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And Wild Comes the Dawn

Chapter Text

Rory stared in the room as number hats were tossed and people cheered. With a resigned sigh, she turned to walk out of the room. Paris was just down the hall, clearly listening to the elation from the press room.

"Paris …" Rory started.

Paris held up a hand, "Don't. You don't have to pretend to like me."

Rory pointed back to the room, "Did I not just get done telling you how we were friends? Paris, forget them. Forget them all. Don't-" she was cut off by the sounds of crashing from inside the press room, and more cheers as Paris' office was dismantled.

The two women stood in silence as pieces of the make-shift office were thrown out the door, the crashes echoing down the hallway.

Before Paris could say anything, Rory gently pulled her arm and turned her away. "Come on, Paris. I know what you need."

"Gin?"

"I was going to say tequila, but gin works."

"Don't you have something with Logan? Aren't you back together?" Paris asked the question, but her face wasn't serious. She looked as though she'd crumble if Rory said anything other than no.

Rory waved her hand dismissively. "Forget Huntzberger." She meant it too. Yes, they kissed. Yes, they were - maybe - back together. Yes, she missed him. Yes, she'd expected to actually make plans to have dinner with him that night. But some things were more important, and Paris was one of them. The plans hadn't been finalized anyway, so Logan couldn't just assume they were going out. Even if they had, Paris was more important, for tonight.

Paris smiled, the slow smile of someone who is genuinely appreciative that they are a first priority. "Thanks Rory," she said quietly. "You're a good friend. Probably the only one I have."

"You have Doyle," Rory reminder her.

Now it was Paris' turn to wave her hand dismissively. "He's a boyfriend. Not a friend." She frowned. "Maybe I shouldn't be dating him."

"Paris! One thing at a time, okay? Only one major change a day. You can't break up with Doyle today." Rory wasn't sure she wanted Paris to break up with Doyle at all. Paris needed someone to call her out on things, and while Doyle had his flaws, he balanced Paris. As an added bonus, the ways in which Paris felt superior to him had nothing to do with his height, which in turn made Doyle feel better and - and they just matched. No breaking up. Rory adjusted her grip on Paris' arm to a more comfortable looped arm-in-arm and headed for the closest pub.

Two drinks in, and Paris seemed to have forgotten that she ever wanted to be Editor at the paper. Her voice accentuated with every sip, and Rory just sat back and let her talk.

"And Bill, who does he think he is, huh? He thinks he's going to go work for a newspaper? Ha! He'll be lucky if he winds up delivering them when he's through. And Casey, you know he's going to run for editor." She paused, thoughtfully. "Hrm, he'll probably win too, he likes to dangle the possibility of fucking the younger staff in front of them."

"Paris!"

Paris wagged her finger, "Not just the ladies." Rory looked scandalized at this, and Paris was pleased. Shock value was low-hanging fruit with Rory. "I bet you, it's him. How are you going to decide anyone?"

In the blink of an eye, Paris was all business.

Rory sighed and shifted her glass to the edge of the bar. The bartender hadn't stopped by in a while - Paris had been acting like self and then some - and she was hoping to distract Paris.

Paris was undeterred. "Well? Voting? Names out of a hat? Fiefdom?"

It was impossible not to answer, and Rory gave her glass a frustrated shove. Paris took notice and snapped at the bartender. "Hey, moron, we've been empty for a while over here. God, my nanny could do a better job than you. There you go, take our glasses, fill them back up, bring them back. Not a terribly difficult concept. Let me guess, you're studying marketing and you somehow think flirting with Bimbo Barb and her pals results in more money in your pocket? Let me know when you start buying them the drinks, just to get them to stay and appeal to your massive over-bloated ego."

Rory just watched, a sad look on her face. The second Paris was done being satisfied by the emasculation, she was going to turn back to the conversation and -

"The board," Rory said quickly. "The board is probably going to let us decide. I imagine we'll ballot."

Paris ticked off names on her fingers, "That means Casey will definitely run, but he won't have the votes to win outright. Andrew, the slowpoke who thinks human interest stories count as legitimate news stories will probably run, and because Cathy is going to run, Bill is going to try to get- hrm. He'll probably try to get you." She pondered this for a second, then nodded. "Yes, you'll do it. None of them can be trusted with the paper."

The bartender came with their drinks and Paris didn't even glance at him. Rory handed him double the cover; she drank at this bar, she needed to stay in their good graces. He was not interested in lingering and nearly tripped in his hurry to get away.

"I cannot run," Rory said. "I missed a semester. So seniority goes to-"

Paris glared at her over her glass, "Come see me after the first round of voting."

*

What should have been a tranquil hung-over morning with Paris throwing things together randomly in a pan and producing something heavenly was disturbed by the loudest sound Rory had ever heard in her life.

"What is this, the March to Moscow?!" Rory yelled, hands over her ears as she struggled out of bed.

"I bet it's Huntzberger!" Paris yelled back.

"He could have called!" Rory cried, trying to keep her hands over her ears as she unlocked the door.

