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Once, after a falling out, Elizabeth Cady Stanton teasingly asked Anthony if she wanted "a divorce" from her, then asserted stubbornly, "I shall not allow any such proceedings. I consider our relation for life so make the best of it."
-Failure Is Impossible: Susan B. Anthony In Her Own Words by Lynn Sherr



Rory thinks she might be dreaming this. Granted, as far as dreams go, it’s pretty tame. Taylor is wearing a Taylor sweater instead of a clown outfit; her mom doesn’t have two heads, the second of which has Anjelica Huston’s face; Kirk is, okay, juggling some eggs, but Rory figured out a long time ago that the weirder he is, the more likely it is that you’re just awake and it’s really happening. The Rule of Kirk.

So according to The Rule of Kirk, this is real life. Right here. Right now.

She’s standing in the town square, the bonfire red and gold and crackling a few feet away, and Paris is staring right at her. And – as if she hasn’t put Rory through enough crazy in the past two weeks – she’s holding a ring. And she has that face. That Paris Geller face that means she might back down, but only if you kill her first. And even then there are no guarantees. Paris would so be the ultimate zombie go-getter.

Rory’s scared for her own brains. And for the rest of her, too.

“Rory Gilmore,” Paris says, and the worst part of this is the way her eyes bore right into Rory’s, or maybe the worst part is that she sounds so much like Paris, to the point where Rory almost wants to believe (well, not wants to believe, definitely not ‘wants to believe,’ but – but something) that she means it, “will you—”





Two Weeks Earlier


Rory wakes up to twelve missed calls, twenty-eight new texts, and thirty-five emails. Which is weird. It’s not like she’s Emily Dickinson, or anything, but this much attention is not of the norm. She hopes her mom hasn’t started trying to watch Glee again. She’s not sure she’s ready for more limericks about how Will Schuester’s only redeeming feature is his butt-chin, and (on occasion) his arrogant and misplaced faith in his ability to rap.

She squints at the first text – she’s got grumbly Want coffee! brain and everything else seems like too much effort – and discovers that it’s not from Mom at all. It’s from Paris.

And what it says is ‘Stop freaking out, Gilmore.’

Rory frowns.

So not the time for this, grumbles her want coffee! brain.

Whatever this is.


+


Oh.

This is …

OH.

OH.

Rory stares at the Yahoo headline. It reads ‘Self-Help Author Geller Starts Feud With Bachmann, Defends Lesbian Relationship,’ and above it is a tiny thumbnail of Paris looking at Michele Bachmann like she’s about to bite off her face.

She clicks.

Last Friday’s episode of the HBO series Real Time With Bill Maher got particularly real between guests Michele Bachmann and Paris Geller.

When the subject moved to the recent ruling on Proposition 8 and Bachmann espoused Rick Santorum’s view expressed in a recent Tweet (“7M Californians had their rights stripped away today by activist 9th Circuit judges. As president I will work to protect marriage”), the audience booed in protest.

The audience wasn’t alone.

Geller, whose 2009 debut Get Off Your Asses, Assholes: What Med School Taught Me About Today’s Youth & The Decaying Corpse Of American Ambition dominated the New York Times Best Sellers List for much of that year, was quick to voice her disapproval. When Bachmann spoke up in favor of the sanctity of traditional family values, an incensed Geller revealed that she herself is in a happy long-term same-sex relationship with Boston Globe journalist Rory Gilmore.

“Do you really think those idiots who pop ‘em out like Twix from a vending machine on I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant are more qualified to raise children than two Ivy League educated, highly successful women with an incredible support system of love and respect? Seriously, Princess Westboro?” Geller said. “Rory and I have been together since high school, and we will power couple the crap out of any God-approved heterosexual twosome you throw our way. You and Marcus can bring it. Double date. How ‘bout it? I think everybody here would like to see that. You’re all invited!”

The rant was met with rousing applause. Geller declined to provide further information about her relationship with Gilmore, other than that their first date was at a The Bangles concert. This is the first time Geller has publicly acknowledged her sexual orientation.

Geller’s fourth book, One Day You’ll All Be Working For Me (Yes, Even You, Moron), will hit bookstores at the end of this month.


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“But,” Rory whimpers to the computer screen, “why?”

Numbly, she clicks on her email. She’s not sure whether she’s capable of movement much more advanced than clicking right now.

The most recent one is from Paris. The subject line is ‘Freaking out.’ Rory clicks on it.

I know you are.

Stop it.


“Easy for you to say!” Rory cries. Then she realizes how ineffective this is, so she types it instead.

She uses a lot of exclamation points.


+


They progress to a phone call once Rory regains her ability to speak. Sort of. “Since when was that Bangles concert a date??”

“She’s a bigot, Rory. Are you really getting on my case for crusading against bigotry and inequality? Because if that’s the way you feel, I’m taking back that Susan B. Anthony action figure I got you for your birthday three years ago.”

“No! Of course not!”

“I’m sure she’ll be very happy to be reunited with Elizabeth Cady Stanton. If you ask me, it was a mistake separating them in the first place. They always did their best work together—”

“Paris! Shut up! Listen to me, okay? Bachmann’s views are gross and horrible and you know I’m totally on board for crusading. But we’re not lesbian lovers!”

“Really? That’s what you’re going to fixate on?”

“Um. Yes?”

Paris goes quiet for long enough that Rory starts to think maybe, just maybe, she’s escaped this conversation, and maybe it’ll be a good first step to escaping this whole situation. And then: “Rory. Do you love me?”

Coffee this morning, Rory abruptly realizes, was a mistake. What seemed, at the time, like the only way to get through any of this madness is actually going to result in the explosion of her heart. And her brain. Many, many biological explosions. And so she does the only thing she can do: quips. “Gee, Gabrielle, this is kinda sudden—”

“This isn’t the time for cutesy pop culture references.”

“You do realize who you’re saying that to, don’t you? You have met my mom?”

“And you’re Gabrielle. I’m Xena.”

“Fine, Xena,” Rory grumbles. “I think this question is weird.”

“Don’t go all ‘no homo’ on me, Gilmore,” Paris says with an aggravated sigh. “I’m not asking you to hold my hand and play with my hair while A Fine Frenzy spews out poor breath control and feelings in the background. Just, one human being to another. As the Susie B. to my Lizzy C.S.”

“Well then,” Rory says, her heart still doing stupid inconvenient jumps, “yeah. Yes. Of course. So?”

“And I love you too,” Paris says, brisk and untroubled, like it’s the easiest thing in the world. “So what you’re saying is you’re okay with someone telling us that our love doesn’t count? That it’s perverse and immoral and it’s somehow single-handedly destroying the glorious and eternal institution of marriage?”

“Our platonic love?”

“Semantics.”

“Not really!”

“Rory,” Paris says – softly, for Paris. “I really thought you would be in this with me.”

Her voice does this thing, this little plaintive not-quite-break on ‘with me’, and just like that, Rory knows. She’s doomed.

“Oh, brother,” she sighs. “Yes. All right. Fine.”

“Great!” Paris says, abruptly chipper again. “Because there’s a documentary crew coming home with us to Stars Hollow to do a six-part miniseries on just how normal our love is.”

“What.” She can’t even summon the energy to turn it into a question.

“Paris Geller’s Stars Hollow. And yes, that is a stab right at Sarah Palin’s Alaska. Not that it needs it.”

“Paris. You aren’t even from Stars Hollow.”

“Maybe they’ll change it to Paris and Rory’s Stars Hollow. Paris and Rory’s Stars Hollow Wedding? Paris and Rory: A Wedding In Stars Hollow? There’s still time to brainstorm.”

Why, why, why is any of this happening. “How the hell did you get Michele Bachmann to appear with you on Real Time With Bill Maher in the first place? That’s like luring Lana Del Rey back to SNL.”

“I have powers, Rory.”

“No argument there,” Rory says. “I’m surprised Bill let you on the show again after you made him cry that time.”

“I tell it like it is,” Paris says. “Bill gets that.”


+


Her second phone call is, of course, to Lorelai.

“But it’s psychotic, right? It’s legitimately diagnosable.”

“Oh, it’s psychotic,” her mom agrees. Way too sympathetically.

Which can only mean one thing: “You printed the article out and it’s hanging on the fridge right now, isn’t it?”

“Aw, you know me so well.”

“You could at least admit that this is a horrible, horrible, stupid, crazy thing.”

“Rory, you’ve been hanging out with Paris for many years now. The girl has never been what anyone would call – you know, sane. Are you really surprised that this is happening?”

“Yes,” Rory says stubbornly.


+


Rory announces that she’s going to have to take a few weeks off at work. Everyone is very understanding. Occasionally too understanding.

“I just wanted to tell you that I think it’s really cool, what the two of you are doing,” Cute-Derek-from-the-desk-next-to-hers says when they’re alone together in the break room.

“Yeah, well, it isn’t exactly – it’s sort of just a publicity thing, more than a true thing—” She wonders whether she should be telling this to a journalist.

“It’s okay, Rory.” He gives her a somber pat on the shoulder on his way out. “You don’t have to hide your love anymore.”

“I went on a date with you, Derek,” Rory reminds him.

“Yeah,” Derek agrees, pausing in the doorframe. “This explains a lot about that.”

“Huh?” Rory says to the empty break room.


+


Paris is sitting on Rory’s couch when she gets home.

“I think we should talk about pet names,” she says. She’s got a yellow legal pad open in front of her with a heading that reads ‘POTENTIAL PET NAMES.’ Underneath, there are two columns: ‘Rory to Paris’ and ‘Paris to Rory.’

“Of course you think we should,” Rory says. She kicks her shoes off and collapses onto the couch.

Paris impatiently pushes Rory’s feet out of her lap without even taking her eyes off the legal pad. “Now, in terms of sheer popularity, ‘babe’ and ‘baby’ seem to be the frontrunners right now. You hear those everywhere. On the plus side, the creepy tendency toward eroticizing infancy at least goes both ways in this day and age. Guys tend to get it as often as girls.” She frowns, thoughtful. “I don’t know if I ever could have called Doyle ‘babe’ with a straight face. He was just too close to the real thing, you know? We had a good thing for a long time, but there’s no way around it, that was one petite man.”

“How could he have ever let you go?” Rory says with a faux-sentimental sigh.

“‘Dear’ is out. We’re not somebody’s grandparents. And even if we were, that would still sound stale.”

“Hey!” Rory pokes her arm. “My grandparents call each other ‘dear.’ And I think they make it work.”

“Your grandparents have atypical chemistry. They’re probably still having sex on the regular.”

Rory buries her face in a throw pillow. “Augh! Paris! Why.

Because she’s Paris, that’s why. She just moves right on like she hasn’t said something traumatizing. “‘Sweetheart’ is a term of endearment that just begs me to barf all over it.”

“I dunno,” Rory says, “I kinda like ‘sweetheart.’”

Paris looks up at her. “You do?”

“I mean—” She feels suddenly flustered, “—as much as I like anything about this whole stupid crazy situation.”

She watches the pen hover over the legal pad.

“Should ‘sweetheart’ go into the ‘Paris to Rory’ or ‘Rory to Paris’ column, then?” Paris deliberates.

“I don’t know,” Rory says, twisting a throw pillow tassel between her fingers. “Would it make you more nauseous saying it or hearing it?”

“If you’re the one saying it,” Paris replies in measured tones, “I think I’ll be able to refrain from projectile vomiting.”

“Okay then,” Rory says. The silence around them seems … really loud.

“But what am I going to call you?” Paris turns her attention back to the legal pad.

“Mom calls Luke ‘Ron Swanson,’” Rory volunteers. “But maybe that’s just a them thing.”

“How about ‘darling’?”

Rory can’t help it: she bursts out laughing.

“What?” Paris says, annoyed.

“You – oh, gosh, Paris, I just – seriously? ‘Darling’?”

“What’s so funny about that?”

“I don’t know!” Rory says, trying to not be a jerk. It’s hard. “It’s just – you seem less like a person who says ‘darling’ and more like a person who punches people who say ‘darling’ in the face. That’s all.”

“Fine,” Paris says crisply. “There’s always ‘sugar tits.’”

“I hate you,” Rory decides.

“Right back at you, sugar tits.”

“One day I’m going to smother you while you’re sleeping.”

“You’re not doing much to dispel the Psycho Lesbian trope,” Paris remarks. “Lesbians hate that.”

“You’ve been researching,” Rory says. She can’t help but be delighted. Research Mode is one of her favorite modes for anybody, but especially Paris. There’s that whole sad widespread misconception that research is boring; she dares anyone to feel that way after being in Research Paris’s vicinity. “AfterEllen’s your new homepage, isn’t it?”

“I am developing a suspiciously strong emotional investment in Brittana,” Paris admits, “for someone who can’t watch Glee without wanting to stab my eyes, ears, and brain out simultaneously.”

“That’s my little overachiever,” Rory says, beaming.


+


When they come out of Starbucks the next morning, there are cameras. Like, the paparazzi kind. Blinding flashbulbs everywhere.

“How is this your life?” Rory demands.

“It’s yours too now, dollface,” Paris retorts.

“Oh my God, who are you, Vintage Harrison Ford?” Rory says. She can’t really follow the remark through to any Carrie Fisher or Karen Allen places, though, because Paris abruptly pulls her into her arms and – yeah, okay, Paris Geller is kissing her. With her mouth. Which is usually how that works, but seems somehow infinitely surprising in this moment.

Rory’s first instinct is to scramble away, but then she remembers about the bigots and the Bachmanns and praying the gay away and how ‘tis a far far better thing to aspire to a world without all of that in it. So okay. All right. And it’s not like kissing Paris is so bad, really – a little forceful, sure, but it’s Paris, so it’s not like that’s a surprise, and it’s not like forceful is necessarily bad either. Not in this context. It wasn’t great when it was Cute Derek, who also turned out to be I’m On A Quest To Choke You With My Tongue Derek. Paris’s tongue isn’t even involved, and thank God, because otherwise Rory thinks her brain might expl— yikes, okay, tongue, right there, just the faintest hint of Paris tongue. Her lips part in what is no doubt an attempt to cry out ‘WHAT THE HELL’ but Paris seems to take it as an invitation instead, and okay oh gosh—

Rory drops her coffee. It crashes to the pavement and spills all over.

Paris pulls away, looking flushed and fierce and pretty magnificent, and gives the photographers a mocking, wriggly-fingered wave.

“Take that, Adorable Navy Lesbians,” she mutters under her breath, sounding way too pleased with herself.

“Paris,” Rory says sternly, steering her right back into Starbucks while she obstinately ignores the fireworks going off in her veins, “we are not in a competition with the Adorable Navy Lesbians.”

“Do you think I should have dipped you?”

“That might have been a little much for a first kiss.”

“Second kiss,” Paris says absently, like she doesn’t even have to think about it.

“Second kiss,” Rory agrees. Because, fine, if Paris wants to count that long-ago spring break disaster, then let her. Rory’s definitely never counted it – that’s for sure – but times, they are a-changing. So Paris Geller has kissed her twice.

So far.

“You’re buying me a new coffee,” Rory lets her know.

“High maintenance,” Paris declares with an appraising glance over, “but I can work with it.”

Rory feels the stupid and totally inexplicable compulsion to blush.


+


Rory breaks it to the grandparents at a good old fashioned Friday Night Dinner. Tomorrow, the documentary crew and Paris are descending on Stars Hollow. Rory’s trying not to think about it too hard. Lest she die.

“Oh dear God,” Emily says, rolling her eyes. “As if the attention we’ve gotten from that article wasn’t bad enough.”

“Mind, Paris is better than some of the ruffians she’s dragged home in the past,” Richard says thoughtfully.

“That’s true,” Emily acknowledges.

“And it’s not like she’s really my girlfriend,” Rory reminds them.

“Certainly better than Dean.”

“Oh! Certainly. And I doubt she’d ever show up to dinner with a black eye, like that miscreant with the unisex name.”

“Jess,” Luke mutters.

“Did you guys hear that part about how she’s not really my girlfriend?” Rory tries to interrupt.

“Just let it go, sweets,” Lorelai says sagely, patting her hand. “Just let it go.”


+


Rory calls a top secret town meeting at Miss Patty’s dance studio in the dead of night. Everyone actually shows up. It’s pretty neat. When she was a kid, she never would have dreamed she’d have this kind of Stars Hollow power. Of course, she also never would have dreamed she was calling a meeting to tell her whole hometown to pretend she’s always been a lesbian. For the documentary crew that’s showing up bright and early tomorrow. Not for the first time, she thinks PARIS in a way that really makes her wish it wouldn’t be weird to shake her fists at the heavens.

“Thank you all for being here tonight.” It’s definitely surreal to be standing behind the podium. “Now, as you all know, Paris and I aren’t actually in love.”

“Are you sure about that?” Kirk. Of course.

“Um,” Rory says, “yes. Very sure. Any other questions—”

“Because the Fuck Yeah Paris And Rory Tumblr would beg to differ,” he finishes. “There was a photoset of you two kissing outside a Starbucks. 325,058 reblogs.”

“Ooh, our little Rory’s an internet superstar!” Babette says. “Can you believe it, Morey??”

“Pret-ty cool,” Morey says pleasantly.

“It sounds suspiciously pornographic to me,” Taylor says with a sniff of disapproval.

“Hey!” Luke barks. “Watch it, Taylor.”

“There are fanmixes,” Kirk reports. “How accurately would you say Lana Del Rey’s ‘Video Games’ encapsulates your relationship with Paris?”

“What is so great about Lana Del Rey??” Zack demands, anguished. “I just don’t get it.”

“I kind of get it,” Lane says, shrugging.

“Um,” Rory says, “not very accurately?”

“Tumblr user sapphistry16 put a Bangles song on the fanmix too,” Kirk says. “In reference to your first date.”

“Sweet!” coos Lulu.

“That was not a date!” Rory yelps. “My mom was there! Sookie was there!”

“We were there,” Lorelai confirms.

“There we were,” Sookie agrees.

“And a sweeter first date I never saw,” Lorelai sighs.

“I get teary just thinking about it!” Sookie flutters an imaginary handkerchief.

Rory glowers. “Not funny, you guys!”

“Hey,” Lorelai says, “you’re the one who called us here to tell us that we need to seem like we know all about you and Paris Ellen-and-Portia-ing it up over the years.”

“Oh,” Rory says. “Right. So – um, please do that, I guess. Everyone. If you would.”

“Now, now, now,” Taylor says. “Not so fast. There are serious potential repercussions here that need to be addressed. Such as: what if the Tea Party declares war on Stars Hollow?”

“Then it’s a good thing we’ve got such a valiant troop of Revolutionary War re-enactors!” Rory says as perkily as she can.

Taylor looks appeased by that.

“Oh, honey, don’t you worry,” Miss Patty says. “We’ve all got your back.”

“I know,” Rory says, and tries not to look too terrified out of her mind. Because really: that’s exactly what she’s afraid of.


+


When she gets back to the house, Rory throws herself into bed and decides to pretend she’s still sixteen. Her only problems are accidentally stealing boxes of cornstarch and getting hit by deer.

(Which are still pretty major, at least by Stars Hollow standards, but never mind that.)

Her phone buzzes: new message from Paris.

How did Operation: Secret Town Meeting go?

Just fine, Rory texts back. Stars Hollow’s as ready as it will ever be.

Buzz! Excellent. See you tomorrow morning, sugar tits.

I want a divorce, Rory texts.

Har dee har, answers Paris.

Chapter Text

Rory is sleeping, and then she isn’t. One second, she’s standing in the fairylit gazebo with Paris, and they’re both wearing matching wedding dresses and everyone she has ever met is staring up at them, including Headmaster Charleston and her dead great grandmother: Dean jumps out of the crowd to shout, “I OBJECT! RORY, I LOVE YOU.” and Paris retorts with, “Really? You want to go there, bagboy? You wanna dance? Huh??” and throws her bouquet at him, and Rory knows she should be horrified by this turn of events (her grandma certainly will be), but instead she’s just sort of delighted—

And then she’s awake, and the whole situation makes a lot more sense. The room is pitch-black, and there’s a sudden weight next to her in bed, shoving her over quasi-gently. For a second she thinks it’s her mom, because her mom is the only person who has a history of committing that particular offense in this particular room, but then, nope. It’s Paris.

“Blech,” Rory mumbles, but she moves a little to the left to make more room for her new (and always, always strange) bedfellow. “Early. Busy dreaming. Come back later. With coffee.”

Paris doesn’t seem to notice she’s talking. Which is pretty typical Paris. What isn’t typical is that she stays quiet herself, for a long time – and when she finally does talk, it’s to ask the ceiling, “Why are we doing this?”

“Well, because I refused to take no for an answer,” Rory says. She sneaks a glance at the clock – 4:17 – and then turns to look at Paris. She still only has eyes for the ceiling.

“This is me doing that thing again, isn’t it,” Paris says. “That thing I do. The fires of righteous indignation and insuppressible drive burn too bright in me, Rory. It’s a problem. You’d think there would be no downside to a literally endless fount of unstoppable ambition—”

“Oh yes,” Rory says. “The Macbeths only ever had nice things to say about that.”

