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Title: The Best of It
Pairing: Rory/Paris, ft. the Stars Hollow ensemble
Chapter: 10 (Previous chapters here)
Word Count: 3,860



Part 10: Of Jess News & Jeoparory

Rory decides to go over to Luke’s for some coffee while Paris and Alex are Mad Max-ing their way through the quaint streets of Stars Hollow. She’s not really in the mood to watch. She wishes she could say the same for the majority of the people in this town, but nope. An embarrassing amount of them have gathered in the streets, trying to look like they’re casually going about their business but really waiting to see the showdown.

Just great.

When she gets to Luke’s, she finds Jess sitting at a table, scribbling in a Moleskine. He looks seriously disgruntled. Probably because everyone in here is staring at him.

“Hey,” Rory says, slipping into the chair next to his.

“Hey,” Jess mutters back.

Rory is used to Luke’s being a nice little haven of caffeine and general yumminess, but not today. Every single person in here is staring at the two of them like they’re about to become duel widows.

It helps a little when Luke comes by and soundlessly sets two to-go cups of coffee on the table.

Jess starts, “You want to get—”

“As far away from everybody as possible?” Rory finishes. “Yes please.”

They grab their coffees and head for the door.

“Rory! Rory!” Kirk calls after her, in true paparazzi fashion. “Will you still love Paris once she’s got blood on her hands?”

“Oh, jeez,” Luke says, in true Luke fashion. “No interrogation in the diner, Kirk.”

“But we all agree that Paris is going to dominate,” Kirk says.

“I dunno!” Babette says. “I wouldn’t count out girl Jess! She’s scrappy!”

“They’re not going to physically fight each other,” Rory reminds everyone. “They’re just going on a walk. So really, this is all being very blown out of proportion—”

“But will you still love Paris once she’s got blood on her hands?” Kirk asks solemnly.

“Okay,” Rory says, “bye now.”


+


And that’s how she and Jess wind up on a relaxing little wander through Stars Hollow. (They make sure to steer clear of the gazebo, since Paris and Alex are currently hanging out in there with Nigel and the gang.) They talk about work and writing and – thank God – anything but the fact that Rory’s life has become a festival of deception and nonsense.

Eventually, without really meaning to, they find themselves at the old bridge. Place of picnic lunches and feelings confessions. Her heart aches in a funny, nostalgic way. Rory doesn’t usually feel old – she still hasn’t accomplished nearly enough – but standing on the bridge with Jess by her side, it feels like a hundred years since they were last back here. Everything about love seemed so hard and confusing back then.

Oh, young Rory, she thinks. How little you knew.

They sit down at the edge of the bridge for old times’ sake, even though it’s all frosty and freezing.

After a little bit of coffee sipping in pleasant silence, Jess says, “Guess what?”

“What?”

He reaches into his coat pocket, and out comes ...

A ring box.

“Jess!” Rory exclaims. “Oh my God!”

“It won’t be a big surprise or anything,” Jess says, staring sheepishly down into the icy water. “We’ve talked about it already. But I thought she might like the gesture. You wanna hear the worst part?”

“What?”

In a conspiratorial, cringey whisper, he says, “I thought I might do it at the Firelight Festival.”

“No way!” Rory says, delighted. “That is so cheesy!”

“Right? It’s bad. But, I dunno, when she first started working at the bookshop, we started up this whole thing where every time a customer was a pain in the ass, we’d joke about how we had to keep carrying the fire. From—”

“The Road,” Rory supplies.

“The Road,” Jess agrees with a little quirk of a smile.

“A very irreverent use of a very poignant line, by the way,” Rory scolds playfully.

“What can I say? We’re rebels. Anyway, it was kinda the first thing that made us get along, and so I just thought ... you know. Maybe it works, keeping with the whole fire theme.”

“It totally works,” Rory says.

“And it’s not like it’s gonna happen in front of people,” Jess says. “I just figured, if a quiet moment comes along ... although I guess that might not be too likely this weekend.”

“Oh, don’t worry about it. Everyone will be distracted by Paris and I publically performing the stupidest dance in Stars Hollow history,” Rory says. “And I don’t say that lightly. Stars Hollow made a Harlem Shake video.”

“No way,” Jess says, chuckling. “How have I not seen that?”