"You should have called," she whined to a distraught looking Logan, her hands still comically over her ears.

He ran a hand through his hair, "Rory, I've been so worried. I've been trying to call, text, I showed up last night and you weren't here, I wanted to camp out, but the woman down the hall threatened to call the cops - I almost called the cops, where have you been?"

"I …" Rory started, then gestured inside the apartment, "I live here. I went out. With Paris. For drinks. Then … we got back here?" She couldn't remember much past Paris telling her to run for editor. There had been a bit more yelling at the bartender, she'd run out of cash at some point and -

"Paris, did I leave my card at the bar? Paris? Paris are you sleeping? Nobody can sleep through that. Paris, pretending to be dead on the couch isn't going to- you know what, fine. I'll go get it."

Logan held up two hands in the doorway, "Rory, you left your card at the bar? You got that drunk last night? Which bar, I'll go-"

Now it was Rory's turn to hold up her hands. "No! I can do it, I don't need you to- and why were you going to camp out? I went out. With a friend. We-" she wagged her finger back and forth between them, "did not have plans. You just showed up here because you- oh, my phone might be at the bar too."

"Rory!" Logan looked horrified. "This isn't like you, going to a bar, losing your phone, your wallet. C'mon," he pleaded, "let's go down to the bar and make sure your card isn't maxed out."

It wasn't an offer she could refuse, her head still hurt, and she'd address why Logan showed up later. Right now she needed her phone and her card. She meekly nodded her assent.

"Paris, I'll be back."

"Hashbrowns. And Sausage and cheese biscuit," Paris called back.

Rory rolled her eyes, but her stomach grumbled at the suggestion, betraying her.

"We're going to need breakfast," she uselessly informed Logan. The lock in the door clicked shut, but Rory still jiggled the handle to make sure. Paris was always telling her horror stories of young women who thought they were safe, but weren't and besides, giving in to Paris instead of explaining that you'd grown up with a back door that wouldn't lock was just easier.

He sighed and shook his head, "Why do you do this, Rory?" He was staring at her intently, his face almost like a wounded puppy.

Rory looked surprised. "Lock the door even when Paris is inside? Do you know how many young-"

"Put up with Paris."

She felt the feeling from earlier when she realized it had been Logan, that feeling of constantly being on-edge, creep back into her throat. "We're … friends."

"She got herself kicked off the paper, you saved the day, and instead of celebrating that, you shut off your phone and got drunk with her." Logan slipped his hand into hers. "You deserve to be celebrated for what happened."

"And Paris deserves-"

"Paris deserves what she gets," Logan said with finality.

Rory pulled her hand back. "Stop. You don't have to get Paris, that's fine, but she's my friend, and she needed someone last night, and I was there and I'm sorry I didn't call you or text you or wasn't at my house when you wanted me to be, but Paris needed a friend."

"Ace, you know that I love how loyal you are, but-"

Rory shook her head, "No. No but. Anyway, I've just remembered. We came home from the bar and wanted to order Chinese, so I tried to call, but they were closed, and then my phone died. So excuse me. I have to go help Paris make breakfast."

She turned and walked back up the stairs, leaving Logan to stare after her, looking shocked.

*

"And then he was all 'don't be friends with her'" Rory raved into the phone. She was in the living room of the apartment, with a pile of french fries in front of her. "So I just left. Just walked right back upstairs, and I found my phone, but I'm pretty certain my card is still at the bar, and of course, Paris had fallen back asleep and was oblivious to everything, so I had to go back out and get her some breakfast, so she wouldn't know that things with Logan are-"

Rory nodded as she ate fries, offering a few 'mmhmms' here and there. She put the phone on speaker and wandered into the kitchen, opening cupboards.

"- life to go to a certain plan, you know," Lane was saying. "And part of that means that you have the sort of friends that he can slip in and out of his parties and parents and business meetings, and Paris …Paris is never going to be that and part of him doesn't understand why you don't understand that."

The cupboards weren't producing what Rory was looking for, and she was now rummaging in drawers. "I know," she told Lane. "I just wish he understood that Paris and I - we're always going to be together. We can't not. We've got this far already. Now where is the barbeque sauce? I swear Paris picked some up-"

"You two are like a married couple," Lane said. "I wish Zack and I could-"

"No you don't," Rory said. "You deserve someone who supports you and understands your relationship with your mother. Face it, we both need better men."

Giving up on the barbeque sauce, Rory sat on the floor of the kitchen. The fries were getting cold, but without barbeque sauce, it didn't matter.

"So what are you going to do about Logan?" Lane asked and Rory stared at the plate of fries. She didn't know what to say.

On the other side of the cracked apartment door, Paris leaned her head against the doorframe. She drummed her fingers on the wood, looking thoughtful.

*

"So that's 16 for Casey, 18 for Andrew, and 9 for Cathy," Bill announced, to much dismay. Rory felt her stomach churn. Paris may have been an out-of-control control freak, but she knew people. Eerily well. She took a deep breath.

"Maybe … maybe if you guys are okay with the fact that I missed a semester, I could-"

Bill was nodding furiously. Even Casey looked pleased with this. Andrew beamed, but Cathy's face was furrowed as she thought about it.