“—but it’s a curse and a blessing. First, I get myself basically ostracized from the entire medical community, just for shining a light on just what cretins are passing for doctors-to-be these days. I’m House with breasts, I tell it like it is, but apparently that doesn’t fly unless you’re gimping around with a skillfully suppressed British accent. I can’t decide if it’s sexism or yet another instance of TV irrevocably skewing all our life expectations.”

“Probably both.”

“My whole book was about incompetence rising to the top. And what did I do? I abandoned medicine. I’m the asshole. I need to get off my ass!” She makes a move to do it, too, which is just silly. No one should be standing up at four in the morning.

“To pursue an amazing career,” Rory reminds her, grabbing her arm and dragging her back down. “Paris, you are making stupid amounts of money writing books about the idiocy of humankind. You’re in preliminary talks to get your own show. You get paid to blog. Your YouTube channel has a flobbity-gajillion subscribers. A flobbity-gajillion people are hooked on your ability to indignantly rant. You’re well on your way to becoming what the universe has given us to make up for Rush Limbaugh. And you can work from home. You can work in pajamas. Isn’t that the dream? I feel like I distinctly remember us deciding that was the dream.”

“Oh, please,” Paris scoffs. “Like you don’t love getting all cutesied up for a day on the job, Lois Lane.”

“I do love a good twirly skirt and some darling but sensible heels,” Rory admits. “But it’s not a dealbreaker. I love what I’m doing. And so do you.”

“I still feel like I failed,” Paris says bleakly. “First Harvard, then medicine. Bad things come in threes, right? And here I go again. I recognize the symptoms, Rory. The madness has risen up within me. If I’ve sarcastically invited one of my arch-enemies on a double date, I’ve gone too far! And this is a big deal. This is something that matters a lot. This time, I can’t just … fail.”

“You didn’t ever fail,” Rory insists in her firmest tones. “You just changed directions. That’s all. And this – okay, is a completely crazy idea. And would have probably been better off in the hands of actual gay people. But – you know, you don’t have to be gay to get that love is love. Everybody needs to learn that one. So let’s just – teach them the best we can, okay?”

Paris starts peering around the room.

“What are you doing?” Rory asks, confused.

“Looking for the adorable Disney woodland creatures,” she says. “They’re going to pop out any second to sing backup, Cinderella.”

“Shut up,” Rory orders, poking her in the arm. “I’m being nice to you.”

“And I appreciate it,” Paris admits. “Really.”

“I don’t think being the lady House was your destiny, anyway,” Rory says. “You do really hate sick people.”

“That’s true,” Paris acknowledges. “I have yet to make it through the Spanish Flu episode of Downton Abbey.”

“It’s on my TiVo as long as you need it,” Rory assures her.

“I hope Mary and Lavinia find out about scissoring and leave Matthew with his true love, brooding,” Paris scowls. “I’m sorry, but no penis deserves that much attention. It was like the Romantics mourning Chatterton.”

“Aw, see,” Rory says, wondering when, exactly, she became the cheerleader, “it’s a good thing we’re doing here. For the world at large. For Mary and Lavinia’s technically nonexistent love.”

“Damn it, Julian Fellowes,” Paris grumbles. “I knew he’d never have the balls to go there.”

“You should start a Twitter war with him,” Rory suggests.

Paris’s eyes glaze over dreamily at the thought. Mollified, she says, “Sorry I woke you up.”

“That’s okay. I’ve always found sleep an inferior substitute for caffeine, anyway.”

“You can go back to sleep, if you want. I won’t bother you.”

“You’ll just hang out in my bed and watch me while I do it?”

“That’s the plan. And may I just point out that it works for the stalker heroes in all those paranormal romances that are hopelessly warping the brains and romantic expectations of a whole generation of women.”

“Well, that’s okay then.” Rory settles back down into her pillow. “Weirdo.”

“What were you dreaming about?”

“Huh?”

“You said you were dreaming. When I first came in.”

“Oh. Uh.” She decides to leave out the wedding dresses. “You attacking Dean with a bouquet.”

Paris laughs appreciatively – the kind of laugh that seems right for the dark, somehow; low and soft and the Paris version of gentle. Rory relaxes a little, and tries not to be so aware of the way Paris’s left side presses against her right. She’s been this close to Paris before tons of times.

Then Paris smacks her soundly on the side of the head.

“Ack! Paris! What was that?” Rory demands, massaging her hair. It doesn’t really hurt, but it’s a matter of principle.

“I was high fiving your brain,” Paris says, with the straightest of straight faces. “It was a compliment.”

“Your compliments feel a whole lot like physical abuse.”

“Do you really think my career is the universe making up for Rush Limbaugh?”

“You are the Harry to his Voldemort,” Rory promises.

Paris envelops her in a hug. It’s a surprise. A pretty cozy surprise.

“I’m lucky to have you, Rory,” she says simply.

Aw, says Rory’s heart, but her mouth just says, “Don’t you forget it, pal.”


+


When Rory wakes up the second time, it’s because the bedroom door is being pushed open. She dimly registers that there’s an arm around her waist. A Paris arm, she realizes, but somehow that’s not enough to motivate her to move right away. It’s just so comfy, all snuggled up with the sunshine streaming through the window and making you forget it’s wintertime, painting the whole room subtly gold.

“Ooh,” comes her mom’s way-too-mischievous voice. “Somebody’s getting in-character.”

“Mom!” Rory exclaims, and sits up as fast as she can. Paris starts stirring next to her.

“Kid,” Lorelai returns, eyeing her a little suspiciously.

“Hi, Lorelai,” Paris says, totally chill, and stretches her arms over her head.

“Hiya, Paris. Should I drag Luke in here for the whole ‘what are your intentions, young lady?’ interrogation?” Lorelai looks way too gleeful at the thought. “I keep telling him he needs to practice. It would be a vast improvement over the weird silent feud he has going on with April’s boyfriend right now.”

“Depends,” Paris yawns. “Is he responsible for the awesome breakfast smell wafting in here?”

“Do I give off the vibes of a woman who would battle a waffle iron and win?”

“Then leave him to it.”

“All right, you’re off the hook. For now. But keep those hands where I can see ‘em.”

“Mom!” Rory says again, pretty much by accident. She’s not really sure what’s happening.

“Rory!” Lorelai mimics, giving her another ‘the hell, my bizarre offspring?’ look.

“Um,” Rory says, “hi. Ooh, waffles!”


+


“I’m just saying, you have to show this little imitation Bieber who’s boss,” Paris says with great intensity, leaning forward on her elbows. Luke’s sitting opposite her at the table, and being surprisingly receptive.

“Oh, Paris,” Lorelai rhapsodizes in tones that sound a whole lot like Emily’s, “do marry into the family posthaste! Rory’s dowry of perfectly preserved J-14 magazines and Beanie Babies is yours.”

“J-14?” Paris wrinkles her nose. “Good God, Rory, at least spring for Tiger Beat.”

“The tragic pitfalls of being raised in a single parent household,” Lorelai sighs.

“These waffles are great, Luke!” Rory says pointedly.

“Can I borrow that ‘imitation Bieber’ line?” Luke muses meanwhile to Paris.

“Luke, April’s a senior in high school,” Lorelai reminds him, patting his arm. “I’m pretty sure she’s too old for Bieber fever.”

“But his hair!” Luke insists. “Kyle’s hair! It does that swoosh! You’re the one who pointed out the swoosh. Don’t pretend there’s no swoosh.”

“Far be it from me to deny the swoosh, babe,” Lorelai pacifies.

“No, see, that just makes it better,” Paris says authoritatively. “No eighteen year old guy wants the Bieber comparison. You invoke it, he is at your mercy. And don’t feel like you can’t mix it up a little. Is he tall? Does ‘imitation Bieber on steriods’ ring true? How ‘bout ‘imitation Bieber gone slightly to seed’? ‘Bieber and Bunyon’s love child?’ Seriously, I can do this all day.”

“Paris,” Luke says, “I don’t doubt it.” He passes her the bacon, then adds, “Welcome to the family.”

“This orange juice!” Rory cries. “Is that some prime citrus or what??”


+


The documentary crew meets Rory and Paris in the town square at noon, all clutching to-go cups of coffee from Luke’s. There’s Rick the camera guy, and Katy the sound girl, and their director-slash-interviewer, Nigel. He’s bouncing around way too enthusiastically. He keeps looking at things like Al’s Pancake World and the statue of Pulaski and exclaiming, “Adorable! Oh, just perfect!” Rory hopes this won’t turn into another Forks, Washington-type situation. They’re probably safe, since Robert Pattinson doesn’t seem the most natural choice to play either of them in a movie.

“First, we just want to get a few shots of the two of you in your natural environment,” Nigel informs Rory and Paris, after many hearty handshakes. “This is the kind of footage we’ll use for transitions, the opening credits, that sort of thing.”

“Opening credits?” Rory says. One thing’s for sure: she has never, in her whole life, contemplated being involved in the opening credits of anything. (Oh, okay, fine, besides maybe the ‘WRITTEN BY’ line at the beginning of a flawless film adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s Villette. Someone has to do it. Why does no one in this world have enough enthusiasm about Villette??)

“Sure!” Nigel says. “We’re thinking a little sepia tone, maybe a nice Carol King ditty.”

“Barf,” Paris says authoritatively.

“Of course, the stylistic nuances are open for discussion,” Nigel amends smoothly. “All that we really need to get in there, after all, are your two beautiful faces, and our title.” He pauses grandly. “… Paris & Rory’s Modern Stars Hollow Family!”

“But – but we don’t even have kids or anything,” Rory says, feeling one of those stupid impulses to blush. This situation is turning her into a less cute Bashful the Dwarf.

“Yeah,” Paris says, “and also: that sounds horrible.”

“You put the words ‘Modern Family’ into your title, and the awards and critical acclaim throw themselves right at you,” Nigel says. “It’s statistically proven.”

“He has a point,” Rory says.

“Fair enough,” Paris agrees, shrugging.

“So just saunter around, ladies,” Nigel instructs, clapping his hands enthusiastically. “And pretend we’re not here. We’ll stay out of your way, I promise.”

That strikes Rory as so many levels of impossible, but Nigel ushers them off with a chipper “Shoo! Shoo!” and she decides, how do you argue with that?

“Um,” Rory says awkwardly, “shall we?”

Paris smirks at her. “I thought you’d never ask.”

Nigel is watching them with so much expectant adoration that Rory feels a little guilty not engaging in some physical contact. Gingerly, she reaches for Paris’s hand. They’re both wearing gloves, so it’s not like it’s all holy palmer’s kiss up in here or anything. It’s fine. Paris squeezes her hand briefly, a little thoughtless hi there, and they walk on together like it’s the simplest thing in the world. Maybe, maybe it won’t be entirely impossible to sell this.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this place,” Paris declares as they pass the dance studio. Lots of little ballerinas dressed up like flowers are filing their way in. Rick the camera guy clearly doesn’t want to get mixed up in the stampede – smart move – and he winds up hanging back while they keep going. Picturesque panorama time, Rory guesses. “Are you sure it’s not an elaborate hoax, like The Truman Show but somewhat quality?”

“No, but I’m sure you’re the first person to reference The Truman Show in the past decade,” Rory replies sweetly.

“It gives me the creeps,” Paris announces, shuddering as a little sunflower-clad child just misses her.

“Tough,” Rory says, all mock-stern. “You’re raising your modern family here, whether you like it or not.”

“I suppose it wouldn’t be so bad,” Paris determines after a moment. “For kids.”

“Lowood School, it wasn’t,” Rory confirms cheerily, swinging their joined hands back and forth.

“I mean, they’d all turn out hopelessly backwards.”

“Forwards is so overrated.”

“Although,” Paris says, and looks at Rory, “I suppose you turned out well, all things considered.”

“Oh, stop, you’re making me blush,” Rory deadpans.

Paris just keeps looking at her. Something about her face reminds Rory suddenly of Paris showing up at her house years ago, back when they were still in high school – to study, or something, but then it kind of just turned into hanging out instead. Jess came over with food, and the three of them had lively literary discussions for happy, this-is-what-life-should-always-be hours. And, okay, most of Rory’s attention that night had gone to Jess, and pretending not to have all the big crushy feelings for him, but there was also this part of her that liked how weird and … nice it was, seeing Paris out of her element. The girl behind the hurricane, giddy over mac ‘n cheese.

“Remember—” Rory starts to say, but then Paris leans in, her expression the strangest blend of softness and determination, and kisses Rory’s cheek.

“Couples do that,” she offers by way of explanation, with that brittleness in her voice that Rory knows means she’s feeling shy.

“Yep,” Rory says brightly, “I gotcha,” and ignores her stupid heartbeat. It clearly doesn’t know what it’s doing.


+


FULL TRANSCRIPTS OF INTERVIEW SEGMENTS – PARIS & RORY’S MODERN STARS HOLLOW FAMILY - EPISODE 1: “MEET STARS HOLLOW”


INTERVIEW – Babette Dell, Morey Dell, & Miss Patty

BABETTE
Oh! Rory!

MISS PATTY
Rory, Rory. Our sweet, sweet, gay Rory.

BABETTE
She loves those girls, doesn’t she, Morey?

MOREY
Yup.

MISS PATTY
She always has, really. Ever since before she could walk.

BABETTE
Not that she’s some kind of lesbian nymphomaniac. We’re not making her sound like a lesbian nympho, are we?

INTERVIEWER
Whatever insights you have to offer—

BABETTE
Because she’s not! If anything, she’s a serial monogamist! Isn’t that right, Morey?

MOREY
For sure.

MISS PATTY
Yes, yes, we’ve always been so invested in her romances. We can’t help it. Stars Hollow is really just one big family, and so she’s our baby—

INTERVIEWER
So she dated other women prior to Paris?

MISS PATTY
Oh— well, not very many.

BABETTE
Not very many at all! Just a few. Just three, in fact!

MOREY
Three.

BABETTE
There was …

MISS PATTY
Deenie. You know. Like the book by Judy Bloom.

BABETTE
Yes! Such a nice – girl, Deenie. It was hard to watch the two of them grow apart. And then—

MISS PATTY
Jess.

BABETTE
--ica. … who went by Jess sometimes. You know, because it’s a girl’s name. Isn’t it a girl’s name, Morey?

MOREY
Sure is.

BABETTE
And then there was Lo—Lauren.

MOREY
Eesh.

MISS PATTY
None of us much cared for Lauren.

--

INTERVIEW – Taylor Doose

TAYLOR
Let the record state that Stars Hollow has a highly impressive troupe of Revolutionary War re-enactors. (Shakes a finger at the camera.) Just in case you Tea Partiers get any ideas.

INTERVIEWER
And that has to do with Rory and Paris … how, exactly?

--

INTERVIEW – Kirk Gleason

INTERVIEWER
If you could sum up the relationship between Paris and Rory in one word—

KIRK
I don’t need to sum it up in any words. But I will sum it up … in a song. (He retrieves his laptop, and presses play. Cue LANA DEL REY’s “VIDEO GAMES”--)

It’s you, it’s you, it’s all for you
Everything I do, I tell you all the time …


INTERVIEWER
God. That is spot on.

KIRK (whispering)
Shhhh. Twelve more tracks to go.

--

INTERVIEW – Lane Kim

INTERVIEWER
So you’re Rory’s oldest friend?

LANE
Yep, that’s me. Paris might try to tell you that she’s the best friend, but I’m the best friend. (Beat.) And she is the true love. Which I guess isn’t too shabby. So – you win, Paris. I mean, I have a husband. And kids. I’m not full of secret gay longing for Rory or anything. Although if I was, and there was no Paris, I bet it would work out just fine, because Rory is, you know, a gay woman, and—

INTERVIEWER
So you’ve been here to observe the duration of her relationship with Paris, since it began.

LANE
Um. Yes. Yes, I have.

INTERVIEWER
And how would you define their relationship, at the beginning?

LANE
Um. Tumultuous? They were kinda archenemies. Like Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Wow, okay, that was a bad reference. That didn’t even totally make sense, because they were married first, and Rory and Paris are so not married – yet. Do you want a better reference?

INTERVIEWER
That will do just fine. Tumultuous how?

LANE
I guess – Paris has always been Rory’s other girlfriend. And by ‘girlfriend,’ I mean it in the obnoxious way that straight girls refer to their other straight girl friends. And I should probably – not do that again. I’m pretty sure I’ve never done it before. But anyway. It’s like – in a way, Paris and I had similar roles in Rory’s life, but it never really felt like we were interchangeable. What Rory and I have is its own thing, and what Rory and Paris have … it’s so different.

INTERVIEWER
How so?

LANE
I guess the thing is – everyone always thinks Rory is sweet, you know? The nicest girl you could ever possibly meet. And that’s because it’s true. But it’s also – she’s not only that. And Paris was like the first person who ever came along and saw that Rory was also really smart, and driven, and capable. Not that we all didn’t know that, but – we saw the nice girl first. Paris saw a rival. And I think that has always really appealed to Rory. Being seen like that.

INTERVIEWER
She’s told you as much?

LANE
No, no, it’s just – I don’t even know if she’s noticed. It’s just one of those things you pick up on. In fact, I hadn’t even really realized it until now … Oh – um, also, they make out a lot. On account of being girlfriends-type girlfriends. What can you do with ‘em, right? … Can I go now?

--

INTERVIEW – Lorelai Gilmore

INTERVIEWER
Do you approve of your daughter’s relationship?

LORELAI
Absolutely.

INTERVIEWER
But if you could have picked anyone in the world for Rory … would it be Paris?

LORELAI
Well, for one thing, Paris never helped Rory steal a boat, which automatically gives her major points.

INTERVIEWER
Let me guess: Lauren.

LORELAI
Um, yep. That Lauren! What a hoodlum! Anyway. The thing is, Nige – can I call you Nige?—

INTERVIEWER
I’d be delighted! Do you know, you’re the first person who’s ever asked me that!

LORELAI
No way!

INTERVIEWER
Way!

LORELAI
Way. How about that. Anyway, Nige old pal, the thing is – Paris makes her happy. Paris makes her – challenged, and Paris makes her think, and Paris makes her crazy. Paris makes her … many things. And that’s what I want for my kid. Many things. All the things, ideally. And then some.

Chapter Text

FULL TRANSCRIPTS OF INTERVIEW SEGMENTS – PARIS & RORY’S MODERN STARS HOLLOW FAMILY - EPISODE 2: “HIGH SCHOOL SWEETHEARTS?”


INTERVIEW – Paris Geller & Rory Gilmore


INTERVIEWER
So Paris, Rory. You two have known one another for twelve years now.

RORY
Oh, God. Have we?

PARIS
You came to Chilton on October 9, 2000.

RORY
How can you remember that? I didn’t even remember that, and I was the one switching to a new school.

PARIS
People who just ignore minutiae about their sworn enemies don’t usually make it far in life, Rory.

RORY
So you committed the day you met me to memory ... forever?

PARIS
Can I help it if my brain is tremendously well-equipped to retain information?

RORY
Oh, I decided your brain was far beyond help a long time ago.

PARIS
Cute, Gilmore.

INTERVIEWER
Would you look at that! Not even thirty, and you’ve got the old married couple rapport down cold already. Then again, you did begin dating soon after you met, correct? That’s what you said, Paris, during your appearance on Real Time With Bill Maher. And yet from what I’ve heard from the good people of Stars Hollow, Rory has quite the collection of ex-ladyloves under her belt. Figuratively speaking, of course.

RORY
But – I – three! Not tons! Just three!

INTERVIEWER
Deenie, Jess, and Lauren.

RORY
Yeah! ... Those ... were their names. And besides, Paris and I weren’t really, um, official for awhile.

INTERVIEWER
You weren’t?

RORY
We weren’t.

INTERVIEWER
And yet before, you said—

RORY
You know what? Paris tells this story much better than I do. Why don’t you tell the story, Paris?

PARIS
Thank you, Rory. I’d love to.

RORY
I thought you might.

PARIS
You see, Nigel, Rory and I suffered from a long, drawn out case of what the kids are calling unresolved sexual tension. UST, if you will.

RORY
Do the kids call it that? I don’t think the kids do.

PARIS
While, yes, there was an instant spark of attraction between us from the get-go—

Rory bursts into a sudden coughing fit.

PARIS
What?

INTERVIEWER
Are you all right?

RORY
Um – fine, fine, just fine. Don’t mind me. Spark of attraction. Yep. You just keep going, babe.

PARIS (after a moment’s pause)
The point is, the pressures of attending an upper crust and in many ways conservative private school kinda put the kibosh on us linking pinkie fingers in the hallway. Of course, discrimination doesn’t exist in Hay Bale Utopia, so Rory felt much more free to date around than I did.

RORY
Hey, it’s not like you were Miss Pines-a-lot for years and years! Don’t forget about Jamie! And ... Asha.

PARIS
Rory, this doesn’t seem like the best of times to bring up Asha.

RORY
You know how Paris met her? Through my grandparents.

PARIS
Rory, can we not?

RORY
It seems only fair. Considering all my ex-ladyloves are out on the table. And it sure is hard to forget about Asha, you know, considering!

INTERVIEWER
I don’t quite understand. So this Asha was ...

RORY
Old.

PARIS
Distinguished.

RORY
Absolutely distinguished. Somehow it’s so much easier to be distinguished when you’re old, huh?

PARIS
She was barely mid-sixties. It wasn’t Romancing the Octogenarian. Grow up.