“I’ll send it to you,” Rory promises. “The worst part – or the best part, depending on your perspective – is Taylor trying to stop Jackson’s cousin Roon from performing some very lewd movements on the Pulaski statue. It kind of turned into Taylor performing very lewd movements on Roon by trying to pull him off of the statue, and suddenly there’s this chain of very lewd movements going on, and, well. Watching that in slow motion ... it sticks with you for a long, long time.”

“Sounds like a classic,” Jess says.

“Stars Hollow at its finest,” Rory agrees. “But I don’t know why I’m rambling about Taylor and lewd movements; this is so not the time.”

“Is there ever a time for that?”

“The point is, God, Jess, I’m so happy for you. For both of you.”

She hugs him tight. Maybe a little too tight.

“You okay?” Jess asks, giving her a little concerned frown.

“Yeah. Yeah, totally.” He eyes her doubtfully, and something about it makes her keep talking. “I just ... I guess I just wish I was ... in that place, you know? Not the marriage place, necessarily, but the place where you’re ... just ... sure.

Well, that was a festival of word vomit.

“Hey,” Jess teases, “at least you’ve got Paris, right?”

For a second, bursting into tears seems like a seriously viable option. Then Rory puts on a smile. “Yep. Lucky me.”

“Could be worse. Could be the blonde dick at Yale. What ever happened to that guy?”

“Married with two very blonde little children whose existences are chronicled pretty much hourly on his wife’s Instagram. This morning, they had kale smoothies for breakfast.”

“Yeesh. Definitely dodged a bullet there.”

“I like to think so. Logan meant a lot to me, but I just couldn’t in good conscience give small children kale, you know?”

“Totally. Plus, Paris must be raking in the dough, right?” Jess speculates teasingly. “As far as sugar mommas go, she’s not bad.”

“No,” Rory agrees, trying to sound all casual and peppy. “She’s not bad at all, actually. She’s actually ... sort of completely wonderful, in her own weird unparalleled Paris Geller way, isn’t she?”

Jess furrows his eyebrows suspiciously.

He’s always been too smart for his own good.

“So,” Rory says brightly (and quickly, very quickly). “Let’s practice your proposal speech.”

“Uh, yeah, I wasn’t really planning on a speech. I was gonna just kind of wing it.”

“Come on! I’m a firm believer in practice-makes-perfect.”

“And I’m a firm believer in not being lame.”

“Nope, it’s too late for that. You’re going to propose at the Firelight Festival. You’re already as lame as it gets, mister.”

“I’m not practicing a speech. I’m not making a speech. Man of few words, remember?”

“But don’t you think this is a really fantastic opportunity to change that? At least quote her some romantic Morrissey song lyrics or something.”

“Oh yeah? Which romantic Morrissey song lyrics would those be, exactly?”

“‘To die by your side is such a heavenly way to die.’ Duh.”

“Isn’t that a little bleak for a proposal?”

“And a reference to carrying the metaphorical fire that signifies the ability of the human soul to soldier on despite the world being reduced to a post-apocalyptic wasteland full of cannibalism isn’t?”

“Okay,” Jess concedes with a sigh. “Maybe I shouldn’t do it at the Firelight Festival.”

“No, you should definitely do it at the Firelight Festival,” Rory says, poking him affectionately in the arm. He grimaces. More seriously, she says, “It’s going to be perfect, Jess. I know it.”

“Thanks,” he says sheepishly, and slips the ring back into his pocket.

The conversation lulls away into more coffee drinking. Rory stares ahead of her and tries not to think about the fact that this is it. The last of the Rory Gilmore’s True Loves Brigade to officially slip away from her, once and for all. And really, it’s okay. It wasn’t meant to be in the long run, just like with Dean and Logan.

But there was always something a little special about Jess, or at least the possibility of Jess. He was the first guy who ever really shook up her life. He surprised her, and made her think, and saw her as more than just Stars Hollow’s resident do-no-wrong good girl.

There was only one other person Rory had ever had that feeling with. That you-keep-me-on-my-toes, you-drive-me-crazy, we-are-so-different-and-so-the-same feeling. And she’d never really stopped to actually think about whether that feeling meant anything. Because it couldn’t, right?

A very stupid lump forms in her throat. She takes a sip of coffee to drown it.

“Rory?” Jess says.

“Yeah?”

He bumps her shoulder with his. “She’d be lucky to have you.”

And maybe now should be the time to deny, deny, deny. But God, she’s so tired.

“Thanks, Jess,” Rory says, and rests her head on his shoulder.