"I would never switch to either of them," she said. "I'd switch to you."

Other people around the room nodded their assent as well. "Yeah, Gilmore, I like this. This we can do."

So just like that, almost exactly as Paris laid out, Rory was now Editor of the Yale Daily News.

When she got back to the apartment, she half-expected to see her stuff thrown outside. Paris was unpredictable like that. Instead, Paris had a spread out on the coffee table. Chicken wings, fries, pop tarts, what looked like cheese dip, and a plate of various chocolate pieces. A bottle of champagne was nestled in the food, with two glasses ready to go.

"Paris, what is this?" she asked. "And are those-" she pointed.

Paris nodded, "Girl Scout cookies. You do not want to know what I had to go through to get them."

"Please tell me you didn't make the Girl Scout cry."

"If she deserved it, I would have," Paris said. "But no, I did not make a Girl Scout cry. Though if I were teaching Girl Scouts how to sell cookies, they'd be out of stock in two days."

Rory did not deny this. She sat on the edge of the sofa and grabbed a cookie. "So, this is …."

"We're celebrating," Paris said matter-of-factly. She handed Rory a glass and raised hers in the air. "To a new era of the Yale Daily News."

Rory clinked glasses with her and smiled. Paris was okay, she was okay, and this was a -

Right on cue, someone banged at the door. Rory looked at Paris. "Huntzberger," they both said. Rory sighed and set her glass down. She wasn't sure what she wanted to say.

"Do you want me to handle it?" Paris asked.

Rory shook her head. "I'll be right back." She left the chain on the door when she opened it. "Logan."

"I just heard the news! Great job, Ace! We have to go celebrate! I got us dinner reservations at Le Crue."

Rory looked back at Paris, who was trying her best to look indifferent. Rory knew better.

"I am celebrating," she told Logan. "Paris and I are …"

"Ace, c'mon," Logan begged. "Not this again."

Anger flared through Rory. They had only just gotten back together, and he had to know she was still mad at him for what he'd said earlier. "No," she said. "I'm with Paris tonight."

"What is the point of having a girlfriend if I can't hang out with her?" Logan grumbled.

"We are only just back together," Rory reminded him. "I agreed to dinner."

"You kissed me!"

"It was a heat of the moment kiss! A kiss isn't a contract!"

Logan threw his hands up in frustration. "Do what you want."

"I will!" Rory yelled. She slammed the door and twisted the deadbolt for good measure. "God, who does he think he is?" she railed to Paris.

"He thinks he's your boyfriend," Paris offered, helpfully. "You can, you know, if you want. Go with him. I mean, dinner at Le Crue vs … dinner with Paris. I know what I'd pick."

Rory glared at Paris, reaching across her to grab a chicken wing. "You can be a real idiot sometimes."

Paris arched a brow, "So things in Logan-land are not the greatest? You're not back together?" Paris leaned back on the couch. "I gotta say, I didn't really see that coming."

"Which part?"

"The getting back together," Paris said calmly. "I was relieved you finally came to your senses with him, and then there was all the wooing and I thought you might cave, but you held strong. Then the letter from your mother - I mean, that's smooth playing on his end, going to your mother - but you seemed to be holding strong, and then, typical, he swoops in to save the day and you get all weak in the knees-"

"I did not get weak in the knees!"

"-and suddenly he's back in my life again, and you with your innocent-doe eyes and a sugar daddy, preparing herself for eventually marriage and making it big in high-society world. I give you two years after graduation before you're popping out baby-Huntzbergers." She arched a brow at Rory. "I mean, come on, Rory, the story practically writes itself." Her voice scoffed, but Rory missed the apprehension underneath.

She was too distracted by Paris' words. She frowned. She couldn't quite disagree, but it unsettled her. "That's not what I want," she protested. And it was true. Logan was nice, and dating Logan was nice, and he opened up her worldview, but … she didn't want to settle. Her brow furrowed as she thought about it more. She wanted to go run and see the world after graduation. She didn't want-

"I am not having a baby before 27," she said, with finality.

Paris smirked, "Come see me a year after the wedding."

"Ugh, no wedding. I don't want to -"

She stopped and stared at Paris. "Oh god. I don't want to marry him. Paris. I don't want to marry him."

She grabbed the champagne bottle before Paris could say anything and poured them both another glass.

"No," she said stubbornly when Paris opened her mouth. "No more talking about it. We're celebrating. A new era of the Yale Daily News."

And Paris just smiled, and obliged.

*

"Ace, explain it to me," Logan asked, over a reconciliation meal in the mess hall. He had a silly grin on his face, like he already knew what she was going to say and had prepared the arguments against it.

Rory shook her head, "You're gonna have to let it go, Huntzberger. It is what it is."

"Okay, but just explain-"

"Logan! I shouldn't have to defend my friendship to you. I don't ask you to explain Finn and Colin, do I?"

Logan waved his fork dismissively, "That's different. Our families have known each other since our fathers were children."