RORY
Oh, I bet you’d like that, huh?

PARIS
I was a freshman in college. I had an insatiable appetite for knowledge and new experiences. And unlike some people, I wasn’t bound by narrow-minded hang-ups over age differences.

INTERVIEWER
So, what happened?

PARIS
... She died, okay? Fine. Are you happy?

INTERVIEWER
She – died? While you were ...?

PARIS
Oh, for [expletive]’s sake. Why does everyone always think that?

RORY
Because when you’re knocking boots with senior citizens, people are always going to think that. Accept it, Paris.

PARIS
Shut it, Rory. And no, Nigel. The great woman was not brought down by my vagina. Or my tongue, or my fingers, or any external accoutrements, or whatever you might imagine would work a woman of slightly advanced age to such a frenzy of Sapphic ecstasy that her heart would give out.

RORY
Oh, God

PARIS
I wasn’t even there when she died. And, for the record, I’ll always stand by that relationship. She had a magnificent intellect, and an English accent, and quite a perky set considering those girls were three times my age. I’ll be real with you, Nigel: it was some straight up Helen Mirren magic at work. If Helen Mirren asks if you want to tap that, you don’t say no.

INTERVIEWER
Certainly not.

PARIS
Thank you.

INTERVIEWER
So about Deenie—

RORY
Oh, there’s nothing interesting about Deenie. Especially when we’re talking Paris’s exes already! Why stop now? Don’t forget Doily and your erotic Krav Maga sessions on our living room floor!

PARIS
That was survival, not eroticism. Can I help it if the two aren’t always mutually exclusive? And if you’re going to bring up that one time you walked in on us again, I can only say ‘I’m sorry’ so many times.

RORY
‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t further the invention of brain bleach!

INTERVIEWER
So, er, Paris. About your earlier assertion that you and Rory had been together since high school—

PARIS
Oh.

RORY
Right.

PARIS
That.

INTERVIEWER
Yes. That.

PARIS
Well. It took us awhile to get our asses in gear. But I – (A long pause.) I always knew what I wanted.

RORY
Me?

PARIS
Obviously.

RORY
Right. Obviously. Me too. For you, I mean.

After a moment, they exchange a quick kiss.

INTERVIEWER
Aw. Well, that’s just lovely. And don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll be able to edit out the more, er, unseemly bits. (A pause.) Your girlfriend’s name was Doily?

PARIS
Shut it, Nigel. I don’t judge your life.


+


“What the hell was that??” Paris demands, slamming Rory’s bedroom door behind them. Nigel & Co. are staying at the Dragonfly, so it’s not like there’s even any chance of them being overheard, but apparently there’s no such thing as being too covert. Besides, sometimes you just need a good door slam. Rory’s kind of jealous.

“I’m sorry!” she says, and collapses onto the bed. “I hate this! I wasn’t expecting him to know about Dean and Jess and Logan, okay? It totally threw me.”

“He didn’t know about Dean and Jess and Logan. He knew about Deenie and Jess and Lauren.”

“Oh, yeah, because that’s so much better,” Rory scoffs. Paris flops down beside her. Rory makes sure their arms don’t touch. “It’s just – Paris, we are such liars. It can’t be hard for someone to look into this, right? There must be secret CIA security footage of me and Logan somewhere! We stole a boat! Oh, God, we stole a boat. There’s no way that’s not on file. And it’s not like Logan will be able to pass for a girl in the CIA’s secret boat footage.”

“Eh,” Paris says, making an ‘I’m not entirely convinced’ face.

“Paris! Shut up!”

“Fine. Absolutely. Logan wasn’t girly at all. He was a strapping young lad. He graduated with honors from the school of Lance Bass Heartthrobbery.”

“Aren’t you worried? This could all go so, so wrong.”

“I already told you I didn’t think it through as much as I might have beforehand.” She sighs, frustrated. Rory watches her breathe in and out, and then decides to look at the ceiling instead. “I acted on instinct, Rory. And while that’s led to many of my most brilliant moments, it’s also resulted in the occasional fumble.”

“How could I be so stupid? How could you? Smartness, that’s always kinda been our thing! We’re supposed to be its poster girls, right?”

“We were bound to slip into insipidity sooner or later. I mean, look at the world we live in.”

“You need pep talk lessons,” Rory decides.

“Meh,” Paris replies.

There’s a long silence. Rory can hear her mom and Luke talking in the living room.

“I’m sorry I mentioned Asher,” she says then.

“It’s okay,” Paris says flatly. “I’m over it.”

“No, I mean it,” Rory insists. She reaches over to pat Paris on the arm. “That was awful of me. I don’t even know why I went there. You just—” She remembers to pull her hand away. “—you make me a little crazy sometimes.”

“I know,” Paris says. She sounds kind of proud. Weirdo.

Rory listens to the sound of her mom laughing; it’s more muffled than it should be, on account of the whole closed-door thing, and for an entirely stupid split-second she kind of feels like they’re in high school and she smuggled Paris in here for secret smoochies. There’s a whole weird ‘any second we could get caught!’ vibe that she has no idea what to do with. Get caught at what? Staring at the ceiling? It’s not like that’s exactly the stuff HBO programming is made of.

And yet.

Rory sits up quickly and grabs a pillow to hug. “So, what are we going to do?”

“Damage control,” Paris replies, sitting up too. Her hair is a little tousled. Rory reminds herself that reaching over to smooth it would be many levels of strange and unnecessary. “Bake a few pies, hire the town troubadour to serenade each other, hold hands and giggle and pick out future baby names. All we have to do is stick it out until the Fairytale Festival—”

“Firelight Festival.”

“Oh yes, because that sounds much less like Taylor Swift came up with it. My point is: let’s just make it ‘til then. After that, no more documentary.”

“But you’re in the public eye. And won’t it just prove the point we’re trying to argue against if we, you know, break up?”

“We hang out together all the time anyway. Who’s to say we broke up?”

“But what about when you actually meet someone you really like? You know, somebody man-shaped.”

Paris snorts. “I don’t have time for man shapes right now.”

“But what if I meet a nice man shape? I mean, I think he’d probably be a little turned off by the fact that I’ve pledged my troth to another girl.”

“Please. Have you ever met a man?”

“I’m just saying,” Rory retorts, smacking Paris lightly with the pillow.

“Well,” Paris says, sounding so nonchalant that it’s kind of unsettling, like Rory can’t bring herself to believe it all the way, “I don’t care if you don’t.”

And it’s like: of course Rory cares. It’s not like boyfriends are everything – she’s been enjoying singledom just fine for awhile now – but at the same time, she doesn’t exactly want to waste away into spinsterhood just because the whole world at large believes that Paris is her one and only. That would just be – bad. So many shades of bad. But it’s not the biggest bad thing at hand right now, so. “Fine. We’ll sort that out when we get to it. Let’s just make it to the Festival.”

Paris smiles, a little gleam of that familiar scary triumph in her eyes. “Agreed.”

“Oh, and Paris?”

“What?”

“You can’t really hire the town troubadour. He just is.”

“I swear to God,” Paris says, rolling her eyes, “if one of these days you Stars Hollow freakshows go all Wicker Man on me, I won’t even be surprised.”


+


“I don’t like that guy,” Luke mutters the next day after Nigel has been in the diner for approximately five seconds. Turns out, you can do a lot of ‘But this is charming! So absolutely charming! Do mine eyes deceive me? Is that toaster vintage?’ in five seconds. He’s currently examining the menus at one of the tables by the window with utmost delight. Rory’s a little worried that discovering the salt and pepper shakers will be the end of him. Meanwhile, Camera Guy Rick is trying to film some stock footage of the diner, which is made difficult by all the mugging for the camera Miss Patty keeps doing. Every time Rick tries to move on to someone else, she stops him and flutters her eyelashes some more. And then there’s the part where Taylor keeps trying to convince him that Luke’s is a poor representation of Stars Hollow life, and for real small town charm, Doose’s Market is the place to be.

Really?” Lorelai replies. “Because newsflash, beautiful: I’m pretty sure he likes you.”

Luke sneaks a glance Nigelward. Nigel must have a sixth sense when it comes to feeling the weighted gazes of grumpy diner owners, because he immediately looks up and waves giddily.

“Rory,” Lorelai says, “just how gay is this little adventure going to get? I thought you and Paris were the limit, but now—”

“Oh, jeez,” Luke groans.

“I’m just saying, hon,” Lorelai says innocently, “if you’re going to have a late-in-life awakening about your sexuality, it might as well be with Nige. He’s a special guy. I get a good vibe off him. And besides, who would make a better tragic and stalwart beard than me? Sigh! I vowed to stand by my man those many years ago, and no matter how high the price, I’ll stick by those words—”

“You are deranged.”

“Aw, sweets, I love you too. But I am wise enough to know that sometimes, if you really love something, that just means you have to let it go—”

“Hey, Nigel!” Luke calls. “Whaddya say to some vintage toast?”

“Sounds delectable, Lucas!”

“Delectable, Lucas!”

“Stop it.”

“Uh, never. Have you met me?”

“I have. And yet, for some reason, I married you anyway.”

“That you did, pal. It’s okay. Neither of us could have seen this Nigel thing coming.”

Luke sighs, and makes the (probably smart) decision to ignore Lorelai in favor of toast-making.

“Where is Paris, anyway?” Lorelai asks, turning her attention to Rory. And coffee. “I can’t believe that the two of you can bear to be apart this long. Long distance footsie is such a drag – and yet if anyone could make it work, I have all the faith in the world it’d be you two.”

Rory rolls her eyes. “Oh, ha ha.”

“What?” Lorelai says innocently. “Can I help it if I’m invested? I’m your mom, and as such, your happiness is the most important thing in the world to me. And since your happiness is basically embodied in the package that is Paris Geller—”

Mom—”

“I just want to harp on this relationship a whole damn lot.”

“Luke!” Rory attempts.

“Nope,” Luke says to the toaster. “Not going there.”

“Speaking of, you guys probably need to pick out one of those celebrity couple names, right? I mean, you are basically a celebrity couple. Naturally, I’ve been doing some brainstorming.”

“Oh,” Rory sighs, “naturally.”

“So I’m thinking – wait for it – Pory.”

“Ew!”

“What? Why ew?”

“It sounds like something you’d hear in the ‘before’ part of a Proactiv commercial.”

“Well, fine. If you’re going to shoot me down with that – okay, totally valid criticism, then so be it. Don’t worry. I brought more.”

“Of course you did,” Rory says.

“Of course she did,” Luke agrees.

“How about – Raris?”

“Nah,” Luke says.

Lorelai whirls around to face him. “Oh, so now you’re in this conversation?”

“I’m just saying: ‘Raris’ doesn’t have a whole lot going for it. It doesn’t have that thing.”

“What thing?”

“You know, that thing. Where it sticks in your brain, all annoying, forever. Like ‘Brangelina.’ Raris is no Brangelina.”

“Please. Brangelina is so 2005. Which, in all honesty, is a pretty cutting edge reference for you. Gimme some sugar.”

Luke obediently leans over the counter to kiss her.

“I love it when you talk nearly-relevant pop culture references to me,” Lorelai fake-purrs.

“Crazy person,” Luke says fondly, and goes back to breakfasting.

“So now we have no choice,” Lorelai says, very grave as she turns back to Rory. “We’ve got to move on to the last names.”

“Aw, man.”

“I know, kid! Believe me, I know. But you haven’t really left me with a choice here. How about – oh, okay, this is the one, I can feel it – Gilger?”

“That’s horrible,” Rory says. “That sounds like Beowulf’s long lost BFF.”

“Well, as established long long ago, I wouldn’t know, since my five-minute foray into trying to read Beowulf ended in tragic defeat. As far as I know, Beowulf could be about Beowulf and Gilger skipping around Narnia riding sparkly dragons and opening up a quaint tavern-slash-B&B. Plot twist: they adopt Grendel.”

“And you got it in one!” Rory says.

“I’ve always had keen literary intuition,” Lorelai says modestly.

“And where did you get the second ‘g’ anyway? ‘Gilmore’ and ‘Geller’ would not smoosh together like that.”

“Oh, so you’d rather it was Giller? Boring much? Get your head in the game, Rory.”

“Yeah, Rory,” Luke deadpans. “You’re really dropping the ball here.”

“No Pory, no Raris, no Gilger, no Giller,” Rory says firmly. “We’re just Rory and Paris. That’s it. That’s all.”

“Aw, fine.” Lorelai frowns. “But I hope you know you’re no fun at all.”

“It’s a cross I’ve learned to bear,” Rory says sagely.

“And—what was my original question again?”

“‘Where’s Paris?’”

“Oh, right. So. Where is that crazy chick?”

“She said something about ... damage control?” Rory says weakly. “We got into a little bit of a fight in one of our interview sessions yesterday, and now she’s determined to fix it by making us extra adorable for the camera from now on.”

“Oh yikes,” says Lorelai.

“Exactly,” says Rory. “She’s being very Paris about it, too. She was talking about hiring the town troubadour for serenades.”

Lorelai gasps. “Does she know what she’s talking about? You can’t hire the town troubadour. He just is.”

“Don’t I know it,” Rory says ruefully, shaking her head.

“If you want something – romantic or whatever,” Luke says, “April’s school production of Romeo & Juliet’s this Friday. Everyone’s invited. I mean, it was just me and your mom, because she didn’t know you were gonna be around, but I’m sure she’d be just fine with having you along. You and Paris and your camera crew. That way, it’s something romantic and cutesy, but you don’t have to do much.”

The idea of sitting in the dark for a few hours watching high schoolers stumble over Shakespeare has never been more irresistible. “That sounds perfect, Luke! Thanks.”

“No problem,” Luke says, and pours a little extra coffee into Rory’s cup. Aw.

“Hey,” Lorelai says, her eyes lighting up in a way that can be good for nobody, “remember in high school, when you and Paris did Romeo & Juliet?”

“No,” Rory says quickly.

“Rory,” Luke says, “I’m sorry.”

“I bet that with some finagling, we could dig up some footage of that fine production,” Lorelai carries on giddily.

“It’s okay,” Rory says to Luke. “You couldn’t have known.”

“And then the episode can have a montage! Oh, man – I can see it now—”

“Did somebody say Romeo & Juliet??” Nigel says, suddenly right there. He beams at Luke. Luke gives him a smile that is actually a grimace and then mumbles something about needing to get some pancakes out of the storage room.

“Pancakes!” Nigel exclaims. “You’re a very lucky woman, Lorelai.”

“Oh, Nigel,” Lorelai replies sweetly, “I’m sure we could work out some sort of timeshare deal.”

“What?”

Rory kicks Lorelai.

“Ow!” Lorelai pouts. “Nothing.”

“Just lovely,” Nigel says happily.


+


‘Damage control’ doesn’t catch up to Rory until that afternoon at the Dragonfly Inn. Nigel is hopping around, Rick and Katy trailing behind him, and in between paroxysms at the quaintness, he’s interviewing Lorelai, Sookie, and Michel about the all-American success story that is the Inn’s origin.

Well, Lorelai and Sookie.

When it gets to Michel, it’s more like:

“No.”

“It wasn’t a yes-or-no question.”

“No,” Michel says again.

“You’re a very disagreeable person,” Nigel says, like he can’t quite come to terms with the fact that disagreeable people exist.

“Yes,” Michel says. “Oh look, I have agreed. Now, leave me alone.”

“Of course, of course! But before I do, just real quick here: tell me just a little more about Michel, my friend.”

“I am not your friend. I do not know you. I do not like your glasses, I do not like your bouncing, and your name is stupid. If you question me, I will continue to insult you. Do you understand?”

“Rory and Paris: world’s best couple? Whaddya think?”

“Rory has always been a little ray of sunshine. God help Paris. Also, your shoes are giving me nausea. The end.”

“Hey, Nigel,” Lorelai pipes up, breezing over. “I have it on good authority that Kirk and Lulu are having a hula hoop battle out on the front porch!”

“Charming!” Nigel cries, aaaand he’s off.

“Excellent diversion, Mom,” Rory says.

“Sadly, that was just a simple statement of fact,” Lorelai answers.

“Michel, how can you not want to be on TV?” Sookie demands.

Michel perks up a little. Suspiciously. “Who said anything about TV?”

“Um,” Sookie says, and points at the retreating camera crew, “camera. Hi.”

Michel cranes his neck to look at said camera crew. “You mean this isn’t for some inane school project?”

“Michel, I haven’t been in school for five years,” Rory reminds him. 

“Michel, I told you all about this a few days ago,” Lorelai says impatiently. “Documentary crew, coming to Stars Hollow to do a miniseries about Rory and Paris and their fake gay love?”

“You tell me about a lot of things,” Michel drawls. “It’s made me very good at selective listening.”

“Great,” Lorelai says sarcastically. “Well – documentary crew, in Stars Hollow to do a miniseries about Rory and Paris and their fake gay love. It’s going to be on ABC.”

Michel’s eyes light up. “Like Dancing With the Stars,” he says rapturously.

“Exactly like that,” Lorelai says.

“Time to bust a move, champ,” says Sookie.

Michel needs no more encouragement. He’s off, calling in that freaky non-grumpy Michel voice that always fills Rory with fear, “Oh, Nigel! I will answer your insipid questions now!”

“Fantastic!” Nigel cries heartily.

“Aw, look,” Sookie says, beaming. “Now they’re all chummy.”

“Yeah, well, hopefully not too chummy,” Lorelai says. “Luke’s got dibs.”

“Where is Paris?” Rory says. Stars Hollow shenanigans are all well and good, but she hasn’t seen Paris since she left the house this morning. When she left, Paris was still in her pajamas, hunched over her laptop with a look of frenzied intensity on her face. Rory decided it was best not to interfere. Mornings have proven they’ve got high enough awkwardness potential as is. (Paris is sleeping on the couch, of course, because it’s not like they’re just going to cozy up together in Rory’s bed every night, but Rory still feels absurdly guilty about it, which is ridiculous because it’s a nice couch, and besides, they’re not dating.)

“Isn’t she on her way?” Lorelai asks.

“So she said,” Rory says anxiously.

“Well, you know Paris,” Lorelai says (but Rory definitely doesn’t miss the sudden apprehension in her eyes). “The girl knows how to get it done. By any means neces—seriously?”

Rory follows her mom’s gaze over to the front door – and oh, look, it’s Paris and her grandparents.

Not only that, it’s Paris and her grandparents in some sort of cuddly nightmarish alternate universe, because there’s no way Emily Gilmore would ever, ever cuddle up to anyone in this one. And yet! Paris is squeezed in between Richard and Emily, arms all linked, looking like they’re off to see the Wizard.

Nigel and his camera crew posse immediately swoop over to them. Michel looks livid.

“Mom! Dad! What – the hell!” Lorelai sputters.

“Lorelai,” Emily replies, perfectly tranquil. “To think that anyone else might have ended that with ‘a pleasant surprise.’ What a waste it would have been.”

“Well, of course it’s a pleasant surprise,” Lorelai says, “in addition to being, you know, a surprising surprise. And you’re with Paris!”

“Of course we’re with Paris,” Richard says ever so affably. “You don’t think we would ever turn down the chance to spend some time with our granddaughter’s beloved, now do you?”

“Of course ... not?” Lorelai tries.

“Darned right,” Richard says. He and Emily and Paris dissolve into hokey, congenial laughter. Rory’s head is starting to spin a little.

“She invited us over to your house for an afternoon of pie-baking,” Emily announces with one of those perfect socialite smiles.

“Pie-baking,” Lorelai repeats flatly.

“Yes, Lorelai,” Emily says. “Pie-baking. I believe you’ve heard of the concept before. Lord knows you’ve prattled on about the end result.”

“I wasn’t aware you were such an enthusiastic pie baker, Mom,” Lorelai says, still eyeing Emily like she’s expecting her to attack at any moment. “Or that you’d even had the talk.”

“The talk?”

“Yeah, you know: ‘When flour and sugar love each other very much, and then invite a can of cherry filling to the party—’”

“Oh, Lorelai, really.”

“It’s just that you’ve never shown much interest in the technicalities of food preparation before.”

“Nonsense,” Emily says graciously. “Baking with Rory and Paris has always been one of our favorite activities.”

“Oh,” Lorelai says, stilted, “yes. How could I have – forgotten that fundamental life truth—?”

“We just love getting to spend whatever time we can with our girls,” Richard announces jovially.

“Aw,” Paris says, and cozies up to him. “You’re the best, Gramps.”

The sentence Hot men run in packs suddenly looms large in Rory’s brain, coming back to her from those early days when Paris decided it was an A+ life decision to have a love affair with a professor who was buddies, not to mention age twins, with her grandfather.

“Let’s go bake some pies!” Rory shouts, and hurries over to bust up the love fest. When Paris is involved, you can never be too careful. Never. “Quick!”


+


Kirk has somehow snagged himself a chauffeuring gig with the camera crew, which means that they’re being pulled in a cart pulled by Kirk’s bicycle back to la casa de Gilmore (& Danes).

It buys a bit of non-camera time. Naturally, this means stopping in at Doose’s for pie ingredients. Even with Luke living in the house now, the Gilmore (& Danes) residence still isn’t anywhere near prepped for any possible culinary situation that could come up. It would just be unnatural, after so many years of candy and take-out. The cupboards would come alive and shout out in protest.