+


FULL TRANSCRIPTS OF INTERVIEW SEGMENTS – PARIS & RORY’S MODERN STARS HOLLOW FAMILY - EPISODE 5: “BLAST FROM THE PAST”

INTERVIEW – Jessica Mariano

[NOTE: throughout the course of this segment, Paris Geller stands in the background. Let the record show that much victorious smirking was involved.]

INTERVIEWER
So, for this round of Jeoparory—

PARIS
What the [expletive] did you just say?

INTERVIEWER
It’s a clever portmanteau of ‘Jeopardy’ and ‘Rory.’

PARIS
Is it, Nigel? Is it?

INTERVIEWER
Ahem. So, for this round of Rory Gilmore Jeopardy—

PARIS
Uninspired but less deserving of my barf.

INTERVIEWER
—I will be asking a series of questions to reveal just how well you know Stars Hollow’s resident darling!

JESS
Super.

[Let the record state that she does not really sound like she considers this to be super.]

INTERVIEWER
Jess, you’ll go first, and Paris will follow.

JESS
Super.

[Let the record state that things still do not seem to be truly super in her estimation.]

INTERVIEWER
First question. What is Rory Gilmore’s middle name?

JESS
Doesn’t have one.

INTERVIEWER
Incorrect.

JESS
Uh, okay, then. How about ... Elizabeth. That’s, like, 70% of the female population’s middle name, right? If not Elizabeth, then definitely Marie.

INTERVIEWER
Incorrect again, I’m afraid.

JESS
How about her mom’s name? Is it her mom’s name? They’re tight.

INTERVIEWER
No, her name is not ... Lorelai Lorelai.

JESS
Well, ya know. Whatever. Did Romeo know Juliet’s middle name? No way, bro.

INTERVIEWER
All right. Let’s try something else. When is Rory’s birthday?

JESS (shrugs)
It never really came up.

INTERVIEWER
That seems ... hard to believe, but all righty then. How about Rory’s favorite food? You must have seen her eat something.

JESS
... I don’t think so.

INTERVIEWER
Really? Never?

JESS
Nope.

INTERVIEWER
But didn’t you work at the diner where she came to eat multiple times every day?

JESS
... You know what, man, I’m gonna stop you right here. When Rory and I were going out, uh ... well, I was really into thinking about Donnie Darko that year. Everything else is just kind of a blur. You know how it is.

INTERVIEWER
I don’t know, as a matter of fact.

JESS
Not my problem, broseph.


***


INTERVIEW – Paris Geller

[NOTE: throughout the course of this segment, Jess Mariano stands in the background, reading a copy of A Clockwork Orange]

INTERVIEWER
Rory’s middle name?

PARIS
Leigh. L-e-i-g-h, not L-e-e. People mess that up all the time.

INTERVIEWER
Birthday?

PARIS
October 8. At 4:03 AM. I know because her mom calls her at that time every year to wax nostalgic about the joys of pushing her out of her hoo-ha. Cute, right?

INTERVIEWER
Er. Charming. Rory’s favorite food?

PARIS
Pot roast. Followed by literally everything, provided it doesn’t have much to do with leafy greens.

INTERVIEWER
Role model?

PARIS
Her mom. Christiane Amanpour. Adrienne Rich. PJ Harvey. Her grandmother, if she has to be in a situation that requires intimidating somebody. In the realm of fiction, Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation in a big way. We’re talking smitten girl crush city. Do you know how many times I’ve had to hear about how Ben doesn’t deserve her?

INTERVIEWER
Girl crush, you say? Aren’t all her crushes girl crushes?

PARIS
Hey, Nige. Don’t blame me for falling into the trappings of compulsory heterosexuality. It’s all around us, seeping insidiously into the air we breathe. Like dust mites, and Jason Derulo songs.

INTERVIEWER
So sorry.

PARIS
Also, she has a weird thing for Mark Ruffalo. A boy crush, if you will. Don’t ask me. Maybe being outspokenly anti-fracking is the one attractive quality that a man can really possess, you know?

INTERVIEWER
Uh. What are Rory’s dreams and goals?

PARIS
To be a great journalist – to travel and cover amazing stories and to tell people about things that are really important. And to somehow make a film adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s Villette happen. Which, personally, I think would be kind of a snoozer, but try telling her that.