"So yours matters more than mine because …"

"I didn't really have a choice."

Rory scoffed, "Oh, so because I got to choose, my friendship with Paris matters less than your friendships?"

"That's not what I'm saying, Ace."

Rory sat back, tapping her spoon against the table. "What are you saying?"

"I'm saying I don't like watching what you do to yourself to appease Paris. You always put her first. You never give yourself a chance for happiness if it means that Paris will be inconvenienced by it." Rory opened her mouth, but Logan held up his hand, "Let me finish. You make sure that what you do has the approval of Paris, no matter how badly she treats you. She turns you from the strong confident Rory I know into someone passive and contrite. Don't you think you deserve more than that?"

Rory chose her next words carefully, "And now you want me to defend it. Which is what you've wanted from the beginning and what I don't want to do. Can't you just accept that I'm friends with her, that you don't like her, that she doesn't like you, and leave it at that? She's not telling me not to date you, she's not telling me you're nothing but a useless trust fund man-baby-"

"Useless trust fund man-baby?!"

"Hush, I let you talk, you let me talk. Deal?" Without waiting for a response, Rory pressed on, "She's letting me make my own choices, even if she disagrees with them, and she's not pressuring me to do things I'm not comfortable with simply because it would make her happy."

Logan tutted in disgust. "She does that every day."

"God, I'm not doing this!" Rory yelled. She was surprised by how forceful she was. "Stop. Just stop. I'm sorry you can't pre-plan everything without checking with me- and no, I'm NOT sorry for that. I'm not sorry for being there for a friend in need. I'm not sorry for my friendship with Paris. I AM sorry I thought you were someone I should take back. Goodbye, Logan."

And for the second time in as many weeks, Rory walked away from Logan, leaving him in stunned silence. Before Logan could fully recover, there, like a bad dream, was Paris.

"Let's talk, Huntzberger," she said, exuding confidence.

Logan sighed and looked at the direction Rory had gone in. "You planned this. Rory planned this."

Paris shook her head, "No, let's get one thing straight here, Rory doesn't have a devious bone in her body. I'm here, on my own accord. When she told me she was having some sort of make up lunch with you, I knew I had to keep my eye out. Useless trust fund man-baby? All hers. I may hold on to that one, though, it was a good one." She smiled wryly, as Logan squirmed. "I know you. I know your type. I know the use-em and lose-em lifestyle, I grew up in your pretty little world, Huntzberger."

Logan put his clasped hands on the table, whether from sincerity or restraint was up for debate. "You know," he said slowly. "That Rory is different. You know that you are noxious and -"

He was stopped by Paris laughing. He looked genuinely confused. Paris just smirked at him and spread out her arms, indicating he should continue.

"You don't make her a better person," Logan trailed, but without the conviction he had started with.

They sat in silence for a moment, and Logan grew his confidence back as Paris sat there. She looked as though she were shrinking by the second, Logan's barb, though delivered weakly, was still cutting. A few more moments of silence and Logan stood from the table, grinning.

"You take care, Paris."

Chapter Text

Rory was on her third cup of coffee. Luke's diner had a few patrons, but her table was empty - if you didn't count the pile of notebooks and schoolbooks strewn about the place.

"One more refill and I'm cutting you off," Luke said, but they both knew it was more out of habit than anything else.

"I'm almost done," Rory defended. "Do you know when mom is coming by?"

Luke set the coffee pot down and looked out the window. "I'd have expected her by now," he said. "Once she knew you were here."

"Oh." Rory looked sheepish. "She doesn't know I'm here. I just needed to get away from campus for a hot minute. Logan's stalking the library, and I can't think in the apartment while Doyle and Paris fight."

Luke looked concerned, "Are you and Logan…? And why are Doyle and Paris fighting? Aren't they perfect for each other?"

Rory laughed and moved a stack of papers on top of another stack of papers. "It's kindof a long story," she said.

Luke shrugged and looked around the others. "Lane can handle it. I love a good long story about college drama."

"You do not," Rory laughed. "You will get bored two minutes in. Logan and I aren't together. Doyle and Paris are fighting because Paris has been in a horrible mood for the past two weeks and Doyle is trying to cheer her up."

"And she doesn't want to be cheered up, I'm guessing," Luke said. He put a foot up on an empty chair. "But you and Logan. Your mom hasn't told me much about that. So you're done for good? Or …" he trailed off.

Rory looked over at Lane; she'd promised Lane the whole story once she was done with her paper.

Luke caught her glance and straightened up, "Right, right, not my place. You work as long as you need. Your mom will be by for dinner."

"Thanks Luke," Rory said, turning back to her computer. Once Luke's back was turned, she grabbed the coffee pot and put it on the chair next to her. Luke's mistake, trying to keep her from her coffee.

Two hours and one coffee pot refill later, Rory was finally satisfied with her paper. The diner was dead empty, it being too early for the dinner rush to start. Like a bloodhound, Lane pounced.

"Luke, I'm going on break!" she called needlessly. She grabbed a plate of fries and settled down across from her best friend. "Okay, spill. I've been dying for the past few hours. And Luke is on the up, I'm impressed."

