... I’m just happy he’s happy.”

Paris doesn’t say anything. Instead, she nods slightly and then curls back up into a little couch ball of sadness.

Rory sits down on the other side of the couch. It’s such a relief to finally get a break from standing that she almost passes out.

“Now, let’s talk about you and me,” she says instead, because a promise is a promise, even if at this point she feels like death by exhaustion and social awkwardness may be a very real possibility for her.

Paris stares at her for a long time. Then she says, very lightly, “Nah.”

“Nah?” This will probably be it, then. The moment when Rory Gilmore’s head explodes.

“I think you were right earlier. Let’s just get through the next week, okay? It’s going to be hard enough dealing with Nigel and the Camera Bunch without any extra drama. So let’s just, I don’t know, put the big serious talk on pause.”

“You sure?”

“I’m sure.”

“All right,” Rory says. Despite the fact that it’s a seriously anti-climactic development, she can’t help but feel sort of wonderful about it. A way out of the weird, at last.

She snuggles down deeper into the couch, pulling her legs up from the floor so she can shift into something that kind of resembles a restful position. Her feet brush Paris’s legs. Paris twists slightly, and then they aren’t touching anymore.

“You’re not really going to write a fanfiction about us, are you?” Rory says through a yawn, the words stumbling into each other.

“Probably not,” Paris says drowsily. “I’ve got a life. Vitasackvillebest can win this round.”

“Good,” Rory says, closing her eyes. “Thank you.”

A nice, sleepy silence takes over. Paris’s leg presses against Rory’s foot again. Rory smiles a little without meaning to.

“What are the odds that Jess’s girlfriend is going to have to pretend to be girl Jess?” Paris asks groggily.

“So high that I’m trying not to think about it,” says Rory.

“Awesome,” Paris deadpans.

“Sweet dreams,” Rory sighs.

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