Taylor is waiting for them at the door, all giddy and twitchy with anticipation. “Hello, welcome to Doose’s– Really, Lorelai? Where’s the camera?”

“We’re off the grid right now, Taylor,” Lorelai reports.

“Well, that’s very insensitive of you,” Taylor huffs. “If I were a lesser man, I’d neglect to tell you that we’re having a two-for-one sale on acorn squash.”

“You’re a prince, Taylor Doose,” Lorelai says, and blows him a kiss.

Taylor grumbles to himself.

Rory can’t quite give all her attention to typical Stars Hollow banter shenanigans at the moment, though. She’s too baffled.

“Pie-baking with my grandparents?” she demands, grabbing Paris’s arm as they slip down an aisle.

“What can I say?” Paris retorts. Rory is 100% sure no one has ever stridden with so much purpose in Doose’s before. “I’m in it to win it.”

“How did you even get them to agree with this? I don’t know if my grandmother has ever seen a bag of flour in her life. And the way they’re being all – all smiley, and nice to you! That was cuddling, Paris.Cuddling. They barely ever cuddle me, and I have it on good authority that they like me a whole lot!”

“Of course we like you a whole lot, Rory,” Emily says, popping up behind them out of nowhere. “Why else in the world would we be doing this?”

“You really don’t have to—”

“Yes, we do,” Richard cuts in firmly. But kindly, which is a big old relief. “The last thing we want is for our brilliant granddaughter to face any negative repercussions for this admirably meant, if haphazard, choice she has made. And while your involvement in the whole charade is something we’d rather have avoided, well, now that you’re in it, so are we.”

“Grandpa—” Rory begins, a pesky lump in her throat. Behind him, Lorelai turns into the aisle, clutching an acorn squash in each hand. She’s got this look on her face that makes it clear she caught the beginning of the speech.

“We’ve learned a thing or two about cutting family out of our lives just because they make a decision that we don’t happen to agree with,” Richard concludes. “And I think I speak for both of us when I say that we don’t intend to do it ever again.”

“He certainly does,” Emily says a little stiffly. Her eyes have gone suspiciously bright, and Rory is pretty sure it’s not the florescent lights’ fault.

Lorelai’s looking a little shiny-eyed too. Then, in one abrupt movement, she rushes forward and puts her arms around Emily. It makes Rory’s heart do a funny and entirely welcome little leap.

“Augh! Lorelai!” Emily jumps. “What on earth?”

Lorelai makes a face, pulling away. “Oh, I don’t know, Mom, just surprise attacking you with squash. You know me. You’re next, Dad. Look out.” She brandishes an acorn squash Richard’s way. Richard chuckles.

“I’m sorry,” Emily says tersely, although Rory can see the slightest hint of a touched smile trying to sneak through. “You don’t hug me very often.”

“And man oh man, do I wonder why,” Lorelai mock-ponders.

“Thank you,” Emily says earnestly after a moment.

“Sure, Mom,” Lorelai replies, starting to smile.

“This is one wonky clan I’m marrying into,” Paris surmises in an undertone to Rory, taking in the scene.

“And you’re only getting this now?” Rory says, because it seems like a safer reply than, Wait, since when is fake marriage on the table? She guesses it’s always been implied, it’s just – eep.

“You guys,” Lorelai says, recovering pretty admirably from her brush with Emily Gilmore and affection, “I know grocery stores are a brave new world to you, but you’re not actually going to find anything related to pie preparation in the pet food aisle.”

“Might Paul Anka be interested in these?” Richard asks meanwhile, holding up a bag of dog treats. Richard and Paul Anka have formed quite a special bromance over the years.

“Paul Anka’s more into the people food,” Lorelai replies. “You could get him some baby carrots. That dude is crazy into baby carrots right now.”

“I think I will,” Richard says, looking rather delighted at the notion.

“Richard,” Emily tsk-tsks, “is that really the priority?”

“Oh, Emily,” Richard responds very solemnly, eyes dancing, “Paul Anka is always the priority.”

“You’re impossible.”

“Thank you, my dear.”

Rory wonders absently why all the stable couples in her life seem to spend all their time being affectionately exasperated with each other. It’s a thought that drags her eyes right to Paris. Paris gives her a ‘hello Rory’s eyeballs; what gives?’ look in return. Rory’s not really sure what gives, exactly, so she just smiles a little. After a second, Paris gives her a little smile back. Rory will never be quite immune to the power of Paris’s real smiles – the ones that are less about victory and vanquishing the peons that stand in her way, and more about simple things like happiness and being nice and ‘I like you’.

(Not like-like, but – you know.)

“Next stop,” Lorelai announces grandly meanwhile, “baking aisle. That is, if you can handle it.”

“Very well,” Emily says. If it weren’t vulgar to show one’s elbows willy-nilly, she would totally be rolling her sleeves up right now. Rory can tell. It’s just that kinda moment. “Let’s do this.”

Chapter Text

Part 4

“Stop me if I’m overreacting—” Lorelai begins.

“You do that?” Luke says.

“What shocking news,” Emily says.

They give each other one of those little smirky-smiles that are basically the Emily-and-Luke equivalent of fist bumps. Rory is happy that Grandma and Luke wound up getting along somehow, partially because Emily’s vendetta against Luke made it really hard to like her all the time, and partially because watching Lorelai go nuts over it is pretty amazing.

This time, Lorelai spares a few seconds for a disgusted glare, then finishes, “—but I think I wouldn’t be wrong in dubbing that a veritable Piepocalypse.”

Everyone takes a moment to glance around the Gilmore(& Danes) kitchen.

“It is,” Richard says, “fairly Piepocalyptic.”

Rory still doesn’t totally understand how this much flour has gotten everywhere. All over everything. Including everybody. They just didn’t own that much flour! She sneaks a glance at Paris, who is streaked with white all over and glaring at the oven, her arms crossed grumpily, like she’s prepared to go to war with whatever comes out of it.

“Don’t get your hopes up,” Rory says, patting her on the grumpy arm.

“It’s a pie,” Paris scowls. “Half of the people in this room are Ivy educated. We can make a pie. It’s not that hard. You!” She turns on Luke. “You make pies professionally. It’s your vocation. Your true calling. Your big special destiny. What do you know that we don’t, huh?? What are you hiding under that baseball cap? What’s your secret?”

“I remembered the sugar?” Luke offers.

“La dee da, Baseball Cap. Thanks for the diabetes.”

“Paris,” Rory says, and gives Paris another sanity-restoring arm pat. “No one should be that angry when they’re wearing an oven mitt.”

“Too much?”

Rory nods grimly.

Paris glares down at the oven mitt.

“Well,” Emily says, straining for regality. “I think it’s time for me to go freshen up.”

“You sure, Mom?” Lorelai asks. “I think the whole attacked-by-a-kitchen look is very elegant on you.”

“Ha ha ha,” Emily deadpans.

“I thought you guys said you baked together, like, regularly,” says Katy the sound girl.

“Katherine!” Nigel chastises brightly. “We are here as observers, not interferers.”

“You talk all the time,” Katy points out.

Nigel conveniently ignores that one.

“It’s more like we eat pie together regularly,” Rory improvises.

“Yes,” Emily says. “Pie.”

“And lots of it!” Richard says.

“We just thought we’d give it a try this time,” Paris says. “See how the pie-making half lives.”

“But I,” Luke says, “will make all the pie from now on.”

“That’s why I married him,” Lorelai says. “Pie.”

Luke stares at her.

“And love, obviously,” she adds, defensive.

“But mostly pie,” Luke deduces.

“Mostly pie,” Lorelai admits.

“Just delightful!” Nigel says.

Katy, Rory can’t help noticing, doesn’t look all that impressed.


+


Rory sneaks out of kitchen cleanup duty and finds Paris rummaging through the storage closet. When she sees Rory, she demands, “Do you have any craft supplies?”

“What?”

“I’m stressed,” Paris says sharply, “and Terrance isn’t picking up, so I’ll just have to follow his very strict instructions about what to do in these kinds of situations. When stressed, craft.

“I think we might have a glue gun somewhere,” Rory says, straining to remember. “And some puff paint from around 1995. So, you know, vintage. Although I can’t guarantee we put the caps back on the puff paint ...”

“Rory, always put the cap back on! That’s the number one rule for puff paint maintenance. Also, toothpaste maintenance.”

“You know what? You just sit. I’ll make you a cup of tea and then I’ll go buy some craft supplies. Do you want crayons? Do crayons count as craft supplies? I could definitely do crayons. John Tesh said that if you’re ever in a bad mood, all you need to do is color for five minutes and poof! Bad mood gone.”

“Like I’m going to take advice from someone who’s collaborated with Yanni.”

“I can even get you a baby barn yard animals coloring book,” Rory says tantalizingly. “I know a guy.”

“That does sound soothing,” Paris admits after a pause.

“So soothing,” Rory cajoles.

“Will you make sure there’s baby ducks?”

“Make way for ducklings,” Rory promises.

“How about chamomile?”

“Chamomile ducklings? I don’t know. It’s a tall order.”

Paris rolls her eyes. “Be less cute.”

Rory sighs mock-wistfully. “I try and try, but I just can’t swing it.”

Paris lets Rory shut the closet door and steer her outside. A little fresh air and porch-sitting will probably do the lady good.

“Thank you,” Paris says sincerely.

Rory smiles. “Always.”


+


Five minutes later, Rory has a cup of chamomile tea all ready. She throws in a little plate of chocolate chip cookies too. They’re gluten free, so no one else in the house will eat them. (Lorelai doesn’t trust gluten freedom and Luke doesn’t trust cookies.)

Her mom and Luke are cleaning the Piepocalypse-struck kitchen. Well, Luke’s cleaning the kitchen. Lorelai is performing an impassioned monologue from the point of view of the sponge she’s holding, which apparently has a cocaine problem. To be fair, putting her in the same room as flour probably wasn’t the best idea. Luke and Rory exchange that look that can only be exchanged by people who have lived in the same house as Lorelai Gilmore for a considerable amount of time.

“Grandpa, could you get the door for me?” Rory asks over her mom’s anguished squeaks.

Richard has been standing around staring at the flour on the floor like he knows he should do something about it, but he’s had a maid too long to understand exactly what. Rory can’t help but take pity on him.

“Of course. Tea for the missus?”

“Never a minute’s rest.”

Richard chuckles. “I’d imagine.”

Out on the porch, Paris isn’t alone. Nigel and the crew are filming her. Rory stops; she’s not sure if Nigel’s even capable of getting grumpy, but it seems best not to interrupt.

“I never really set much stock in family,” Paris is saying. “I mean, thanks to my parents for my existence and my trust fund; not too shabby. But I never really had anyone who ... cared about me, or whatever. My nanny, sure, but she was paid to do it. That’s a little too The Secret Garden meets Pretty Woman for anyone’s taste, right? But Rory ... Rory cared. And it took me awhile to adjust to that. But once I did, well. I hope that I’ve been good at caring back. Because Rory’s my family.”

Well ... God.

“That’s good,” Rory mutters to Richard after a moment. “The viewers, they’ll like that, right?”

She doesn’t know exactly what to expect from him, but it’s not silence. But that’s what she gets: really silent silence. Feeling nervous for definitely no reason, she glances over at her grandfather.

“She’s a keeper, that one,” Richard murmurs. Rory doesn’t know what to do with the look on his face. All wise, like she should believe it. He nods at her, leaving Rory feeling suddenly very obtuse when it comes to nod language, and excuses himself back into the house.

She turns to look at Paris again.

“Oh look! The lady herself!” Nigel exclaims.

Rory makes herself smile – big smile, performance time – and goes over to them. “I come bearing tea and cookies.”


+


FULL TRANSCRIPTS OF INTERVIEW SEGMENTS – PARIS & RORY’S MODERN STARS HOLLOW FAMILY - EPISODE 3: “FAMILY MATTERS”

INTERVIEW – Richard & Emily Gilmore

RICHARD
I like them together.

EMILY
Of course. We’ve just loved the girls together ever since Rory first brought Paris to dinner to meet us, oh, years ago. Paris is such a good fit for Rory: they share the same interests, the same education, the same social background – more or less. There was that unfortunate business with Paris’s parents, of course, but Paris didn’t allow that to keep her down. She’s an extraordinary young woman. And our Rory deserves nothing less than extraordinary.

RICHARD
Do you know, Emily, you’re right.

A long pause.

EMILY
Richard?

RICHARD
Emily?

EMILY
What are you doing?

RICHARD
Just agreeing with you, my dear. Like always.


+


Rory doesn’t mention it until that night, when the camera crew’s gone back to the Dragonfly and Paris is camped out on the living room couch. She’s sitting up with a pillow in her lap and the remote in her hand, flicking through channels.

Rory sits down next to her. Paris shifts slightly to make room.

“I heard what you said earlier,” Rory says. “About me being like your family.”

“Yeah, well,” Paris says to the TV. It’s in that too-Parisy voice that Rory knows not to fall for.

“I thought it was really sweet.”

“It’s not sweet. It’s just true. Don’t go all hearts and flowers.”

Rory almost doesn’t say it. In fact, she doesn’t really understand why she does, but suddenly, boom, speaking: “My grandpa says you’re a keeper.”

“Yeah, well, he’s a smart guy. In addition to being a mustachio’d silver fox. It’s funny. Usually men get looks or brains, but—”

“Ew,” Rory informs her. “Ew forever.”

“Just keeping it real,” Paris says with an innocent shrug.

“I hate you,” Rory declares, and steals the remote. She tries not to pay attention to Paris’s fingers brushing hers. Paris’s fingers have probably brushed hers a million times before. She never paid attention then.

She wonders if Paris is paying attention.

There’s the jingling of collar tags and then Paul Anka jumps up on the couch in between them, planting his head in Rory’s lap. It’s the perfect disruption.

“Ooh, Duck Dynasty!” Rory says, switching the channel. “Paul Anka’s favorite. After Once Upon A Time. But we don’t hold that against him.”

Paris grimaces. “We’re not watching Duck Dynasty.”

“I like Duck Dynasty!” 

“That’s because you’re deranged.”

Rory glances at Paris’s hand as she digs her fingers into Paul Anka’s fur. Honestly, it’s pretty tempting to agree with that assessment.


+


Rory is sleeping. That is, until there’s a knock on the bedroom window. Which is terrifying.

It’s not Dean, so at least there’s that.

But still.

“Kirk!” Rory hisses, clambering out of bed to wrench the window open. Sure enough, there’s Kirk. Just hangin’ out in the bushes in his flannel pajamas and clutching the most gigantic Acer laptop Rory has ever seen. It is basically a desktop PC. “No! What have I told you about midnight visits to my bedroom window?”

“They’re weird,” Kirk says, dejected.

“They’re very weird!”

“I know it, Rory, and I respect it,” Kirk says gravely. “But we have an emergency on our hands.” He squints around into the room. “Where’s Paris?”

“We don’t actually sleep together, Kirk,” Rory says impatiently. “It’s a fake relationship, remember??”

“That’s right,” Kirk says. He looks a little disappointed. “The fanmixes just make it seem so real.”

“I know, buddy,” Rory says. She reaches out the window to pat him on the shoulder. “So what’s the emergency?”


+


Three minutes later, Paris is awake, Kirk is inside (Rory let him in through the front door, but don’t think that means he didn’t try to climb through the window. He really, really did), and the three of them are sitting on the living room couch. 

“There’s fanfiction,” Kirk announces.

Rory would choose not to believe him if she could, but it’s hard to argue when said fanfiction is blaring at her from a twenty five inch laptop screen.

“Um,” Rory says.

“Is it good?” Paris says, undaunted.

“Why does that matter?” Rory asks.

“Fan interpretations of public personas matter, Rory,” Paris says. “Do you think the Jonas Brothers would have been around for as long as they were if 70% of the internet hadn’t convinced itself they had some incestuous threeway arrangement going on?”

“Okay then. It’s official: fanfiction’s scary.”

“When we were at Chilton you spent like all of your lunch periods in junior year writing ‘what if?’ stories about Jane Austen characters. There were volumes. Volumes in fuzzy pink notebooks, but still.”

“That was a homework assignment!”

“The first one was a homework assignment. You’re the one who decided to reach a page count that would make Tolstoy go, ‘whoa freak, settle down.’ Even I thought you were going overboard. Me. Paris Geller.”

“Oh my God,” Rory realizes, gasping. “It was fanfiction. Why didn’t I put it on the internet? It’s all just in notebooks! Should I type it up? Do you think people would like it?”

“Don’t quit your day job.”

“I think Jane would like it. I like Mr. Darcy as much as the next gal, but Jane would not have wanted it this way! Why are all the sequels about Mr. Darcy? Tell me more about Charlotte Lucas. Now, there’s a lady whose choices were dictated by the restrictions and expectations of the repressive society in which she lived, am I right?—”

“Not the time right now, darling,” Paris says dryly. “Someone wrote porn about us. It is porn, right?” she adds expectantly to Kirk.

“It has an E rating on Archive of Our Own.”

“E for everyone?” Rory says hopefully.

“E for explicit,” Kirk says.

“Yeesh,” Rory says, and reminds herself that blushing would be stupid.

“Read a lot of explicit fanfiction, Kirk?” Paris asks, folding her arms in front of her chest.

“Only for research,” Kirk answers, totally unabashed. “Lulu appreciates it.”

“God,” Rory says sadly to the throw pillow she’s clutching. You know. The way you’re supposed to clutch airplane seat cushions when the plane goes down in the ocean.

Paris is, as usual, less subtle about the grossness of the information. “Tell me, Kirk. Can you research how to selectively remove pieces of information from peoples’ brains so they’re not forced to throw themselves off bridges?”

“That sounds like more of a rated-G-to-T premise,” Kirk says. “Too much P to be PWP, if you know what I mean.”

“What are the odds both those P’s don’t stand for penis?” Paris asks.

“I’m not liking ‘em,” Rory replies.

“Great,” Paris grumbles.

“So what’s it about?” Rory asks. She doesn’t want to stare at the fanfiction for too long. It’s hard to shake the feeling that it might attack her. “I mean, besides ... E-type things.”

“It chronicles your first date at the Bangles concert,” Kirk reports. “As well as the steamy aftermath.”

“There was no steamy aftermath,” Rory protests. “We went home.”

“Archive Of Our Own user vitasackvillebest begs to differ,” Kirk says solemnly.

It seems pretty impossible to even know what to do with that. Luckily, there’s the sound of somebody coming downstairs.

“I heard voices,” Luke says, stepping into the living room. “Is everything all right down h—Kirk.”

Uh oh.

“Luke,” Kirk says placidly.

“Nuh uh,” Luke says, brandishing a finger at Kirk. “It’s two in the morning. It’s you. In our house, on our couch, with a dying spaceship!”

“It’s a laptop.”

“Are you sure?”

“Fairly. Besides, Luke, I’m here on business. It’s important.”

“As important as me not picking you up and throwing you out the front door?”

“You couldn’t lift me.”

“You sure about that?”

Kirk stares at Luke for a long time. Luke really looks like he’s in the mood to throw a grown man out a door.

“Ladies,” Kirk decides, standing and bowing awkwardly. “We’ll continue this discussion later.”

“Thanks, Luke,” Rory says.

“No problem.” Luke lifts his hand in a sleepy wave and disappears back upstairs.

“So that’s just a thing here?” Paris says. “Weird townspeople breaking into your house at all hours to show you porn?”

“Not just porn! Sometimes it’s garden gnomes.” Paris’s face doesn’t change very much from when it was porn. “You judge now, but just wait ‘til it’s your turn to be the weird townsperson. Then it’s highly advantageous.”

“It’d be a lie to say I don’t like the sound of that,” Paris admits. She reaches for her laptop. “Well, I know what’s on my reading list.”

“Seriously?”

“Why not? It’s not really us.”

“Right,” Rory says, crossing her arms primly. Then she uncrosses them. This is not primness! Just sanity. “You’ll just have to tell me how it is, because I’m not looking at it.”

“You mean you’re not at least a little curious?”

“Nope,” Rory says firmly. Time to go. “Well, I’ll leave you to your weirdo pseudo-biographical smut reading.”

“I wonder if I’ll puke,” Paris says thoughtfully.

Trust Paris to start talking about puke when all Rory wants is to go back to sleep. “What?”

“I distinctly remember saying once that I wanted to be able to read a biography of myself in later years and not puke.”

“Well, don’t get your hopes up. And don’t facebook message me all the weird parts like you facebook message me everything else that’s weird.”

“Since when do I facebook message you everything that’s weird?”

“That thing about the soy sauce! Why would you think I needed to know that a guy drank a whole bottle of soy sauce and almost died?”

“I’ve seen you eat. It’s depraved. Drinking a bottle of soy sauce would have happened, Rory. It would’ve only been a matter of time.”

“I’m not going to—!”

Paris gives her a pointed look.

“The chocolate sauce was different,” Rory grumbles.

Paris holds up a hand, vow style. “I solemnly swear I won’t facebook message you any you-and-me smut, no matter how hideously degrading or ineptly punctuated. There. Are you happy now?”

“Giddy. Goodnight, Paris.”

“’Night,” Paris says. She pauses for just long enough that Rory thinks she might be safe, and then: “Mary.”

Rory loses her footing. Just for a second.

“I can hear you blushing,” Paris informs her.