Rory shrugged, "That's what happens when the diner owner dates your mother and your mother ...."

"Can't keep information to herself to save her life?"

"That could be anyone in this town, but yes," Rory agreed. "As for Logan …"

An hour later, Lane (and Luke, who had been lurking and covering by plying them with fry refills) was fully caught up on the saga.

"I mean, he is going to inherit admittance into a pretty high-profile club, so I get why he wants to control that, but he's known you and Paris for a while now, so why did just now tip the scales?"

Rory nibbled on a fry, looking lost. "I've been thinking. I think he wanted accolades for saving the paper. He kept saying it was about me, and celebrating me, but he wanted to celebrate himself, too. Then when Paris needed me, and I stayed with Paris …"

"He couldn't handle that?"

Rory threw her half-nibbled fry back on the plate, "It was really bad timing. If I'd agreed to dinner a day earlier, or we'd never broken up, we'd be in a different spot. You don't think I made the wrong choice, do you?"

In the background, Luke was shaking his head. He was wearing a new groove into the countertop with his cleaning rag while listening to the two girls talk. He started to nod as Lane spoke:

"You picked a friend over a boyfriend. Good Girl Code instincts. And it shouldn't matter less who the friend was. Would he have been okay if it was me? Would it have been okay if it were your mom? If you hadn't gone after Paris and had celebrated with them, then what would have happened? What if you were still named Editor and it hadn't happened with Paris knowing about it?"

"Paris would have kicked me out. At the very least."

"And you would have gone …"

Rory put her head in her hands and shook her head. "God, no, this is too confusing. Maybe I should go find an apartment with some random people and sort it out."

Luke nodded at this, and even Cesar was standing in the kitchen doorway, nodding along.

"You just need someone who isn't going to make you defend your relationships to them," Lane supplied. "Whether that's my mother, Paris, your grandparents …"

Rory raised her head and looked thoughtful. "You know, Paris never once has. She doesn't understand it, she says she doesn't understand it, but she's never … made me defend it. Any of it. She's … she's a better friend than anyone, even me, gives her credit for."

Luke stopped wiping the counter, looking strangely at Rory.

The whole conversation was interrupted by Lorelai banging through the door.

"I thought that was my kid I saw! No phone calls in days, stranding me at Friday night dinner, leaving me to plan Valentine's Day alone. What do you have to say about that?"

"Mom!"

*

"You're back late." Paris didn't look up from her book as Rory came in.

"Hello," Rory huffed. She set her bookbag down and stared at Paris, trying to gauge the extent of her bad mood.

"Out with Logan?" Paris turned a page of her book, still not looking up.

"Not that it's any of your business, but no," Rory shot back. "I was in Stars Hollow and I'm not getting back together with Logan." At least, not for the moment.

"Good to hear, I broke up with Doyle tonight." Another page turned.

Rory shook in exasperation, wrung her hands at Paris and finally let out a breath. "Bully for you," she snapped. "I'm going to bed."

"We're both single now, we should discuss how this is going to work," Paris called after her.

Rory groaned and held out a hand to her bed. It was so inviting. But she couldn't leave Paris hanging. Paris would just decide the rules and then yell when Rory broke them. She might as well sit and hear what rules Paris was instituting first. With a resigned sigh, she turned back to the living room. Paris still hadn't looked up from her book.

"How is this going to work, Paris?" Rory prompted.

"I'll take the odd days, you take the evenings. Don't be home earlier than 9 and if it's your day, be out of the common area by 9. Breakfast is bring your own, I'm not paying for rebounds to eat all our food. As for bathroom et-"

"Paris, look at me," Rory said. Paris slowly lowered her book and looked up at Rory.

"Is there a problem?"

"Yes!" Rory exclaimed. "There's a problem. What is the matter with you? You broke up with Doyle, you're acting absolutely crazy, you've barely said a word to me for two weeks, and now you still won't look at me! What is going on?"

Paris shrugged. "Nothing. So bathroom rules as I was I saying …"

Rory sat, hands in her lap, a resigned look on her face as Paris continued.

"So you agree?" Paris finished. She'd gone back to her book.

"No!" Rory challenged. "No, this is absolutely insane and I refuse. You got that, Paris? I refuse to play this game. What are you going to do about that?!"

Paris shrugged again, "I guess I'll have to live with it."

Rory groaned again. "Paris, I don't have time for a mind game. Please, just tell me what's going on and … and we'll talk about it and see what we can do about it."

Rory jumped at Paris snapped the book shut.

"Do I make you a better person?"

It wasn't what Rory had been expecting. Truth be told, anything Paris said wouldn't have been anything Rory was expecting. She had to say something quick; Paris was not a prince of patience and Rory had already used too much time to react. "You don't make me a worse one," she offered up, lamely.

Paris nodded, accepting the response. "Okay. Let me know when you want to try double dating. I'm tired, I'll see you in the morning."

As Paris walked away, Rory could only look at Paris' book and wonder what the heck had just happened.