INTERVIEWER
Indeed, indeed. Now. If Rory Gilmore went to Hogwarts—

PARIS
Ravenclaw. Come on, Nigel. What are you, new?

INTERVIEWER
All right, then! I have no choice but to declare Paris Geller the winner of Jeoparory.

PARIS
Ahem.

INTERVIEWER
... Rory Gilmore Jeopardy. Jess, any words?

JESS
Whatever. Winning is what the man wants us to want.

PARIS
Spoken like a true loser.


+


“You have to swear not to tell anyone.”

“Fine. I solemnly swear.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“But I just told you I swore!” Lorelai says indignantly. “What do you want from me? A blood oath? Because I’ll do it, but Luke will be seriously grumpy if he has to scrub my bloodstains off the kitchen table, and I think you and I both know me well enough to know that I am just not going to be in the mood to clean up my own oath blood—”

“Fine! I’ll tell you if you shut up!” Rory interjects.

“Ha ha!” Lorelai says triumphantly.

“Jess is going to propose to Alex.”

Lorelai gasps.

“At the Firelight Festival.”

Lorelai double-gasps. “What? No way.”

“What do you mean, ‘no way’?”

“It’s just, Jess has never been very into, you know, commitment or affection or basic human decency.”

“Mom! That was a long time ago. He’s grown up into a really excellent human being and you know it.”

“Hey. Once you burn my daughter, you’re on my oh-no-no list for life.”

“Be that as it may, you can’t hate on your own step-nephew.”

“Oh, fine,” Lorelai grumbles. Brightening, she asks, “Can I at least speculate over exactly what degree of incest your relationship constitutes?”

“Zero incest. Zero.”

“You’ve totally made out with your step-cousin.”

“He wasn’t my step-cousin when it happened!”

“I think cousinhood is retroactive.”

“Oh my God. You’ve been talking to Madeline and Louise, haven’t you?”

“Please. Like I’ve had the chance. They’ve been glued to Michel since they got to the inn. He says he’s never wasting his time talking to anybody else ever again. Apparently, he’s found his people.”

“That’s heartwarming, I guess.”

“A trio hasn’t been so lethal since Regina, Gretchen, and Karen.”

The back door swings open.

“Hey,” Paris says. She isn’t covered in blood and bruises, and the cat mittens are still on her hands. Rory chooses to take this as a good sign.

“Hey!” Rory says. “How did it go? Did you and Alex get into a fistfight over me?”

“Settle down, Gilmore,” Paris says.

“Nuh uh,” Rory teases. “I was promised drama and I demand it.”

“So you want us to get in a fistfight over you?” Paris says quizzically.

“Kinda, yep,” chirps Rory.

Lorelai adds, “As someone who has been fist-fought over, I just have to say, no lady should settle for anything less.”

“Got it,” Rory says.

“And with those words of wisdom, I leave you,” Lorelai says, getting up from the table. “Sookie and I are going shopping.”

“Ooh! Shopping! Fun!” says Rory.

“Oh no. This is not fun shopping. I wish. This is preparing-for-the-apocalypse shopping.”

“The apocalypse? You don’t think that’s a little bit melodramatic?” Rory says.

Her grandparents are coming tomorrow for the opening of the Firelight Festival. Sure, Rory’s not wild about the idea of them – or anyone – bearing witness to the Dance of the Fire Fairies, but other than that, she thinks it might be nice to have them in Stars Hollow.

Shockingly, her mother does not share that opinion.

“Friday Night Dinner at my house? My parents? Here? Eating? Believe me, hon, ‘apocalypse’ is the polite term. My mother is going to expect things! Ridiculous, lofty, upstairs-at-Downton-Abbey things! Food that isn’t fresh out of a brightly colored box in the freezer, for one.”

“I’m sure Luke will cook something great. And you’ve always got Sookie for backup.”

“Well, what about these shoddy digs, huh? We own exactly zero percent of the stuffy, unnecessary kitchen frippery that my mother deems essential to a non-barbaric existence. For example: cloth napkins. Has there ever been a cloth napkin in this house?”

“The paper towels tear off into those little half sheets,” Rory points out. “That’s kind of like a napkin. And they have cute patterns on them.”

“Yes, Rory,” Lorelai says impatiently. “Let’s give my mother half of a paper towel and tell her it’s part of a place setting. That will definitely go over well. If my mother has even touched a paper towel before in her entire life, I’ll eat my hat.”

“You like all of your hats too much to eat them,” Rory reminds her.