“Go to bed, Tristan,” Rory retorts, and slams her bedroom door behind her.


+


Oh, of course Rory reads it. It’s reading. It’s what she does!

And. Well. She doesn’t puke.


+


“Someone wrote porn about you and Paris?” Lorelai puts a hand to her heart like she’s watching baby animal videos on youtube.

It’s early enough that it’s still dark out, but Luke is already gone to open the diner, which means Rory is partaking in the classic pastime that is invading her mom’s bed and waking her up at a ghastly hour. Considering all the times Lorelai has done this exact same thing to Rory, Rory can’t feel too guilty.

“Someone wrote porn about me and Paris,” Rory confirms.

Lorelai looks almost as proud as she did at Rory’s graduations. “And how was it?”

On second thought, maybe discussing this with your mother isn’t really the best move.

... Nah.

“Not bad,” Rory says fairly. “As far as porn about me and Paris goes.”

“Was it all – all ooh la la, laters baby, my inner goddess was doing the hokey pokey and turning her bad self around?”

“There was no inner goddess-ing,” Rory says impatiently.

“Aw, man.” Lorelai fake pouts. “When will the literary elite recognize that the inner goddess deserves to become a valid trope ASAP? Someone needs to alert David Foster Wallace.”

“When will you stop making 50 Shades of Grey references?”

“Never. Because there’s simply no way I will ever wash 50 Shades of Grey out of my memory. I’m beginning to suspect the Stars Hollow Book Club might be a very shady institution, by the way.”

“I still think it’s mean that you invited Grandma to that meeting.”

“Please! She loved it!”

“You said she almost rolled her eyes out of her head at Miss Patty and Babette’s dramatic reading.”

“I think it was the accompanying interpretive dance that truly threatened to pop out the eyeballs of Emily Gilmore. But when they asked her to read a particularly saucy passage, she went for it. Disturbing stuff, by the way. I think Mom is tarting up in her advanced age. God. Have you ever heard your mother talk dirty?”

“Um, only when she’s talking.”

“Well, that doesn’t count. I’m a cool mom.”

“You sure are, Amy Poehler.”

“So, what did Paris think of your little fanfiction romp?”

“Oh, there’s no way I’m telling her I read it.”

“Why? You afraid that life might imitate art?”

Yes, says some awful and clearly delusional impulse in Rory’s brain.

Which, that is just so ... not even remotely ...

“Gross!” Rory says, and she’s not sure if she’s talking to her mom or herself. Either way, it needs to be said.

“I don’t know, honey, this is a very elaborate and exhausting charade. You might as well get something out of the deal.”

And, okay, it’s one thing when the internet is crazy – that one is kind of a given – but her own mother??

All right, it’s a given when Lorelai’s crazy, too. But not about this!

“Mom.” Rory thinks she must feel like Emily Gilmore at a 50 Shades of Grey book club meeting. “It’s Paris.

“I know it’s Paris,” Lorelai says, and the worst part is that she suddenly doesn’t seem a hundred percent jokey anymore. “It’s just—I overheard Grandma and Grandpa talking earlier, and it got me wondering—”

“Grandma and Grandpa? They’re old! They’re senile! Don’t listen to them! I’m pretty sure the word ‘dotage’ could be used right now and it wouldn’t even be that hyperbolic.”

“Wow, uh, okay. If you think I’m not telling them that, you’re wrong. And guess who’s going to be the favorite at Friday Night Dinner next time? They said it could never happen, but oh, it’s happening—”

“Grandma and Grandpa think that Paris and I are – are actually—”

“Grandpa seemed to think there was something to it,” Lorelai verifies.

Damn it. Rory knew that Grandpa nod earlier meant nothing good.

“Rory,” Lorelai says, and suddenly she’s got Loving Supportive Mom Face. Gone is the unapologetic mocker. Rory misses the unapologetic mocker. Where is the unapologetic mocker?? “If there is ever anything you need to tell me, you know you can, right? It’s part of the whole cool mom thing. And if you and Paris – I mean, I get it. I’ve done the whole BFFs-for-years-oh-wait-I’m-crazy-in-love-with-this-person! bit. Ladies and gentlemen, Exhibit Luke. And after a few bumps in the road, that’s turned out really great. I understand falling for your best friend. In fact, I’d recommend it. Especially to Holmes and Watson. How many times can Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law almost kiss and then leave us high and dry? Not to mention Babydoll Crumplecakes and Bilbo.”

“It’s Benedict Cumberbatch,” Rory says numbly. It seems like the most logical response. The only logical response.

God.

“I know that; it was an artistic reinterpretation. Rory. Tell me what you’re thinking.”

“It’s not like you and Luke,” Rory says firmly. “Paris and I are just friends.”

She tries not to think about the one billion times her mom gave that speech about Luke back in the day.

“Okay,” Lorelai says easily. “Just thought I’d check.”

It goes quiet. If given the option, Lorelai will be asleep again in approximately 18 seconds. Maybe she’ll wake up later and forget this conversation even happened. Rory likes that idea.

And yet there’s still this stupid part of her that has to ask: “You don’t really think I would just be ... in love with Paris, do you?”

“Rory,” Lorelai says solemnly, “my firstborn, my only born, my dearest, darlingest kid. I bore witness to your 1993 quest to check all the books out of the Stars Hollow Library and start operating a new library out of your bedroom because, and I quote, ‘I love them more than the library does.’”

“And it woulda worked too, if it weren’t for those darn librarians.”

“They still fear you there.”

“Right?” Rory says a little proudly.

“Kid,” Lorelai says and leans over to kiss the top of Rory’s head, “believe me when I say I think you’re capable of anything.”

And Rory really doesn’t know what to do with that one.

Chapter Text

Part 5

Rory sneaks out to meet Lane for a coffee-and-pie date at Weston’s. Taylor roped the camera crew into a tour of historic Stars Hollow, and Paris is using the time off to respond to emails or create a new video blog entry or whatever it is she does to keep her legion of admiring fans in line.

When Rory leaves she’s determined to have a nice, non-crazy-thoughts-plagued brunch with her best friend, but turns out, her mind is on the craziness. It’s really, really hard to de-crazy on this issue. She wants to pay attention while Lane talks about Hep Alien’s series of acoustic Ke$Ha covers becoming a YouTube hit (“I guess we shouldn’t have made fun of Brian so much when he said he understood Ke$Ha on a spiritual level – but, okay, yes we should have”), but her mind keeps drifting back to Paris, Paris, Paris. And all the things fanfiction Rory and fanfiction Paris got up to. It was ... a lot of things!

“What’s up with you?” Lane asks once she’s sick of Rory staring off into space. She reaches across the table to poke her in the arm. “Wait. Is that a stupid question? Clearly there’s a lot going on with you.”

“What if I was in love with Paris?” Rory finds herself asking. So, okay. Craziness wins this round.

“Well, she would probably get in a fight with Michele Bachmann over it and drag a camera crew back to Stars Hollow to prove it,” Lane replies with a perfectly straight face.

“That seems a little far-fetched, don’t you think?” Rory jokes.

“Why? Do you think you’re in love with Paris?”

“No! Not in love. That would be—but, I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about it. Is that crazy?”

“Only crazy insofar as Paris is crazy and anyone who voluntarily chooses to spend their life with her is therefore also crazy.”

“True,” Rory acknowledges, “but let’s be real. That ship sailed a long time ago.”

“You two did kinda latch onto each other way back when.”

“I think about the time I showed up to my dorm room at Yale and she was in it, I reconciled myself to the fact that there would be no escape.”

“See? Kinda crazy, that one. Then again, who am I to talk? Look at Zack. It’s been seven years since we got married and I still don’t know what that guy’s deal is.”

“He is a mysterious man.”

“And you’ve never heard his rant about socks that touch his ankles. Do you think Paris has been thinking about it?”

“Socks and ankles? Probably. That girl’s got a brain that just doesn’t quit.”

“Rory. Come on.”

Oh, fine.

“I don’t know! Sometimes I think maybe—but you know, it’s always been like that. She’s all fierce and scary and unstoppable and Paris until all of a sudden we’re having one of those little moments where she’s sweet, and—and genuine, and makes it seem like I’m the most important person in her life. It’s hard not to fall for that a little, you know?”

“That makes sense,” Lane agrees. “But ... wow. Paris.

“I know! Paris! It’s crazy, right??”

“Am I allowed to pull the ‘I think we already had this conversation’ card?”

“Nope, I insist that you talk in circles with me so we can avoid the actual issue at hand forever.”

“I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not.”

“Me either,” Rory says, and fights the urge to collapse face-first on the table. She takes a generous sip of coffee – liquid courage, Gilmore style – and then presses on. “My mom gave me, like, a talk last night.”

“A talk? What kind of talk are we talking?”

“Like a ... go get ‘er, son! kind of talk.”

“She called you son?”

“No! But that was the vibe. It was like a ... my child, I give you my blessing kind of talk.”

“So ... priest-y?”

“Not priest-y!”

“I’m sorry. I’m stuck with those hooligans Steve and Kwan all the time, and they have no patience for banter. They’re all tickles and Nerf balls or nothing. You’re my outlet. So your mom wants you to be in love with Paris for real?”

“I don’t know if she wants me to be. Not that she would be upset if I was.”

“That’s not the Lorelai way,” Lane agrees sagely.

“It’s more like ... she seems to think I am already?”

Lane frowns thoughtfully. It’s not exactly the ‘What the heck? That’s crazy talk!’ reaction Rory was hoping for. “Oh really?”

“And apparently my grandpa is convinced Paris and I are soulmates.”

“Awkward.”

“Right? It’s completely exhausting.”

“Well, to be fair,” Lane says, “you have been parading around town holding hands for the past few days. And there are paparazzi photos of you kissing in front of a Starbucks. Honestly, Zack and I were so excited we hung those up on the fridge.”

“What?”

“Steve and Kwan have started calling Paris ‘Auntie Paris.’”

“What??”

“We didn’t tell them to! They just kind of ... decided. You try fighting that kind of twinly conviction. Once both of them decide on something, it pretty much becomes a thing.”

Oh jeez. How is she supposed to explain to the boys that Auntie Paris isn’t their Auntie Paris? 

“That kiss was for the cameras! It’s all for the cameras. Not real life.” Rory waves her hands in a way that’s supposed to be stern and emphatic, but mostly just comes out spazzy. “You know. You were around when we first met. It’s a miracle that Paris and I even get along. We were foes. And I don’t use the word ‘foe’ lightly.”

“Of course I remember,” Lane agrees. “Like that time she was all hell bent on psyching you out over that Shakespeare test.”

“Yes! I hit a deer because of her. Basically. A sweet, innocent deer.”

“And Paris leaned down close to you and recited a love sonnet in your ear to threaten you.”

“... Don’t make it sound like that.”

“I’m literally just relaying what you said happened.”

“Oh God.” Rory shoves a deeply angst-driven forkful of pie into her mouth.

“And now you’re thinking about it.”

“And now I’m thinking about it!” Rory exclaims through a mouthful of pie. It’s a good thing her grandma isn’t there to witness it. “What’s happening? You know who I blame for this? I blame Bill Maher. He’s always trying to incite conflict! Well, I hope you’re happy, Bill Maher!” she quasi-shouts at the room at large.

Everyone in Weston’s goes perfectly quiet for a nice, humiliating second, but then it’s back to happy chatter and business as usual. Verbal outbursts about super random things are pretty normal Stars Hollow conduct.

“Hey, so, dream with me here,” Lane says in soothing tones. “You two give it a try and it doesn’t work out. What’s the worst that could happen?”

They both take a few seconds to consider it.

“She murders me,” Rory decides.

“Okay, death,” Lane says at the same time.

“Super,” Rory sighs.

“So the stakes are high.” Lane smiles, all inconveniently reassuring. “But that’s never stopped you before.”

That’s true. Rory’s never been one to back down from a challenge, especially where Paris is involved.

“Maybe I’ll just kiss her,” Rory says, feeling half-bonkers but also weirdly thrilled at the idea. “You know. In a not-in-front-of-cameras capacity. And it’ll suck and be awkward and horrible, and that way we’ll both know once and for all that there’s nothing there. Probably.”

“She’s kissed you before. Did that suck?”

There’s an awkward pause.

“Shut up, Lane,” Rory orders.

“Oh my God,” Lane says, giddy. “It totally didn’t suck.”

“I’m stealing your pie,” Rory announces grumpily.

“I thought you looked a little flushed in those paparazzi pictures.”

“That was from embarrassment!”

“Embarrassment, right, sure. And loooove.”

“Oh God, who are you? My mom??”

“Moms get to be totally annoying. It’s our right after growing human beings in us and pushing ‘em on out.”

“Go be totally annoying at Steve and Kwan!”

“They’re at school. I can’t just turn this off because the kids aren’t around.”

“You’re the worst.”

“I love you too. Now go kiss your woman.”


+


And so it is that Friday night rolls around and Rory, Paris, Luke, Lorelai, and the camera crew head off to see April in Romeo and Juliet.

It’s a surprisingly traditional Elizabethan production; April is playing the Nurse, and April’s Justin Bieber-haired boyfriend is playing Romeo.

“April told me they originally wanted the theme to be Taylor Swift and some guy Taylor Swift’s going out with,” Luke says as they file into the high school auditorium, “I don’t remember who it was—”

“Neither does Taylor Swift, hon,” Lorelai promises him.

“—but the teacher wasn’t going for it.”

They duck into the back row of seats; it seems like the most respectful seating decision, considering the camera crew looming behind them and all. Paris insisted on wearing sunglasses to retain her anonymity, which strikes Rory as a little counterproductive. People definitely keep turning around in their seats to look at them.

“Wow, Luke,” Anna Nardini says, coming over their way. She nods toward the camera crew. “Making all of the other parents look bad.”

“Oh,” Luke says, sheepish. “I didn’t—hire a camera crew to film the play, that would be ... weird—”

“I’m kidding, I know all about it,” Anna says, having mercy on him. “I do Yahoo. April’s a bit of a celebrity at school, thanks to her stepsister.”

“High school kids care?” Rory feels a surge of panic. “Aren’t we too old and boring for them?”

“Don’t sell yourselves short,” Anna says, smiling. “You’re quite the it couple.”

As she walks away, Rory feels a fun new wave of confusion-slash-guilt. God. The it couple?? There are probably teenagers looking up to them, and all over a lie. More straight people getting acclaim for being the best gay rights activists ever! Who are they, Macklemore?? The answer is no, Rory thinks. Hopes. At the very least, she knows she can’t rap, and she’s pretty sure Paris can’t either.

Though it is worth pointing out (the logical part of Rory’s brain insists) that Macklemore thought he was gay because he could draw, not because he couldn’t stop thinking about wanting to kiss his fake gay life partner.

“These little suckers better bring their A game,” Paris says, settling into her seat. “We were a pretty powerful Romeo and Juliet duo circa 2001. Remember, sweetie?”

She hears Nigel flutter around excitedly behind them.

“How could I ever forget, darling?” Rory replies, holding back a sigh.


+


It’s an inconveniently good Romeo and Juliet. Since when are high schoolers this talented?? Sure, they are occasional issues with squeaky mics, and Rory notices a few missing lines, but Romeo and Juliet keep making very convincing googly eyes at each other. It goes without saying that April is basically as magnificent as Juliet’s Nurse has ever been. Rory wants to throw herself into proud stepsister mode, but she kinda keeps getting stuck on the My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand stuff.

She sits oh-so-casually, her hands curled around the edge of her seat, and tries really, really hard not to think about touching Paris.

And then Romeo strikes up the balcony scene. No big deal. Because Romeo and Juliet are teenagers who have no idea what they’re doing, and the whole point that everybody always misses is that they’re young and stupid and making bad decisions, and Romeo probably would have moved on to another girl if they’d managed to live for two weeks anyway, and it’s not really romantic so much as it is a commentary on the different but equally destructive follies of the young and the old and the thing is, maybe their relationship seems like a good idea when balcony wooing’s afoot, but it doesn’t change the fact that they DIE, it’s really hard to look past the dying part, once Paris was Romeo in a really stupid wig and she died right on top of Rory and never, never in a million years would 2001 Rory have thought that she would ever be in this situation—

It is my lady. Oh, it is my love. Oh, that she knew she were!

FINE, okay, she officially can’t do this. Damn it, Romeo!


+


“Rory, where the hell are we going?”

“I just needed some air. Air’s nice, right?”

“Oh, sure. Nothing like good, clean high school hallway air. Second only to the Swiss Alps. And you invited me along because ... ?”

“I need to talk to you.”

“Okay. About what?”

But this doesn’t exactly seem like the best high school hallway conversation. At random, she pushes on a classroom door. It surprises her when it actually opens. “Oh, okay, that’s unlocked. Huh. Pretty shoddy security around here.”

She steps into the classroom, waits for Paris to follow, and then closes the door behind them. And turns the lock. Just in case.

It’s your typical classroom: desks, books, a poster of Shakespeare on the wall. Without really knowing why – she is really bad at why tonight – Rory paces to the front of the classroom. There’s a homework assignment scribbled on the whiteboard: Read Hamlet.

“Man. That Shakespeare guy’s just stalking us tonight, huh?” Rory remarks in a totally-too-casual-to-be-casual voice, staring at the unknown teacher’s handwriting.

“Rory,” Paris says, urgently. “About what?”

“About—” But Rory doesn’t really have an ‘about.’

She turns around and there’s Paris right there, looking so curious, standing a little closer than she needs to be, which is such typical Paris behavior.

And so she takes Paris’s face in her hands and leans down a little bit and kisses her.

“Oomf!” Paris mumbles against Rory’s mouth, surprised, and digs her fingers into Rory’s forearms as she pulls away. “What are you doing?”

Rory’s heart sinks. God, instant shame. And in front of the Shakespeare reading homework!

“I don’t know,” she babbles, hoping that maybe, just maybe, the floor will do her a solid and open up and suck her into it. “I wanted to. I’m sorry. I thought maybe you—”

Paris interrupts her by kissing her back, hard. So hard that she pushes Rory back into the whiteboard and just about gives her a heart attack. But the good kind. Are there good kinds of heart attacks? There must be, because that is almost absolutely what’s going on right now.

“I’ve been thinking about that all day,” Paris says when they break apart, her breathing ragged.

“You have?” Rory says, her voice coming out in a (not unpleasantly) surprised squeak. Possibly she’s not at her sexiest right now.

Then again, Paris isn’t exactly looking at her like she’s Will Ferrell in a thong.

“As of a few hours ago,” Paris says, still breathless, “vitasackvillebest’s erotic romp about us has 48 glowing comments and 329 kudos and I knew I could do better – I mean, why wouldn’t I? I’m one half of the Raris equation. That’s the couple name they’ve decided to stick with, Raris, so I guess we’re just going to have to embrace it. Anyway, I put the ‘aris’ in Raris, and so if anyone’s going to write the most acclaimed Raris fanfiction on Archive Of Our Own, it should be me! I may not be into the recreational fiction writing like you, Jane Austen Acolyte, but I’m a wordsmith when I have to be.”

“Wait wait wait wait: you’re writing fanfiction about us?”

“I have the advantage, Rory! I know all the details! I may not have seen you naked in a full on Game of Thrones fashion, but believe me, after being roommates for years I caught enough glimpses. For example, vitasackvillebest didn’t know about that birthmark on your—”

“God! Paris! You’re so – augh! So you’ve been thinking about kissing me all day for research.

“I live my research, Rory! I always have. You know this about me.”

“Yes, I do,” Rory admits, feeling a whole lot like she’s had all the breath knocked out of her. She slides out from between Paris’s arms and takes a seat on the side of the teacher’s desk.

“Why did you stop?”

“Because you just said you want to kiss me so that you can write an authentic fanfiction about us! Do you not see where that’s maybe a turnoff?”

“Well, at least I had a reason! Why the hell did you kiss me, hmm? Tell me that, Gilmore! Did you tip off Nigel and the Babes? Are they just outside the door?”

“I told you already! Because I wanted to! I just – I keep thinking about it, and everyone keeps acting like we’re perfect together, and so I got curious! You’re not the only one who gets curious about stuff, Paris. I might not be as Tremble Before Me, World! about it as you are, but I can go after what I want too, and, and try like hell to make it happen!”

“You want me?” Paris says, flummoxed. Her voice is small and achingly earnest and the look on her face goes right to Rory’s heart.

It’s like Rory’s words just pulled them twelve years back in time and they’re right back where they started. Here they are: two girls in a classroom with no idea what to do with each other.

“Kind of!” Rory exclaims, stupidly defensive. “Is that—is that crazy?”

Paris just stares at her for what feels like forever. Her eyes are bright.

Then in one swift movement, she’s right up in Rory’s space, kissing her hard again, pushing Rory back onto the desk. Under normal circumstances, Rory would feel really bad about it – like, oh my God, whose desk is this? Rory would not want two strangers doing this on her desk! And yet it’s really, really hard to care, because she’s getting very dizzy from all the kissing and she can’t help but want to touch Paris, like, everywhere, and Paris seems to be experiencing a very similar phenomenon because her hand is suddenly up Rory’s skirt, creeping steadily up her thigh and then—

“Aah!” Rory jumps. She shoves Paris off of her as gently as she can. It’s not exactly elegant because her hands are shaking. “Okay, we are on someone’s desk. We are on the desk of some poor, longsuffering high school teacher who is probably trying really hard to get through to his or her students! With a—a whimsical pig-wearing-glasses figurine!” Rory picks it up off the desk and holds it up as evidence. Just in case Paris isn’t convinced enough by that, Rory moves on to a nearby DVD. “Look! The Lion King! They showed their students scenes from The Lion King so they would understand that it’s an adaptation of Hamlet! We can’t do this to him or her.”