*

The following morning, there was a note on the coffee table. "Rory" it said, simply. "Paris?" Rory called, but no one answered. "Paris, what's going on?" Still silence. Unsettled, Rory sat on the sofa, still in pyjamas, and opened the letter.

"Dear Rory, I'm not a letter writer. I prefer to say things to the person, openly and honestly. Terence and I debate whether or not this is a good way to approach life. He suggested writing letters and honestly, I never thought it would be you I'd be writing one to."

Rory put the letter down and tried calling Paris. Nothing. Then she tried the only other person she could think of to help her assess the situation.

"Mom? Let me read you something."

"I'm a difficult person. I've always been a difficult person. And you've always seen through that. You don't dismiss me like others do, and you don't see me as a 'challenge' to fix; I am not the Mary Magdalene to your Jesus Christ."

Rory frowned and paused as Lorelai interrupted. "What? No? This isn't a love letter. Things have just been weird and last night she asked me if she made me a better person." Another pause. "I don't know, it threw me off guard. I told her she didn't make me a worse one." Rory set her jaw as her mother continued speaking. "I was not trying to - okay, but - are you going to let me finish the le- no, don't put me on speaker, Luke doesn't need to he- hi Luke. Yes, Paris wrote me a letter. Yes, I'm reading it right now. Mom, no, I'm not starting ove- stop recapping for him!"

She could do nothing but sit and wait for Lorelai to recap - with lots of added glee - to Luke.

"Are you done? Okay. 'I've been thinking about how long we've known each other and everything you do for me and more importantly, why you do it. I think about how I take you for granted, and why I do. It's time for that to change, and for me to lay it all on the table. Here's what I wa-' Oh, this is a love letter."

Rory stayed silent for a second, stunned.

"Tell mommy, tell mommy!" Lorelai crowed, her voice carrying through the phone and across the near-empty room.

"I gotta go," Rory said and hung up the phone before her mother could protest. She left the letter, but grabbed her jacket, only remembering halfway down the hall to turn back and lock the door.

She sprinted across campus, headed for the library. "Move, outta the way, can't stop won't stop!" she yelled as she ran. "Left! Right! Move!"

She was on a tear, and burst through the doors with a loud bang. Paris was sitting right where the letter said she would be. She wasn't trying to be indifferent, and was watching Rory with her eyes wide.

Rory slowed to a steady walk, forcing herself to control her deep breaths as she snaked her way to Paris' table. Paris looked just as nervous as Rory felt, but with the advantage of not having run all the way across campus. As Rory watched, Paris looked … more vulnerable than Rory had seen her in a while. 'Nothing in my life is fair' flashed through Rory's mind, the memory of the Puffs initiation bubbling to the surface. Paris was always vulnerable, and hid it with a harsh exterior. And Rory, privy to that, had let it play for over five years now.

How could she have not seen it sooner that it was always Paris?

She took a deep breath as she approached the table. "Hi," she said, to Paris, who was biting her lip apprehensively. "I think, once I properly catch my breath, that the answer to your question is yes."

Paris smiled, a slow radiating smile of someone who has taken a huge gamble and it's paid off. Then she nodded, and was back to business. "We're going to have to set some rules of course," she said. "And figure out how we're going to tell-"

Rory held up a hand. "Paris. Shut. Up."

Paris looked taken aback, but Rory didn't let her comment.

"Kiss me already, goddammit."

Paris smiled again, and obliged.

Chapter Text

Lorelai stared at her phone. "She hung up on me." She sounded shocked. "Paris writes her a love letter and she hangs up on me."

"Come on," Luke said gently. "Let me feed you some pancakes while we wait for her to call."

"Maybe she's just trying on the whole lesbian thing," Lorelai said, though she did root around the floor for a matching pair of shoes. "Paris, I mean. Not Rory. Isn't that a thing all girls do in college at some point? Try to be lesbians for a while?"

"I wouldn't know," Luke said. "You didn't hear her conversation in the diner, though. I think this has been slow-burning for a while."

Lorelai stood up, fully shoed and ready to go. "Luke," she said plainly. "You do not know my kid better than I do. Rory is not a lesbian."

Luke just shrugged

"She's not" Lorelai protested. "I know Rory. She likes boys."

"Remind me how she broke up with Dean the first time?" Luke pressed.

"She likes boys." Lorelai repeated.

*

"Who are we going to tell first?" Paris asked as they walked back to their apartment.

Rory hesitated. Did they have to tell anyone? Was this even a thing?

"I mean, I'm not going to be some secret side girl while you figure things out," Paris laid out. "We're either in this, or not."

"I'm in this," Rory said quickly. "My mom … I called her and …"

Paris nodded, "Of course Lorelai knows. I take it she approves?"

"We didn't get that far," Rory admitted. "I slept in, I was afraid I'd miss the - and shoot, I'm missing econ right now."

"You already emailed the paper in," Paris said, helpfully. "But if you want to finish the conversation another time. Maybe dinner?" The way Paris said it, it wasn't so much a question as a statement of fact.