“I’ll eat Luke’s hat,” Lorelai amends smoothly.

“You mean the hat that symbolizes your love? That hat?”

“That hat! That should tell you just how serious I am about the fact that Emily Gilmore has never even seen a paper towel up close, and receiving half of one and being told to use it as a napkin would make her drop dead on the spot.” Lorelai pauses. “Actually, upon further reflection, I’m warming up to this idea.”

“It’s not worth the potential risk of stroke,” Rory decides. “Grandma’s getting up there in age. Go buy your fancy napkins with Sookie.”

“Fine,” Lorelai sulks. “And I’m telling Mom you said that, by the way.”

“Mean!”

Napkin shopping, Rory! Napkin shopping on a Thursday night. This is what my life has been reduced to.”

“Hey. At least you don’t have to perform a stupid dance in front of the entire town at the Firelight Festival tomorrow, with the full knowledge that someday soon, it will be accessible to anybody with a TV. Or, might as well face it, YouTube.”

“Did you sign onto this thing just to you can make all of my problems sound petty in comparison?” Lorelai demands. “Because it’s very annoying.”

“You know me.” Rory smiles angelically. “Annoying my mom is what I live for.”

“Like mother, like daughter. I can respect that. Catch you later, tiny dancers.” And with a wave, Lorelai is off to her napkin-shaped doom.

Paris has spent the whole conversation diving into the rest of the gluten free cookies that little Channing was so into yesterday. She breaks the last cookie in half and hands it across the table to Rory. “You two really aren’t sick of talking to each other yet?”

“Somehow we always find a way to banter on.”

“I don’t think I’ve exchanged that many words with my mother in at least five years.”

“Her loss,” Rory says. “Though to be fair, she is on the lam and all.”

“Whatever,” says Paris.

Rory nibbles on her cookie half. “So, what did you and Alex do if you weren’t beating each other bloody?”

“Nothing too intense. Nigel asked each of us questions about you. Your basic oral exam. Needless to say, I dominated.”

“Obviously,” Rory says, with some inexplicable blushing, and shoves the rest of the cookie into her mouth. “Um. What kind of questions?”

“Simple stuff. Favorite food, Hogwarts house, hopes and dreams, all that jazz. I did slip up briefly by calling Leslie Knope your girl crush instead of just your crush crush, but I talked my way out of it.”

“That’s good,” Rory says. “And hey, it’s not a girl crush. I just think she’s an inspiration for all women everywhere. Like, how often on TV do you see a woman who’s so smart and driven and dauntless, and blonde and tiny but still totally fierce and fearless when she needs to be, and funny and loyal and—”

“Please,” Paris interjects. “Every single time we watch an episode of that show together, all you talk about is how adorable Leslie is and how the only person who truly deserves her is Ann. Your feelings about Leslie Knope are like the gayest thing about you.”

Rory gives her the ol’ quizzical stare. “... Really?”

“Well, the gayest thing about you that I didn’t drag you into against your will,” Paris admits.

Rory sighs. “You didn’t drag me.”

“Oh really?” Paris says doubtfully.

“Well, okay, there was some dragging.”

“And kicking. And screaming.”

“No screaming. Maybe a little kicking. But the point is – I’m with you because I want to be, Paris. Like always.”

Okay, so Rory had meant that to sound a little more supportive friend and a little less ‘marry me!’. They’re supposed to be on pause. Rory’s the one who introduced the whole idea of the pause. And yet there’s something in her that just keeps wanting to press play.

Paris gives her that look again, that wondering hopeful look.

Rory’s hand inches just barely across the table, starting to reach.

“I have to pee,” Paris says, standing up. “When Nigel gets here, make sure to tell him how much you want to suck face with Amy Poehler.”

And with that, she zooms on out of the room.

“It’s not a girl crush!” Rory calls hopelessly after her.

No answer.

Although ... really ... what’s so bad if it is? At least it’s better than her middle school conviction that there was nobody dreamier than Shawn Hunter from Boy Meets World, with all that bad boy angst and distinctive hair and untapped literary potential. (Which, in retrospect, might explain a lot about her whole Era of Jess.)

Rory was totally right about all those things she said. Leslie Knope is fierce and driven and amazing and, at times, a very formidable force of nature considering the whole cute, blonde, petite thing, and–

“Aw man!” Rory realizes aloud, and lets herself slump face-down onto the table.


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