“Her. The nameplate says Mrs. Martinez. You really need to brush up on your basic observation skills, Rory. I’ve said it before and I’m going to keep saying it.”

“Okay, you need to stop watching Sherlock. It’s only bringing out your most evil qualities.”

“You want to talk about evil? Evil is leaving ourselves suspended in this limbo of sexual frustration.” Paris casts a quick, militantly determined glance around the room. “What do you think? Floor?”

“Paris!”

“The wastebasket’s empty. A janitor’s been here. That means the floor’s freshly vacuumed. Granted, I’d prefer a thorough steam cleaning, but honestly, at this point I want to jump your bones enough that it’s overpowering my germophobic tendencies.”

“Oh jeez,” Rory says, in the utter absence of anything else to say.

“Or we could just go back and watch the rest of the play,” Paris adds innocuously. “Sitting there. Right next to each other. All close but not touching. For hours and hours as teenagers do a passable job telling each other in iambic pentameter that they want to bump uglies—”

Rory imagines the scenario for about two seconds and then comes to the freaky but inevitable conclusion: “Floor.”

Turns out, it is surprisingly easy to kiss your way down onto the floor of a high school classroom if you’ve only got the proper motivation. Which is, in this case, Paris. They both get swept up in another wave of furious kissing, hands everywhere, clothes increasingly inconvenient. Kissing Paris feels so much like arguing with Paris that it makes Rory giddy; she never really realized until exactly this moment just how much she loves arguing with Paris. Apparently a lot! Paris’s hand starts wandering up Rory’s skirt again, and Rory is definitely starting to feel like it’s a great affront to all goodness in the world that Paris still has pants on.

When Rory goes for the button of Paris’s pants, Paris grabs her wrist. “No one’s going to come in, are they?”

“Aw, you don’t want to get caught,” Rory teases, keeping her focus on her new nemesis, the pants button. “That’s so prim and proper.”

“I don’t want to get caught because if anyone interrupted us, I’d have no choice but to kill them.”

“The door locked behind us when we came in, I checked.”

“You locked us in here on purpose? How long have you been orchestrating this?”

“There was no orchestrating! I didn’t even think I was going to work up the courage to kiss you. I mean, technically I don’t really know what I’m doing. I haven’t ever – you know, with another woman, and neither have you, as far as I know, unless we’re talking our fanfiction selves, so—”

“You understand the basic principles of female anatomy, don’t you, Rory?”

“As a female, I’m going to say yuh huh.”

“Well, the best course of action is to keep that knowledge in mind and touch where it’s likely to feel good. It probably won’t surprise you to find out that as a lover, I believe strongly in constructive criticism—”

Please don’t say lover.”

“You just have to keep an eye out for all the signs. Odds are, if I like it, you’ll know it; gasps, moans, trembles, dilated pupils, erect nipples, not to mention that if you’ve got your hand in my pants, it’s going to be pretty obvious if you’re doing good work or not. Increased lubrication, slight swelling—”

“Gah, Paris!” Rory would definitely have her hands over her ears if they were not busy warring with Paris’s zipper.

“I’m sorry if my med school education forever destroyed the romantic mystery of the human body for me! My point is, I’ll tell you if you’re screwing up. Don’t worry about it.” She kisses Rory, which is infinitely better than the medical TMI fest, then breaks apart to add, “I can also pause to flash a hearty thumbs up and let you know you’re on the right track, if you’re used to receiving your sexual validation from a phallic symbol.”

“Oh my God, Paris, stop talking, stop talking!” Rory says, and kisses her hard until she (mostly) does.


+


FULL TRANSCRIPTS OF DOCUMENTARY FOOTAGE – PARIS & RORY’S MODERN STARS HOLLOW FAMILY - EPISODE 4: “STARS HOLLOW-CROSSED LOVERS”

LOCATION: April Nardini’s High School Production of Romeo and Juliet – Back Row Of Auditorium
PARTICIPANTS IN QUESTION: Luke Danes and Lorelai Gilmore

[Let the record state that DANES and GILMORE whispered the following conversation, so as not to bother their fellow audience members]

LUKE
Do you think Rory’s all right? They’ve been gone awhile.

LORELAI
Rory’s fine.

LUKE
You sure? Maybe we should go check and see.

LORELAI
Oh-ho-ho, believe me, we do not need to do that.

LUKE
Why not? What if she’s sick?

LORELAI
She’s not sick.

LUKE
Why else would she and Paris be—

LORELAI
If you must know, Curious George, someone’s gettin’ lucky.

LUKE
What? Where??

LORELAI
My money’s on empty classroom. Rory’s just never struck me as one of those sex-in-bathroom girls.

LUKE
God!

LORELAI
I’m sure they closed the door first. They’re Yale educated, after all. Smart and classy.

LUKE
But this is a public place! With kids in it!

LORELAI
Says the man who did not whine about certain events that transpired between us at – or should I say in? – the Second Annual Hay Bale Maze.

LUKE
I liked that deal we made where we were never gonna mention that again. What happened to that deal? And now it’s on camera, and – gyahh. [To the camera] We are not the kind of people who just have sex everywhere we go.

LORELAI
[To the camera] He’s lying. We’re actually having sex right now.

LUKE
Oh, for God’s ...

LORELAI
Just don’t worry about it, all right, hon? The girls are fine, and probably great.

LUKE
But why would they even ... [After a glance at the camera] ... sneak off together when they’re already so used to ... uh ... doin’ that kind of thing ... all the time ... at home?

LORELAI
Fools in love, huh? Who can ever know for sure why they do what they do?

LUKE
(sighs) Okay then.

Chapter Text

Part 6

They’ve been kissing for just long enough that all the strangeness has dwindled away. No more Wow, we’ve been friends who don’t kiss for over a decade and that makes this super awkward. No more But weren’t we just pretending to be gay in the great ceaseless battle against bigotry and Bachmanns? Not even any We probably shouldn’t be doing this in a random high school classroom. Heck, not even any But really, what is the likelihood that this carpet has been steam-cleaned in the last year? Or ever?

Well, maybe a little bit of that last one.

But mostly, it’s just Paris, here and now, her mouth against Rory’s, her hands strong and sure but more gentle than Rory expected. (Not that Rory expected anything. She definitely never expected this. At least not in any conscious area of her brain.) Paris usually gives really aggressive and surprising hugs. The idea of her being gentle – being gentle for Rory’s sake – well, God, it’s hard not to like that.

And then there’s the sound of a key in the lock.

“Someone’s coming!” Rory gasps, yanking Paris’s hand out from under her shirt and sitting up.

Paris frowns. “Do you refer to yourself in the lofty third person when you climax? Because I don’t know if I can handle that.”

“What? I – no!” Rory runs her hands furiously through her hair, trying to make it look less like it has known the tussling of passion. “Someone’sat the door.”

“Oh,” Paris says, “that,” and scrambles up.

“And why would I be ... doing that ... anyway? We haven’t even done anything besides kiss.”

“And feel around a little,” Paris adds fairly.

“And feel around a little,” Rory acknowledges impatiently. “But – just a little!”

“I don’t know. Maybe kissing really does it for you.”

“It doesn’t do that much!”

“It did for fanfic Rory.”

“I am not fanfic Rory!!”

The door swings open.

At least at this point, she and Paris are standing nonchalantly in the middle of the classroom. Somehow, Rory just knows that they look like the two most conspicuous weirdos in the history of earth.

The invader is a middle aged woman with curly dark hair who, remarkably, doesn’t immediately start hitting them with her purse.

“Mrs. Martinez?” Rory guesses.

“Yeees,” poor Mrs. M answers with the sort of smile you’d smile at potential murderers. “Are you ... the custodians—” Then recognition lights her face. “Paris Geller? Oh, I heard you were here tonight! I just love you. I watch that YouTube clip of you making Bill Maher cry whenever I’m having a down day.” She grins at Rory. “Oh, and you must be the missus.”

“Yeah!” Rory says. “Yep, that’s me. You’re probably, um, wondering what we’re doing in your classroom. You see, I’ve always been a great lover of books, and ... looking at books wherever I go—”

“Oh, you don’t have to explain to me what you were doing,” Mrs. Martinez says cheerily. “I know how hard it can be to get some private time with your sweetie. Especially when you’ve got cameras following you around all the time.”

“Oh, we weren’t—”

“Not to mention that high schoolers doing Shakespeare is only tolerable for so long,” she adds. “I teach it for a living. I know that better than most.”

Paris steps forward. “Thanks ...?”

“Julia,” supplies Mrs. M, kind of giddily.

“Julia,” Paris says. “You did us a solid.”

“Oh, it’s no problem,” Mrs. M says. Then, with a kind of desperate awe, she asks, “Can I get your autograph??”


+


Once they’re back out in the hallway, it’s like coming out of a trance. Suddenly, everything that has existed in a sort of terrifying but weirdly delicious haze for the past few days loses its glow.

What just happened??

“That was so humiliating,” Rory whispers. Her cheeks are so warm that her face might actually start melting. “What were we thinking?”

What she means is ‘why did we think it was a good idea to get snuggly in a random high school classroom? We are grown adults! We went to Yale!’, but as soon as it’s out of her mouth she realizes that those nuances don’t necessarily come through.

Sure enough, Paris gets that stricken, stony look that only comes out when her feelings are really hurt.

“Oh, Paris, I didn’t mean—”

“No, I know,” Paris interrupts. “What were we thinking, right?”

Rory opens her mouth, but before she can say anything, they turn a corner and there’s Nigel and the camera crew waiting for them.

Which means it’s showtime.


+


FULL TRANSCRIPTS OF DOCUMENTARY FOOTAGE – PARIS & RORY’S MODERN STARS HOLLOW FAMILY - EPISODE 4: “STARS HOLLOW-CROSSED LOVERS”

LOCATION: April Nardini’s High School Production of Romeo and Juliet – Lobby Outside Auditorium

[Let the record state that RORY GILMORE and PARIS GELLER both look rather disheveled and out of breath]

INTERVIEWER
Ladies! There you are! Where on earth did you disappear off to?

RORY
Oh. I was just – feeling sick, and Paris came to check up on me.

PARIS
You’re lucky you weren’t there, Nigel. It got grim.

RORY
Thanks.

PARIS
Vomit everywhere.

RORY
I wouldn’t say everywhere—

PARIS
I’m lucky she didn’t puke in my hair.

RORY
Paris!

PARIS
She does that.

INTERVIEWER
Yeesh.

PARIS
You might as well call her the Great Barfmaster.

RORY
Can this interview be over now?


+


It turns out that Nigel isn’t only the world’s chipperest documentarian; he’s also a major germophobe. Hanging around The Great Barfmaster clearly isn’t on his to-do list, so he and the camera crew call it a night and head back to the Dragonfly.

It’s a relief. Tonight has been too weird. Rory’s not sure she has the strength to live the Paris and Rory’s Modern Stars Hollow Family lie at the moment. Especially since it’s suddenly become really hard to tell just how much lie they’re dealing with here.

She tries to remember why she thought this was a good idea. What in the world could have made her forget how easy it is to accidentally punch Paris right in the soul and then spend at least a month as her sworn worst enemy? Keeping Paris around as a best friend has always been hard enough.

And sure, yes, all right, the kissing part was good. The closeness and the eagerness and the breathlessness, all good. And sure, yes, all right, there’s a part of Rory that still kind of wants to ... you know ... investigate that a little more. Live the fantasy, even if it’s definitely not a fantasy she ever would have cooked up on her own without Paris dragging her into it.

But the fact remains. Rory Gilmore? Not really a risk taker by nature, if she can possibly help it. And when the thing she might lose is her friendship with Paris? It’s one of those risks that just isn’t worth it.

Like a really short haircut that might turn out cute but might also make you look like an adult pretending to be Ramona Quimby.

Or something.

Her similes aren’t entirely on point tonight.


+


Once they get home, it’s pretty late. Rory tries to catch Paris’s eye when they step into the house, but Paris is staunchly avoiding her. And it’s not like they can just have a deep heart-to-heart conversation with her mom and Luke here.

Rory is what some would call a mommy’s girl, it’s true, but that doesn’t mean she wants Lorelai to have a front row seat to the awkward ‘So, what does it mean that we almost did the dirty on the floor of a high school classroom?’ convo that she and Paris are doomed to.

Poor Luke would probably faint or something.

“Are you blushing?” Lorelai asks, squinting at Rory as they head into the living room.

“She was barfing,” Paris says bluntly. “She’s probably feverish.”

Lorelai presses the back of her hand to Rory’s forehead. “You don’t feel hot to me.”

“Excuse me, is anyone else in this room entitled to a medical opinion?” Paris demands.

“Uh, is your name Tai, by any chance? Because that was way harsh.”

“Sorry Lorelai,” Paris says, with that contrite-yet-impatient vibe that she gets whenever she remembers she should probably be nice to her fellow humans. “I just—get worried. About germs. And contagions. They’re a real threat, people. Being casual about vomit? Might just be the last thing you do.”

“That’s nice,” Luke says bleakly.

“That’s facts, Captain Flannel!” Paris barks.

Rory decides it’s time to put a stop to this. “I’m fine. I’m just ... tired. I’m gonna head to bed and sleep it off, okay?” She turns to Paris, striving for super casual. “Unless ... you wanted to talk, or—”

“And have an all access pass to your vomit germs?” Paris says bluntly. “No thanks.”

“Fine,” Rory says, frustrated.

She doesn’t stop walking until she’s in her room with the door shut safely behind her. Once it’s closed, she leans against it and closes her eyes. She’s feeling distinctly jittery. Maybe Paris was right. Maybe she is feverish. And there is a part of her that’s pretty sure she’s going to barf.

“Listen, self,” she says. To herself. Which, okay, maybe isn’t her sanest moment. “You are going to put your pajamas on, you are going to get into bed, and you are going to chill. If Paris doesn’t want to talk, then you don’t have to talk. You tried.”

It’s the closest thing she has to an organized plan right now, and Rory Gilmore is a great believer in the organized plan.


+


Unfortunately, even in the most organized of plans, there are factors that aren’t accounted for. And tonight, it’s Lorelai Gilmore.

Rory is in bed, staring determinedly at page 110 of Wolf Hall.

Lorelai peeks into the room and ... starts winking really exaggeratedly.

Really?” Rory says, groaning.

“What?” Lorelai asks innocently. “This is my goodnight face.”

“Well, your goodnight face is creepy.”

“I think someone’s a little lonely out there,” Lorelai adds, nodding toward the living room. Then she starts winking again.

“You’re crazy,” Rory declares.

“You are crazy,” Luke contributes as he shuffles by.

“You don’t even know what I’m doing,” Lorelai protests, offended.

“Don’t need to. Crazy’s your default.”

“Okay: rude.”

“Thanks for the support, Luke!” Rory calls.

“Sure thing. ‘Night, Rory.”

Lorelai scowls exaggeratedly, then returns to the subject at hand. “I’m just saying. Paris is out there coloring farm animals with the ferocity of Khal Drogo. Go to her.”

“I don’t think she wants to talk to me,” Rory says, hugging a pillow against her chest.

Lorelai slips into the room and shuts the door behind her. “Yeesh. That bad, huh?”

“Shhh!” Rory orders.

Lorelai points to the closed door.

Rory grimaces. “Yeah, well. Still.”

“Tough night?”

“I so don’t want to get into it.”

“Aw. That’s okay, hon.” Lorelai sits at the foot of Rory’s bed.

Rory sighs. “How did you know that you and Luke could make it as a couple? Like, really make it, and not just wreck everything about your friendship?”

“Well, to be fair, we did do that for a highly depressing little while.”

“Oh yeah,” Rory says glumly.

“But I don’t think you ever really know, babe. You just have to be ready to be there for each other, and be open and honest about what you’re really feeling, and then you just have to jump.”

“I hate jumping.”

“Oh, come on. Did you or did you not beg me to buy you a trampoline for like five years?”

“And you never got me one. It’s turned me into a warped and bitter jumping hater.”

“Fortunately, warped and bitter sounds just like Paris’s type.”

“Mom!” Rory smacks her lightly with a pillow.

“I’m just saying! You gotta talk it out, kid. That’s the only way.”

“I’m gonna hold this advice against you the next time you have a fight with Grandma,” Rory threatens.

“Uh, I’m not trying to be Grandma’s girlfriend,” Lorelai retorts. “Totally not the same.”

“It’s an important relationship in your life,” Rory says. “It’s a little the same.”

“When did this conversation become about attacking Mommy?”

“All conversations should be, I think,” Rory says faux-thoughtfully.

At this point, Lorelai makes her graceful exit. But not before mouthing ‘TALK TO HER!’ with exactly no subtlety.

Rory sighs.


+


When Rory goes out into the living room, Paris is sitting on the couch coloring aggressively by lamplight. It’s very Blue’s Clues meets Byronic hero.

“Hiya,” says Rory.

“Oh,” Paris says, freezing. “Rory. I didn’t see you there.”

“Well,” Rory says, “there I was. Am. Here.”

“Yes,” says Paris.

Well, this bodes well for a future of sparkling and witty banter.

Rory nears the couch. Cautiously. It’s creepier, somehow, to see Paris channeling all her emotions into coloring than it would be to see her pacing the house and roaring a lot like a romantically confused tiger. “So, uh. Whatcha coloring?”

“Baby goats.”

“Baby goats,” Rory says. “Cool.”

“It’s a party,” says Paris flatly.

Rory sits down on the arm of the couch, and feels some irrational Frodo level bravery for doing it. “Do you ... want to talk about ...”

“Nope,” Paris says.

“Paris, come on—”

Then there’s the sound of big, tromping footsteps, and her mom and Luke come into the living room. Well, it’s more like Lorelai shoves Luke into the living room.

“Hey, so uh,” Luke says, “we have to spend the night at the apartment over the diner. You know. Work related emergency.” He shrugs the world’s most unconvincing shrug.

“We have to wake up early,” Lorelai says. “With the ... pies.”

“Yeah,” Luke says helplessly. “They’re ... early pies.”

“Diva pies, if you ask me,” says Lorelai. “Pies that have gotten their way one too many times. But what can you do, right? It’s not like you can fight pies.”

“No sir,” says Luke.

“You two will be fine on your own tonight, right? Right, okay, great. Byeeeee!” And with that, Lorelai drags Luke out the front door.

Rory is torn between feeling incredibly thankful and wanting to chase after them, yelling, Wait, come back!

In the wake of their totally weird absence, the house goes quiet.

Like, quiet-quiet.

Really quiet.

“I think your mom wants us to get it on,” Paris says at last.

“She’s supportive in that way,” Rory agrees meekly.

“Well, you can tell her it’s not necessary,” Paris continues after a moment. “We’ve moved past it. I definitely found out most of what I need to know to write a convincing piece of internet smut, so ...”

Rory groans impatiently. “Paris, when I said ‘what were we thinking?’, I just meant that the timing and location weren’t ideal. I mean, that’s not us, is it? Maybe it's you a little bit, but I’m just not that kind of person. Jeopardizing over ten years of friendship just so we can have some random, seriously ill-advised hookup – we’re smarter than that. Not that I’m saying we shouldn’t ... shouldn’t be together like that someday. I just think we really need to consider all of the potential repercussions.” She brightens. “Maybe we could—”

“If you say ‘make a pro/con list’, I’m shoving this crayon down your throat,” Paris interrupts. “And forest green doesn’t go down smooth.”

“What’s wrong with pro/con lists in a situation like this?” Rory urges. “You love to plan just as much as I do. More so, even! I’ve never created one of those creepy complex information walls usually only found in the lairs of serial killers, and you totally have. And do you remember the whiteboards you put all around the apartment during our senior year at Yale? Those whiteboards were so terrifying M. Night Shyamalan wishes he had thought of them. They would have breathed some serious new life into his career.”

It’s like Paris isn’t even listening to her. “Being crazy – it’s not you, huh?”

“I think you know it’s not,” Rory says.

Paris takes a deep breath. “Your first time was with a married guy. You skipped school to follow an emo kid around New York City. You stole a boat and went to jail. You dropped out of Yale. You hooked up with Logan Huntzberger at your grandparents’ vow renewal. Also, you let him and a bunch of gorilla faced yuppies kidnap you and drag you out into the woods.”

“That was a lot quainter than you made it sound,” Rory says defensively. “They had evening gowns.”

“You stole cornstarch!” Paris accuses, waving a finger.

“That was a really long time ago,” Rory protests. “And it was under very innocent circumstances—”

“The good people of Stars Hollow need their cornstarch, Rory!” Paris thunders.

“Hey!” Rory says, annoyance bubbling up. “Why has this turned into the Everything Rory Gilmore Ever Did Wrong parade? I just want to talk about what happened—”

“You do crazy things,” Paris says. “You might not want to admit it. You might like that Upstanding Citizen Rory Gilmore persona too much to ever admit who you really are. But you’ve taken a lot of stupid risks in your day, Gilmore. Usually for some idiot guy. But the second that one of them involves me, it’s Spring Break 2004 and ‘Ew, a girl kissed me!’ all over again.”