The problem was, it was now Friday night, and Rory couldn't imagine telling her grandmother 'you remember Paris? She and I are dating'. She didn't think Emily would understand.

"Listen, if you can't do dinner, we'll have to schedule the-"

"No," Rory interrupted. "No scheduling. No planning. No laying it all out. I'm supposed to have dinner with my grandparents tonight, but let me see if I can get my mom to cover for me. Otherwise … I don't know, we'll figure it out."

"By scheduling a time." Paris didn't even try to hide her glee at the idea of scheduling a time.

"Oh hush, I'm calling - oh, hi mom," Rory slowed to a crawl and Paris, always a power-walker, slowed down as well. "Yes, I'm with Paris. Yes, she kissed me. No, I'm not bringing her to grandma's, that's why I'm calli - you can't cancel dinner entirely an-" Rory let out a frustrated moan and turned to Paris. "Do you want to go to Stars Hollow and have dinner with my mother and Luke?"

Paris beamed, "That sounds perfect!"

"We'll be there," Rory said, and hung up the phone. "Okay, now what?"

"Now you tell Logan."

Rory shook her head; they were close to the apartment now and like cue in a low-budget, badly-written movie, there was Logan.

"Ace, why did Colin send me a video clip of you kissing Paris?" Logan looked despondent, like he hadn't slept all night and just wanted some answers.

Rory rolled her eyes, "Go away, Logan."

"C'mon, Ace, don't do this to me. Are you doing this just to hurt me?"

Something that had been building for a while snapped in Rory. "Do this to you? I'm not here for you. If I wanted to hurt you, I wouldn't have kissed Paris, I'd have kissed your sister."

"Honor is engaged. We're going to the wedding in-"

"I'm not going to your sisters wedding, Logan!" Rory yelled. "God, why can't you just go away?"

"Because I love you," Logan said. "And I can't watch you do this to yourself. I'm going to keep fighting for you, you're worth fighting for. We belong together."

At this, Rory whipped around to Paris, Paris in turn nodded her consent, and Rory kissed Paris full on the lips. When she pulled back for a breath, Logan was gone. The two women stumbled up the steps to their apartment, and Paris tried the door.

"You remembered to lock it," she said, sounding pleased.

"Couldn't have a disgruntled ex come in and steal all our CD's," Rory said, shrugging.

Paris stood in the living room, suddenly looking nervous. "So this kissing thing," she said, twisting her hands together. "Maybe, since you've already missed econ, we could try a little more of it?" This time her question sounded like an actual question - a nervous, scared, vulnerable question.

Paris hadn't ever been like this with Doyle - or anyone Rory could remember seeing Paris with. Something about her made Paris let down her guard and actually be vulnerable. That thought filled Rory with warmth from head to toe. "Yea, I think I'd like that," she said.

Kissing Paris was soft; Paris was yielding, and Rory was left to take control. Rory didn't even think, she just gently put her hands on Paris' shoulders and kissed her, deepening the kiss as she grew more confident. She shifted slightly when Paris' hand found its way under her shirt to her braless breast but didn't break the kiss. When she took a breath, both women rolled their shirts off and stood facing each other, half-naked.

"Whoa," Rory said softly, looking at Paris as though she were seeing her for the first time.

"We can take this slow, I mean, if you want," Paris offered. Her hands were clenching and unclenching into fists. Her breath was quick and shallow.

Rory grabbed Paris by the arm and pulled her to the sofa. "I'm already missing econ."

*

They were nearly late for dinner, both women showing up looked flushed. Paris looked like she wanted to throw up, Rory looked like she'd hit a puppy. Both got out of the car, Rory taking small steps to get the steps, Paris half a step behind her.

"Tell mommy everything," Lorelai said, running out to meet them. "Luke's making spaghetti. He's very nervous. He almost burned the water. I've already pre-ordered Chinese. Paris, I think I remembered you like spring rolls, so I got extra."

"And double crab rangoon?" Rory asked, her voice high.

"Triple," Lorelai clarified. She was acting as though she didn't notice how skitterish and nervous Rory and Paris looked. "Now, Luke somehow thinks the magnitude of the world has changed, even though he only saw you yesterday, so be gentle with him. Paris, I think he's scared you'll yell at him if he says something wrong, so maybe a little less Robin Morgan, a little more Chimamanda."

Paris arched a brow, "You're on the up and up with contemporary female poets."

"I practiced just for you, Paris. Now, Rory. Tell mommy everything. Because I was under the notion you liked boys."

Rory took a deep breath, "But it's okay that … that I don't?"

"Of course," Lorelai said. "Though Luke was right. He called it slow-burning and will be positively insufferable later tonight after you leave. If you could work in that this was a spontaneous thing, I'd appreciate it."

"We'll see what we can do," Rory said, smiling at Paris behind her mother's back before skipping a few steps ahead and into the house. "Luke!" she called, wrinkling her nose at the smell of burned sauce. "Hey Luke, you were right! This wasn't spontaneous!"

Lorelai pouted for a moment, then threw her arm around a surprised looking Paris. "So, I guess it's officially welcome to the family, huh?"