“Paris, that is not what’s going on here! I said ‘ew’ because that wasn’t a real kiss! And I’m the one who kissed you first this time, remember?”

“And yet before things went too far, you were all too happy to shut it down.”

“So we were just supposed to keep hooking up in front of poor Mrs. Martinez? You should want better for her, Paris! She let you autograph her iPhone! Those things are expensive!”

“I’m just saying don’t worry about it,” Paris says stonily. “I don’t expect anything from you. Once all of this is over, it will be friendship as usual. Hell, maybe we can stage a breakup in the last episode. Sure, it will give the right wing yet more reason to feel high and mighty about the sanctity of the myth that is traditional marriage, but boy, do those TV viewers love the drama. Look out, Kardashians.”

“I’m just saying that this is the kind of thing that we need to think about,” Rory says, striving to stay calm instead of shouting her head off like a crazy person. “If it didn’t work out, and it messed up our friendship, it would make me really sad. Wouldn’t it make you sad?”

“Well, it’s nice to know my friendship means so much to you,” Paris says, in a way that sounds more like Why don’t you go jump in a lake of fire?.

“It does,” Rory says, even though she wouldn’t entirely hate that lake of fire right now if it meant getting out of this conversation. “Paris, this is so new. I never even thought about anything like this before until this whole thing started, and I know you didn’t either. Shouldn’t we just ... take our time? And make sure to prioritize being friends over everything else?”

Paris flips the coloring book page and starts assaulting some new barnyard cartoons. Under her breath, she mutters, “Just gals being pals. The no homo homies.” 

“I just don’t think we need to make this situation any more complicated than it is right now,” Rory continues, frustration all a-crackle inside of her. “We’re already lying to the American public. I’m in deep, deep denial about what this is going to do to my journalistic integrity. Which is, you know, make it go poof! But whenever that thought comes into my brain, I just think about cotton candy and puppies and Mallory Ortberg instead so that I don’t keel over and die immediately.”

“Whatever. You’re Nellie Bly. This is your undercover-in-a-madhouse adventure. You’ll put some brilliant spin on it just like you always do.”

Normally a Nellie Bly comparison would warm the cockles of Rory’s heart, but this conversation is too exhausting for even Nellie-induced happiness.

“I just want us to do this carefully,” she says wearily.

“No,” Paris says. “You just want to slow things down.”

“And you just want to ... hook up as soon as possible? Like ... like a friends with benefits-y fling? I don’t think I could have a fling with you, Paris.”

“Big surprise,” Paris mutters. She slams her coloring book shut, snatches up her box of crayons, and storms out of the room.

Rory stares after her helplessly.

“What?” she whispers to nobody.

Maybe Paris really does just want to get it on for the sake of fanfiction. Maybe Rory misread this whole thing in a feat of idiocy so stunning that Adam Sandler could star in the hypothetical film adaptation.

Most of the time, she feels like she knows Paris really well. Like she understands her in a way no one else does, even. But then there are times like these where the girl is just a big Broadchurchy heap of twisty-turny inscrutable mystery.

The doorbell rings.

Something else to think about! Thank God.

Rory sprints to it like it’s the Poptart delivery man.

(Which, how cool would it be if those existed? She needs to imagine some beauty into the world right now.)

To her surprise, Lane is standing there. Lane’s not usually super into leaving the house after 8 PM these days. Mommy hours, and all that.

“Hey Rory,” she says. “How’s it goin’?”

“Oh, you know,” says Rory. “Saw some Shakespeare. Accidentally made out with Paris in a classroom. Scared a teacher. Made Paris hate me forever for approximately the five hundredth time since we met.”

“So, uh, this is probably the perfect time for a really weird distraction?” Lane says hopefully.

Rory sighs. “Sure. Hit me.”

“There’s kind of ... a hostage situation.”

“A what?” Rory says blankly.

“Basically exactly what I said,” says Lane.

Well. That’s interesting.

“Paris!” Rory calls. “I’m going out, okay?”

No answer.

Well, fine.

Rory slips into her coat and scarf and follows Lane down the driveway.

“Brace yourself,” Lane advises.

“Why don’t you just tell me who the hostage is?” Rory asks.

“Honestly, I kind of crave the drama,” Lane admits.

“Fair enough,” says Rory.


+


Ten minutes later, she is standing in Miss Patty’s studio. So is half of Stars Hollow. And they’re all rushing up to her.

“He just showed up, sugar, and we knew we couldn’t let him blow your cover!” says Babette. “A miscreant like him – there’s no way he can be trusted with this charade!”

“He certainly cannot!” Taylor huffs. “In fact, I don’t know why we didn’t just send him scampering off in the opposite direction the second he crossed the town line.”

“We can’t just kick people out of the town, Taylor,” Miss Patty says placatingly. In an undertone, she adds, “No matter how much they deserve it.”

“I offered to have Lulu do his makeup,” Kirk informs Rory. “He said no. But there’s no way anyone’s going to buy that he’s a lady.”

Rory pushes her way through the Stars Hollow masses and finally makes it to the front of the dance studio.

And there, sitting next to the podium and looking about as enchanted with Stars Hollow as he’s ever been, is:

“Jess?” Rory gasps.

Chapter Text

“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.

Chapter Text

For a few days, it seems like Jess and Alex are actually going to succeed at the whole “downlow” thing. They hide out at Liz and T.J.’s, a place where the cameras have not yet gone. Rory hopes that Nigel never finds out about Liz and T.J., because there is no denying that they have quirky reality TV potential written all over them.

Meanwhile, it’s back to business in Raris Land. Thanks to some ungodly scheme of Paris’s, they’ve been dubbed the Queens of the Firelight Festival. The Firelight Festival has never had a queen before, let alone two, but that’s not stopping the town from taking the stupid idea and running with it.

It turns out that the Queen(s) of the Firelight Festival must participate in the ceremonial Dance of the Fire Fairies.

(“Ceremonial dance?” Rory repeated, aghast, when Paris dropped that lovely bit of news in her lap. “Why?”

“We have to take adorable to the next level if we want to do this right,” Paris told her. “This is how we win the Toddlers and Tiaras/Honey Boo Boo crowd. Believe me, Rory: once we snag that demographic, the war on bigotry will be half over.”

“You have seen me dance, right? There’s no way me dancing is going to contribute any progress to the world!”

“Don’t worry,” Paris said. “I’ve got moves enough for the both of us.”

“If you say so,” said Rory warily, remembering Paris and Doyle’s senior-year-at-Yale adventures in hip hop dancing. “And hey – what the heck is a fire fairy?”

“It doesn’t matter. It alliterates. That’s enough to charm most of the idiots in this country.”

“You are a heartwarming person, you know that?” said Rory.)

So now, for the fourth day in a row, they’re in the dance studio, practicing their latest foray into pure public humiliation. All of Miss Patty’s itty bitty pupils have been recruited to dance as the fire fairies. Mostly, it involves waving their arms a lot and going “OoOoOooOoo!”, for a reason Rory has not yet figured out, and probably never will. They’re dancing to “Fever” by Peggy Lee, despite the fact that it strikes Rory as a weirdly saucy ditty to have a bunch of kids dancing to. Miss Patty insists that it keeps with the burning-love theme.

Rory tries not to think about the fact that a few weeks ago she was well on her way to becoming a respected journalist.

She spins with all the grace of a drunk giraffe, clasps Paris’s hand, and then spins away again.

Fortunately, all of this is weird enough it doesn’t really allow her to dwell on touching Paris.

Not that she would dwell otherwise. Touching doesn’t matter when you’re on pause.

Rory ignores the tingling in her fingers and does a very stupid sashay step ... type ... thing.

And that’s when it all falls apart. Very possibly because the universe just cannot take Rory dancing anymore.

“Jess!” cries Doula, abandoning her own dance moves and waving happily.

Rory glances out at the street. Sure enough, Jess and Alex are hurrying toward Luke’s. They probably thought that they were safe, since Rory texted earlier to let Jess know that Nigel and his crew would be sticking to the dance studio.

Oh no oh no oh no.

“Um,” she says, “check this out, everybody!”

In a panic, she starts shimmying at Paris. Paris looks at her with what just might be disgust.

“I’m really feeling the chemistry right now!” Rory says desperately. “Aren’t you?”

“Oh, honey,” says Miss Patty despairingly.

Shockingly, Rory’s sweet dance move does not manage to distract Nigel.

“Jess??” he exclaims, lighting up. “The Jess? Katy! Rick! Let’s go!”

He bounces out of the dance studio, a man on a mission. Katy and Rick slouch reluctantly after him.

“Rookie move, munchkin,” Paris snaps at Doula.

“How about let’s not berate the small child for saying hi to her brother,” Rory says, steering Paris away. She smiles as comfortingly as she can at Doula and says, “You’re doing so great, Doula! You’re the most wonderful fire fairy we’ve ever seen! Right, Paris?”

“Yeah, sure,” Paris says dispassionately.

“That’s not fair!” cries the girl standing next to Doula. “What about the rest of us?”

“Well – you’re good too,” Rory says, but it’s too late.

The room erupts into children wailing indignantly.

Miss Patty gives Rory a very unimpressed What did you expect? kind of look. 

“Um,” Rory says. “Sorry! Gotta go!”

She and Paris book it out of the dance studio, leaving Miss Patty to deal with a swarm of whiny kids.

Poor Stars Hollow. Rory really needs to get every person in this town a really nice fruit basket when this is all over.

(Well, maybe Taylor’s will be just okay. He can have Granny Smith apples.)

When they burst into Luke’s, the camera crew is up at the counter, but Jess and Alex are nowhere to be seen.

“But I could have sworn I saw them come in here!” Nigel is exclaiming in distress.

“I don’t know what to tell you, Nigel,” Luke replies. “Nobody came in.”

“If we could just ... check around a little bit—” Nigel implores, peering in the direction of the storeroom.

“Nope,” says Luke.

“But if it’s in the name of epic documentary filmmaking, surely you—”

“Nope. Hey, uh, Rory, could you grab me some pickles?” says Luke pointedly.

“Sure, Luke!” Rory says, grabbing Paris’s arm and dragging her to the storeroom.

She got to go in there!”

“Stepdaughters get special storeroom privileges,” says Luke.

“Well, drat,” says Nigel, but doesn’t dare to argue with that cardinal rule.


+


Sure enough, Alex and Jess are crouched in the corner of the storeroom, cozying up to some mustard. Jess looks mostly confused about how his life has devolved so swiftly into ridiculousness, which Rory can identify with. Alex is giggling into her fist.

“Did they follow us?” Jess asks.

“He’s right outside,” Rory reports. “You guys, I am so sorry. Luke is stalling him out there, but I’m not sure how long it will last.”

Alex stands up. “Okay. You know what? Let’s just do this and get it over with.”

“Are you serious?” says Rory.

“Seriously?” says Jess at the same time.

So at least she’s not alone.

“Totally,” says Alex. “No offense to your mom’s house, hon – my nostrils have really embraced the scent of patchouli – but I’m getting pretty tired of hiding out. Why not embrace a life of glorious deception?”

“Then who am I supposed to be?” Jess points out.

“You’re boy me, duh.” Alex snaps her fingers at him. “Come on, Mariano. Keep up.” She turns to Rory and Paris. “So tell me everything I need to know about being high school Jess.”

Rory opens her mouth to offer some deep advice along the lines of “Just be Aubrey Plaza”, but – surprise, surprise – Paris gets there first.

“You use a lot of gel to carefully muss your hair considering your whole thing is a super existential ‘too cool to care about anything’ mystique,” Paris says. “You’re more literate than the average bear, which makes you, like, such the total hottie, even if – let’s be real – physique-wise, you’ve got all the macho cred of a prepubescent Harry Potter. At least you’ve read Kerouac, right? You think exhibiting common courtesy toward your girlfriend on a consistent basis is a big chore; it keeps cramping your loner style. You smoke a lot, like the big bad rebel you are. Who cares about lung health when you can get your James Dean on? And you have no respect for lawn ornaments, which is apparently a big no-no in this town.”

“Hey!” says Jess, offended.

Paris folds her arms, giving him a stare of merciless realness.

“... That’s all pretty accurate,” Jess admits grumblingly.

“Wow, high school Jess sucks,” Alex says, smirking. To Rory, she says, “I am so sorry.”

“Oh, you know,” Rory says mercifully, shrugging. “He had his good moments.”

“Thank you,” Jess says, giving her one of those crooked little smiles of his.

Rory notices Paris glancing back and forth between them, her expression a little too neutral.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Rory asks, shifting her attention quickly from Jess to Alex. “Because you don’t have to.”

“Please,” Alex says. “I was born for this moment.”

“Since when?” Jess demands.

“About five seconds ago,” Alex replies.

That’s reassuring,” Jess mutters.

“Enough of your sass, boy me,” says Alex majestically. “Let’s do this.”

 

+


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

INTERVIEW – Jessica Mariano & Male Companion (Albert)

LOCATION: Luke’s Diner


INTERVIEWER
Could this be the infamous Jessica Mariano?

JESS
Yeah. That’s me. ‘Sup.

[Let the record state that at this point, Jess’s male companion looks unaccountably offended.]

INTERVIEWER
What a thrill it is to meet you at last! I’ve heard quite a bit about you from the fine folks of Stars Hollow. Apparently you left quite a dent in Rory Gilmore’s heart.

JESS
Well, ya know. It’s like Kerouac says.

[A long pause.]

INTERVIEWER
... Yes?

JESS
... Um. I believe it goes ... “Bitches only drag you down. For me, I choose the open road, and whiskey, and a day’s honest pain.”

INTERVIEWER
Ah. And what is that ... that insightful quotation from, exactly?

JESS
Oh, you probably haven’t heard of it. It’s pretty obscure.

INTERVIEWER
Do tell!

[Another long pause.]

JESS
... A Night Without Armor.

INTERVIEWER
Hmm. Sounds vaguely familiar. I’ll have to look it up when I get the chance!

JESS
Yeah, don’t do that. Uh. Hey. This is my—person.

MALE COMPANION
Hey, I’m Al—

JESS
—bert. This here’s Albert. He’s my opposite sex lover.

MALE COMPANION (heretofore referred to as ‘ALBERT’)
... Yep. That’s me. Albert.

INTERVIEWER
A pleasure, Albert!

ALBERT
Sure is.

[Let the record state that Albert continues to look very uncomfortable. Perhaps he suffers from some physical ailment?]

INTERVIEWER
Do you know, you look just like an Albert.

ALBERT
Gee. Swell.

INTERVIEWER
Now, Jess, what brings you back to Stars Hollow? Did the national hype about Raris bring Rory Gilmore back into the forefront of your mind? Maybe ... remind you of what you’d lost?

JESS
Uh, nope. I just wanted to come back for the Firelight Festival. Not that I care about festivals. Festivals are all about the man, and the man can suck it. You know what I mean? The man can suck it hard.

INTERVIEWER
Oh my.

JESS
But I love ... firelight. It reminds me of lighters. And cigarettes. You know what I love? A good cigarette. Just smokin’. Mmmm.

INTERVIEWER
But your health!

JESS
Whatever, man.

INTERVIEWER
So would you say you’ve moved on from Rory to this young fellow?

JESS
Oh yeah. Totally.

INTERVIEWER
If you don’t mind my asking – did you find your interest in women waning as you grew up? Was Rory just a phase?

JESS
I don’t really believe in labels, yo. It’s just like ... whoever won’t be too up in my grill is good enough for me. Like, as long as I don’t have to call you every day, we’re cool. You dig?

ALBERT
Whoa. That’s a little cold.

JESS
But accurate, right?

ALBERT
You know, I think you’ve really grown since your days with Rory. Don’t you?

JESS (making a ‘so-so’ hand gesture)
Ehhh!

ALBERT
Cute.

INTERVIEWER
I presume you saw Rory Gilmore in the storeroom back there. Did any old sparks rekindle?

JESS
Nope.

INTERVIEWER
Are you sure?

JESS
Yep.

INTERVIEWER
Not even a little spark?

JESS
Not a one.

INTERVIEWER
Not yet.

JESS
Uh, my boyfriend’s right there, dude.

INTERVIEWER
I’m sorry, Albert. But I don’t think any of us can deny the adorable charisma of Rory Gilmore.

ALBERT
That’s fair.

JESS
I’m denying it right now.

INTERVIEWER
Well. We’ll see.

JESS
Listen, I’d love to have this fight with you, man, but The Smiths aren’t gonna listen to themselves, you dig?

ALBERT
[groans]


+


Paris and Rory are sitting against the wall in the storeroom, listening to the interview-shaped disaster that’s going on outside.

“This is bad,” Paris says. “Nigel is thirsty, Rory. Thirsty for drama. He’s trying to start a love triangle.”

“Well, he won’t,” Rory says. “Because there’s no love triangle.”

“You think that matters? Love triangles are the blood that beats through the veins of television, Rory. Grey’s Anatomy would have lasted, what, two episodes without them? I promise you, old Nige is going to do whatever he can to turn our beautiful love into geometric dramarama.”

“But isn’t this supposed to be an inspirational documentary about steadfast true love?”

“Rory, the man makes reality TV. He’s going to chase the drama. He can’t help it. He’s weak. The only thing we can do now is outwit him at his own game.”

“Aren’t we doing that already?” Rory says. “What with all the lying?”

“Kind of,” Paris says. “But this is going to turn into some next level business. We need to prepare ourselves.”

She pulls out her phone, and then does some frenzied swiping ‘n typing.

“Who are you writing to?” Rory asks.

“The experts,” says Paris ominously.


+


And so, not for the first time this week, some visitors appear in Stars Hollow in the dead of night.

This time, a very shiny, moonlight-drenched Audi pulls up into the driveway of the Gilmore-Danes house at around 10:30. Rory and Paris are waiting outside, bundled up and clutching mugs of hot cocoa in self preservation.

The car doors open, and out climb two people Rory hasn’t thought about in a long time.

“Oh my God,” says Rory. “So this is really happening.”

“It had to be done,” Paris replies grimly. “They’ll know better than most how to navigate the minefield of reality TV drama, and you know it.”

“Hi to you too, bitches!!!” says Madeline.

Louise gives them a scrunchy-fingered wave, then heaves a blonde toddler out of the back seat of the car.

“Ugh. My nanny’s got the flu,” she announces. “Can you believe it? Have you ever had to hang out with a kid all day?”

“Uh,” Rory says. “Not that I can remember.”

“Well, don’t,” Louise says crisply. “It’s such a drag. I mean, he’s cute and I love him and everything, but have you ever tried to have an actual conversation with a two year old? Boring.

“Not enough opinions on the latest issue of Goop?” Paris says sardonically.

“Exactly,” says Louise, totally without irony.

“You guys made it here so fast!” Rory says. “I didn’t know you still lived around here.”

“Please. We don’t. Malibu, baby. But my husband has a private jet.” Madeline injects a whole lot of duh into that statement, like private jets are something that come along with all husbands. “I can’t believe it took you guys this long to contact us! We were about to come find you on our own, I swear. What is this hot mess you’ve gotten yourselves into?”

“Because we know you weren’t dating in high school,” Louise adds. “Chilton Era Paris would have been so much easier to deal with if she’d been getting some.”

“Wow,” Paris drawls sarcastically. “Remind me why we don’t hang out anymore.”

“This better not all be happening because of that spring break where we told you about making out to get stuff,” Louise says. “That was our thing first, and not to make threats or anything, but my husband is hella litigious.”

“No, no. Nothing like that. We – lied for justice,” Rory explains. “Or something.”

Honestly, at this point she doesn’t even know.

“Paris started a feud with Michelle Bachmann,” she adds, for context.

“The annoying little sister on Buffy?” Madeline says, frowning.

“Come on, Ivy League,” Paris snaps. “Get your head in the game.”

“Conservative homophobe politician,” Rory says.

“Ohhhh. So you’re doing it to make the world a better place.” Madeline smiles. “That is so typical Rory and Paris.”

“Mega inspirational,” says Louise. “And we’re totally here to help. As long as you put us in your show.”

Rory immediately does not like that idea. “I don’t know if we should let it get more complicated than it already is—”

“Oh, come on,” Madeline cajoles. “If you put us in, we’ll totally lend credence to the whole ‘Rory and Paris, soulmates since high school’ charade.”

“And if you don’t,” Louise says, “it would be really easy for us to slip up and tell the truth. You know. Accidentally.”

“Are you blackmailing us?” Rory says. She whirls around to face Paris. “Did you bring blackmailers to my house??”

“Don’t think of it as blackmail,” Madeline says. “Think of it as you giving us the opportunity to become the reality TV stars that we’ve always been destined to be.”

“It’s a possibility,” Paris says briskly. “It depends on how good your advice is.”

“Fair enough,” Louise says icily.

Louise’s son starts making some fussy noises. Rory knows how he feels. 

“Hey! Knock it off, Channing. If you’re good, Mommy will give you a cookie.” Louise looks up at Rory. “Do you have cookies? I’ve only got kale chips, and he hates those. His palate is so basic, I swear. Gwyneth’s kids would never.”