"You were right about the spring rolls," Paris said in response. And both women beamed as they entered the house.

*

"We should get married," Luke said after Rory and Paris had left for the night.

Lorelai choked on a fortune cookie. "We what? I mean, we are."

"No, but now," Luke said. "Did you see those girls tonight? No pressure, no thinking about what comes next, just in a relationship and happy to be there. I've never been good at planning things, and dealing with the anticipation." He gestured towards the remnants of the chinese spread on the table, "As evidenced."

"What about April?" Lorelai asked carefully. She pushed her fortune around on the table, not picking it up to read it.

Luke sat back and thought about it for a second. "I don't know," he said finally. "But Lorelai, I am all in. I want to be with you. We can figure it out."

Lorelai nodded. "Okay. Let's go to Atlantic City. Right now."

"Tomorrow morning?" Luke countered. "I want to at least tell Anna and April. And what about Rory?"

"She and Paris can meet us there. We'll need two witnesses." Lorelai said quickly. "I'll go pack. We're really going to do this? For real?"

"For real," Luke echoed.

Meanwhile, down the road, Lane was receiving two unexpected guests.

"We have news," Rory said. Lane beckoned them in and they sat haphazardly on the floor.

"She wrote you a letter, you ran to meet her, you kissed in the library, now you're together," Lane supplied. "Luke told Cesar, who told-"

Paris sighed, "This is why that Mrs Patti woman winked at us earlier?"

Lane waved a hand, "Oh yea, everyone knows. Zack heard by the way, and he came to ask if we could get back together. And I told him no."

"Wait, you turned him down?!"

"He proposed," Lane said. "At the diner. In front of everyone. I'm kind of glad you two happened. I was the talk of the town for …fifteen minutes, maybe. Long enough to be mortified, short enough my mother hasn't heard."

Rory threw up her hands, "Okay, okay, back up. I need details. Paris, are you okay if we stay?"

"Small town gossip? I'm all ears. You know, there's this mimicry phenomenon. When one person marries or enters a relationship, or has kids, their friends start to follow," Paris said, crossing her legs.

"Or leaves one," Lane said. "I never would have done it if you'd stayed with Logan. But after our conversation, I just kept thinking about everything you were saying and how it applied to me and Zack and … I don't know. I also kept thinking about what Paris would tell me, sorry Paris," Lane quickly said. "I figured you'd say something along the lines of 'don't marry the first guy you come across just to piss off your mother.'"

"Don't marry the first guy you come across just because you're afraid you won't come across guy two," Paris clarified. "You know, I was stuck with Doyle for that reason."

"Paris, you liked Doyle," Rory pointed out.

Paris shook her head, "In a lot of ways we weren't really compatible. Besides, not about me. I believe we were talking about small town gossip?"

The chime from Rory's cell phone abruptly stopped the conversation.

*

To say Logan didn't understand was a grand understatement. They were home from Atlantic City and all Rory wanted was a relaxing evening with Paris. One in which they could get to know each other better - in a very sexual, literal sense of the word.

"Rory!" Logan was trying to beat down the door to their apartment, and Rory froze in terror. "You have to answer the door, Rory, come on, Rory, we were meant to be together, c'mon Ace."

"I don't wanna talk to him," she told Paris. "I don't want to listen to him anymore. Make him go away. I don't care. I don't owe him anything."

Paris grinned. "Oh, gladly. I've been wanting to do this for a long time." She flung the door open, revealing a drunk and distraught Logan.

"Logan Huntzberger!" Paris scolded. "You are nothing but a two-bit spoiled waste of a trust fund who thinks he owns whatever he desires, including women. Let me tell you, you offer nothing to women or to the world in general. Go away. Just disappear from our lives. In fact, you have so little value, if you were to disappear from the face of the Earth tomorrow, the only person who would miss you is your Porsche dealer! You show up here again, you bother Rory again at all, I'm having you removed for trespassing will pursue charges against you for stalking. She's not your girlfriend anymore. Go try to buy a wife somewhere else."

Paris slammed the door shut and for good measure, put the chain on the door.

"Try knocking again!" she challenged him. "I've got the police pulled up on my phone, ready to go. You don't think Rory with her sweet eyes won't make a convincing witness in court?"

Rory held up a hand, "Whoa, whoa, Paris."

But Paris held her ground. "No. He's going to go away, like you've told him to time and time again or something is going to give."

Rory looked conflicted, but nodded her consent for Paris to keep being aggressive if she needed to be. It was the nice thing about being in a relationship with Paris - she'd go to hell and back for you, just to make sure you got a cup of water. Rory had thought herself a loyal person, but she paled in comparison to the loyalty that Paris displayed, once earned.

"He's leaving. Good." Paris looked satisfied, but the smirk on her face disappeared when she saw the look on Rory's face. "He's still getting to you, huh?" she said, coming to sit on the sofa next to Rory. "It's okay, I know what you need."

"Tequila?"

"I was going to say gin, but tequila works," Paris said, soothingly. "Come on, I know just the bar to go to."