“Um, yeah,” Rory says. “Come on in.”

As they head toward the house, Paris stares down at the little guy. “Please tell me that kid isn’t named after Channing Tatum.”

“You know I can’t do that,” Louise says solemnly.


+

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

INTERVIEW – Jessica Mariano, Liz Danes & T.J.

LIZ
So, this is my daughter, Jess. Her full name is ... Jessula.

JESS
Or Jessica.

LIZ
Oh, that’s right. Jessica. Of course! Jessica. Because that makes sense. Well, I just fell in love with that name as soon as I thought of it. Jessica. Because it means ...

T.J.
“She who is a girl.”

LIZ
Yes! Yes, exactly. Isn’t that beautiful? It’s ...

T.J. (overlapping)
Vulcan.

LIZ (overlapping)
Hebrew.

T.J.
Yeah. What she said.

LIZ
“She who is a girl” in Hebrew. That sounds ... right. Right, honey?

JESS
Oh, yep. Super right.

T.J.
Because she is! A girl! I mean, look at ‘er!

JESS
Thanks, Teej.

T.J.
And since she is, and has always been, a girl, I gotta ask: why was she so grumpy about me wearin’ tights when I married Liz here? Girls love tights!

JESS
Girls don’t always love men in tights.

LIZ
Well now, that’s not true!

T.J.
Ooh. 

[Let the record state that Liz and T.J. begin engaging in some unsettlingly flirtatious behavior.]

JESS
Yep, let’s shut that right down.

INTERVIEWER
Oh dear. Let’s. Speaking of friskiness! Are you happy to see Jess with Albert?

T.J.
Him? I don’t know about that guy. I don’t know if he’s good enough for my stepdaughter. She got standards, you know?

[Let the record state that for someone concerned about his stepchild’s welfare, T.J. seems to find this mysteriously hilarious.]

LIZ
Oh, stop! You’re so bad.

T.J.
Hell yeah.



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

INTERVIEW – Luke Danes & Albert

ALBERT
This is my first time in Stars Hollow, but, uh. I can pretty confidently say that if I lived here, I’d jump off a bridge.

LUKE
Hell, I’d push you off the bridge.

ALBERT
Good times.



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

INTERVIEW – Rory Gilmore


INTERVIEWER
How are you feeling about Jess being back in town?

RORY
Happy, I guess.

INTERVIEWER
Happy to have another chance with your long lost love?

RORY
No, happy because h—she’s happy, and doing well, and that makes me really glad. I always knew that she had so much potential that most people didn’t see, and it’s great to see her at such a good place in her life. We haven’t dated for a long time, and that’s for the best, but I’ll always consider us friends.

INTERVIEWER
And what about Albert?

RORY
Albert’s parents probably should have been more careful about naming him, but other than that, he’s a good guy.

INTERVIEWER
And you don’t feel any ... regrets?

RORY
Are you trying to start a love triangle?

INTERVIEWER
Are you trying to avoid the question?

RORY
No! No regrets. The thing I had with Jess, it’s in the past, and I’m just glad that we’re both doing well. Maybe I’m not where I thought I would be in high school, but—but I think I’m happy just where I am.



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

INTERVIEW – Paris Geller


INTERVIEWER
Would you say that you’re worried about the stability of your relationship with Rory, now that Jess is back in town?

[Let the record state that there is a long silence in which Geller does not respond to the question]

INTERVIEWER
Paris?

PARIS
What? Um. No.

INTERVIEWER
Are you sure?

PARIS
I know Rory. I know what she really wants.

Chapter Text

“First,” says Madeline, “you have to tell us what we’re working with here.”

“We saw the Starbucks kissing pictures,” Louise begins. Channing tries to climb up her leg. She absently shoves him down.

“You did?” Rory says. She hands another cookie to poor little Channing. Paris gives her a bemused little smile. Paris has always been baffled by anyone’s ability to tolerate small children.

“Of course,” says Madeline. “We have the internet. But what we don’t know yet is just what kind of relationship you’re rocking here.”

“The good kind,” Paris says flatly.

“How so?” Madeline asks, with a level of interest that never made an appearance during any of their group projects back at Chilton.

“Loving? Secure? Full of trust? All that fun stuff?” Rory suggests.

“Boring, boring, boring,” Louise declares.

“You’re definitely going to have to do better than that,” Madeline agrees.

“Better than an ideal relationship?” Rory says skeptically.

“Duh,” says Madeline.

“You have to rebrand, baby,” says Louise. “People want dark. Destructive. Dangerous. Think 50 Shades of Grey.”

“I try not to,” Rory says. “Ever, actually.”

“Well, you’ve got to now, book snob,” says Louise. “If you want to stop an audience from wanting love triangle drama, then you’re only going to do it by having a relationship so full of drama that a third person isn’t required to shake things up.”

“But doesn’t that kind of defeat our whole point?” Rory has to ask.

“Your point?” Madeline says blankly.

“That loving, stable relationships are the same regardless of sexual orientation?”

“Yeah, that works for a five minute Macklemore song,” Madeline says. “But no one’s going to want to watch it for six episodes.”

“This opportunity is so wasted on you,” Louise says ruefully, shaking her head.

Paris takes a deep, ‘God give me strength’ kind of breath. “So what do we do?”

“First,” Louise says, “you send in the masterminds.”

She and Madeline fist bump daintily.

Rory and Paris look at each other. It is not the most optimistic of looks.


+


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

INTERVIEW – Louise Grant-Gallagher and Madeline Lynn-Lee

INTERVIEWER
So nice to meet—

LOUISE
I’m Louise Grant-Gallagher.

MADELINE
And I’m Madeline Lynn-Lee.

LOUISE AND MADELINE (in unison)
And we’re your experts in all things fabulous.

INTERVIEWER
Well ... all right then!

LOUISE
Just because I’m a stay-at-home mom doesn’t mean I’m not a boss bitch.

INTERVIEWER
Um.

MADELINE
And I put the ‘trophy’ in ‘trophy wife.’

LOUISE
... You went with that? Really?

MADELINE
I guess it’s still a work in progress.

LOUISE
I just think it has some really insidious anti-feminist undertones, you know? Like, don’t objectify yourself.

MADELINE
You’re right. Damn it. I just thought, you know, calling myself a trophy would make me sound like a prize. Who doesn’t like prizes?

LOUISE
But don’t, like, strip yourself of your agency. And it’s not like trophy wife-ing is all you do; there’s the magazine and everything.

MADELINE
That’s true ...

LOUISE
Think of the little girls watching this who are going to totally idolize you.

MADELINE
Good point. (To Interviewer) Can we film that over?

INTERVIEWER
Um. All of this is very nice, but I don’t quite understand what’s going on.

MADELINE
Oh, you know. Just in case you’re in need of some new programming once this little thing’s over.

LOUISE
We’re ceaselessly fascinating.

INTERVIEWER
I ... will keep that in mind! But for now, please do tell us: as their fellow students at Chilton, what it was like to bear witness to the beginning of Rory and Paris’s relationship? And did this Jess throw a wrench in their true, true love even back then?

LOUISE
First, you need to forget about Jess.

MADELINE
So irrelevant.

LOUISE
Once Rory and Paris first set eyes on each other, that was it. No one else could compete. The air around them felt electric.

MADELINE
They were so into each other that Rory knocked right into Paris and broke her history project, and Paris didn’t even care.

LOUISE
It was like nothing mattered anymore. Sure, Rory was small town trailer trash – or whatever you would call it. Lower middle class house trash? – and Paris was like the Elizabeth I of Chilton.

MADELINE
Total Romeo and Juliet situation.

LOUISE
But nothing could keep them apart. They had this whole pretending-to-hate-each-other thing on the surface—

MADELINE
Very old people from Star Wars.

LOUISE
—but everyone could tell that they were two seconds away from making out, like, all the time.

MADELINE
Once Paris brought her cousin as her date to a school dance to make Rory jealous.

LOUISE
And now that Jess is Rory’s step-cousin, it’s like Rory’s returning the favor. I promise you. This is all just one big sexual power play. It’s the Raris way. Keeping it in the family might be totally in style thanks to Game of Thrones, but no amount of cousin incest could be as smokin’ as those two bitches and their dark, twisty love.

MADELINE
(nods solemnly)

LOUISE
Do you want to hear about the time Paris almost impaled Rory with a fencing foil?

MADELINE
So hot.

INTERVIEWER
Oh my.


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

INTERVIEW – Paris Geller and Rory Gilmore

RORY
Um. Yep.

PARIS
Pretty much.

INTERVIEWER
... Ah. Well, you see, I’m not sure that this is the tone that we want to set with this piece. It doesn’t seem entirely in tune with the right values. In fact, it’s a bit worrying to think of you as ... and I quote ... ‘two bitches with a dark twisty love.’

PARIS
They’re crazy.

INTERVIEWER
What?

PARIS
Madeline and Louise. They’re absurd. Bonkers. Cray cray. Deranged. Need I go on? ‘Cause I can do the whole alphabet.

RORY
Madeline and Louise, um, didn’t always see eye to eye with us. They always had a little more ... enthusiasm for scandal than we did.

INTERVIEWER
That’s a relief to hear.

PARIS
Erratic. Full of it. Goo-for-brains. Hysterical. Idiotic. 

RORY
Aw. Seeing old friends. Yay, right?

PARIS
Judgment-impaired. Kooky. Loony. Mental. Nutty.

RORY
Of unsound mind.

[The two exchange a high five.]

PARIS
Nice one.

RORY (nudges her)
Well, keep going, superstar.

PARIS
Let’s see. Pox-addled.

INTERVIEWER
Oh dear.

PARIS
Metaphorically. As far as I know.


+


Madeline and Louise aren’t too bothered by the fact that Nigel didn’t take to their 50 Shades of Raris spin on things.

“No one would really look at you two and think ‘sizzle’,” says Louise.

“But you’d be really good as someone’s embarrassing parents!” Madeline adds perkily.

“Thanks,” Paris says dryly.

Madeline and Louise (and little Channing) still settle down at the Dragonfly Inn, because apparently being this close to cameras isn’t an opportunity that can just be given up.

“All we have to do is look really hot and super interesting in the background,” Louise explains. 

“Isn’t it hard to look hot while you’re, y’know, carrying a two year old?” asks Rory. From what she’s heard from Lane about parenthood, makeup is the first thing to go during a toddler’s reign of adorable terror.

“Not even,” says Louise. “I’m so embracing the MILF life. Believe you me: we’ll have our own show by the time this thing wraps up.”

“And it will be way more fun than this show,” Madeline says. “No offense.”

And so it’s back to love triangle land.


+


But to Rory’s surprise, it isn’t her that Nigel wants to follow around in the wake of Jess’s (well, “Jess”’s) return. Instead, he gleefully announces that Paris and Alex are going to be taking a walk around Stars Hollow, “just to get to know each other.”

“Translation: cat fight,” Paris says. She and Rory are hidden away in Rory’s room where Nigel can’t find them. Well, okay, he could find them pretty easily, but he hasn’t shown up yet.

Which means that Paris is taking the time to turn herself into a prize fighter. She pulls her hair into a severe ponytail, then bundles up in her winter coat and dons a pair of mittens like boxing gloves. A pair of mittens she’s borrowing from Rory. Babette knitted them as a birthday gift a few years back, and so, naturally, they have cats on them.

Still, Paris manages to make them look kind of badass. It’s very Million Dollar Baby of her.

“There’s not actually going to be a fight, is there?” Rory says, sitting cross-legged on her bed.

“There will be if Nigel can help it,” Paris says, and punches the air a few times.

“Nigel’s gone dark,” Rory says morosely.

“Nigel was always dark. It’s the nature of the reality TV beast. He just tried to distract us with his Ned Flanders-y appreciation for all things quaint and small towny.” Paris does what Rory guesses might be a few Krav Maga moves, although Rory is definitely not the best person to know for sure.

“Would you mess with this?” she asks critically, eyeing herself in the mirror above the dresser.

“Definitely not,” Rory says.

“Good,” Paris says. She grabs her phone. “One last step.”

She fiddles with her phone for a minute, and then some very swaggery music starts pouring out.

“Oh no,” Rory says, although maybe she’s secretly tickled.

Paris started the Get Psyched Pre-Victory Victory Dance tradition a few years ago, right before she went on Anderson Cooper 360 for the first time. Apparently, there is no better way to beat a case of CNN-induced nerves than by blasting some hip hop and dancing with all the ferocious intensity of a Viking warrior. Anderson found her so charming – and, in some ways, so reminiscent of his unlikely BFF Kathy Griffin – that he took her and Rory out to dinner afterwards. It will forever remain one of Rory’s Best Nights Ever.

Oh, for the sweet simple days of kickin’ it with Andy Coop.

Now, Paris shakes her head a few times, bouncing up and down like a boxer ready to get her pugilism on.

Then she erupts into: “ALL I DO IS WIN WIN WIN NO MATTER WHAT.”

“You are legitimately the weirdest person I have ever known in my whole life,” Rory declares. “And I know Kirk!”

“GOT MONEY ON MY MIND, I CAN NEVER GIVE IT UP—”

“And Taylor! And Michel! And Glenn! Remember Glenn? That guy was weird! He came out of the sea like primordial ooze!”

“AND EVERY TIME I STEP UP IN THE BUILDING, EVERYBODY’S HANDS GO UP—”

“Oh no. These hands are not going up—” Rory protests as Paris grabs her wrists.

“AND THEY STAY THERE,” Paris chants gutturally, waving Rory’s arms for her. “AND THEY STAY THERE – come on, Rory, sing it – AND THEY STAY THERE—”

“And they stay thereeeeeeee,” Rory monotones.

Paris lets go of one wrist, but only to point sternly at her. Well, as sternly as you can point in cat mittens. “Weak,” she says, leaving the rest of the song to go on without her.

“AND THEY STAY THEREEEE,” Rory tries again.

“Better,” Paris says, grabbing both of her wrists again. “But there’s still room for improvement. These peoples’ hands are not going down, Rory. Ever. That’s the extent of their fear and love for you. Channel it. Embrace it. Live it.”

“You are so crazy,” Rory insists, laughing as Paris drags her arms up.

“Oh, like you don’t love it,” Paris retorts, the corner of her mouth darting up.

“Fine,” Rory says, smiling, their hands tangled together, “you got me—”

“Rory! Paris!” comes Lorelai’s voice from the kitchen. “Jess and Albert are here, and those zany newshounds are right on their heels!”

Rory usually likes listening to her mother talk. If she didn’t, she definitely would have pulled a Lizzie Borden in childhood, because axe murder is in all likelihood the only way to shut Lorelai Gilmore up.

But right now, something fizzles and dies the second her mom speaks.

“Okay,” Paris calls back, pulling away. Rory’s heart suddenly drops down to her ballet flats. “So. Time to go. See you later.”

“Um,” Rory says. “Wait.”

Paris stops, although the suddenly gloomy look on her face suggests that she really didn’t want to.

“You, um, you’ve got a hair loose,” Rory says. Carefully, she reaches over and brushes the strands of blonde hair behind Paris’s ear.

Paris stares up at her, her eyes wide.

“Thanks,” she says then, in that blunt shut-it-down voice that shows up when Paris decides to reject all human emotion, and she rushes out.

“Go get ‘em, tiger,” Rory says faintly.

Chapter Text

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 so 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.

 

Chapter Text

“So, Rory,” says Leslie Knope, who is also – Rory somehow knows beyond a doubt – Katie Couric. “How does it feel to be a big Lying McLiarpants?”

“Um,” Rory says, squinting into the blinding lights of the studio. Paris is supposed to be here. “Could you repeat the question?”

“Oh, you know. Liar liar pants on fire. The worst person ever, basically. How does it feel to know you have the integrity and the peacoat collection of Eagletonian scum?”

“It’s not that simple,” Rory protests. “I’m not lying, not exactly. I mean, yes, it started as a lie, but we had the best intentions. We really wanted to do something good for the world, and – and you try living in New England and not amassing a giant peacoat collection! That doesn’t make me anEagletonian!”

“Aren’t your grandparents Richard and Emily Gilmore, a.k.a. the notorious founders of Eagleton?”

Rory glances off to the side of the room. Her grandparents are sitting there. In thrones. Wearing big, sparkly crowns. Richard is sleeping, while Emily regally waves at no one in particular. Lorelai sits in between them tossing popcorn into her mouth, tiara lopsided. She waves giddily at Rory. 

“No one was supposed to know about that,” Rory mutters.

“Speaking of things no one’s supposed to know about,” Leslie Couric says, leaning in, “Rory, why haven’t you told Paris how you really feel?”

“I keep trying,” Rory says. “She won’t listen to me.”

“And why do you think that is?”

“I don’t know! Because she’s Paris, because she’s crazy, because nothing can ever be easy with her—”

“Ah,” Leslie Couric says.

“What?” Rory says. The lights around them dim. “What?” Rory says again, as the room goes black. “Is—is this interview over? I’m not done—”

And then she’s sitting in the Chilton library, staring at Paris from across the room.

Paris is with Madeline and Louise, like always, but the two of them are busy braiding each other’s hair and babbling away in cheerful French. (Rory knows it’s French somehow, even though she can’t make out any of what they’re saying. She took French once. She should be able to understand. She’s forgetting how it feels to understand anything.) Paris slips away from them, wandering into the stacks, the blonde and navy blue bane of Rory’s life, tiny and raging, impossible to ignore, and so of course Rory follows her.

Paris doesn’t slow down. Books tumble from the shelves as she passes. Hell hath no fury, or something.

“Paris, where are you going?” Rory calls after her, dodging a lethal copy of Far From The Madding Crowd.

“Why do you care?” Paris demands.

“I care, okay?” Rory says, trying to raise her voice over the swirling storm of pages. She thinks the books might be crying. The library stretches on forever in front of her, and Paris is just getting farther and farther away, turning into a speck on the horizon. Rory’s feet are brick heavy and all she wants to do is run. “Of course I care; I’ve always cared. You know that. Just—slow down!”

“Liar,” Paris says, close again and finally turning to face her, her blonde hair whipping indignantly, the air around her full of light—

Rory jolts awake at a knock on her bedroom door.

“Paris?” she says, sitting up.

The door swings open, and there’s ... Luke. Which is, objectively, better than dream Paris going into a Galadriel-esque luminous rage. Or something.

Rory frowns, trying to remember the details of the dream. Whatever it was, it’s left her feeling all twisted up and guilty. And in need of some Parks & Rec.

“You’ve got visitors,” Luke says gruffly. Confused, Rory glances at the clock. Almost five.

Madeline and Louise duck past Luke into the room, fully dressed and fabulous.

Rory holds back a groan.

“Is this gonna become a normal occurrence?” Luke asks as they file by. “Weird people showing up in the middle of the night? I’m okay if it is. I just need a warning.”

“We were trying to figure out how to climb into your bedroom window, but we got caught. He swung an umbrella at us,” Madeline reports.

“Like it was nothing,” Louise says, eyeing Luke in a way that is deeply unacceptable to Rory’s mental health. “Like it was as light as a feather.”

Luke is starting to look mighty uncomfortable.

“Settle down, Queen Thirsty.” Paris barges in, sleep-rumpled and grumpy and glorious. “It’s an umbrella, not a barbell.”

“They can stay?” Luke asks, giving Rory a look that says ‘One word, and these weirdos are out of here.’

It’s mighty tempting.

“Yes,” Rory sighs. “They can stay.”

Luke nods and shuffles off. A really fast shuffle.

“Yum,” Louise says as soon as the door’s closed.

“Total lumberjack hottie,” says Madeline.

“Can you guys not?” Rory groans. “He’s my stepfather.”

“Exactly,” Madeline says. “No blood relation. It wouldn’t even be that weird if you hooked up with him.”

Rory is intensely tempted to bury her head in her pillow and pretend none of this is happening. “I’m just going to forget you ever said that.”

“How into your mom is he, exactly?” Louise asks, a dangerous gleam in her eyes.

“One hundred percent, so whatever you’re thinking, stop now please,” says Rory.

“No man is one hundred percent devoted to a woman,” Louise says. “There’s always a little wiggle room—”

“Oh, God,” Rory moans.

“Louise,” Paris barks. “Shut it down.”

“Fine,” Louise grumbles. “I guess I’ll just be one of those boring monogamous wives.”

“Cry me a river, Emma Bovary. Now, what the hell are you doing here?” Paris crosses her arms over her chest.

“Practicing,” Louise says. “The four of us are having breakfast together tomorrow morning—”

“You mean today,” Paris says.

“In like two hours,” Rory contributes miserably.

“All right, today at the Dragonfly, on camera. Nigel approached us and he thought it was a great idea.”

“Nigel approached you?” Paris says.

“Well,” Madeline says with an untroubled shrug, “he got tired of us approaching him.”

“We have to practice ... breakfast?” Rory says.

“We do if it’s going to be the breakfast so fascinating that it gets me and Madeline our own reality show,” says Louise.

“Ah,” says Rory.

“So that’s how it is, huh?” says Paris. “We don’t talk for like a decade and then you decide to come back here just to use us for fame?”

“Yep,” Madeline and Louise chirp in unison.

Paris considers this for a moment. “I can respect that,” she decides.

“So, um,” Rory says, “where’s Channing while you’re here ... rehearsing breakfast?”

“Michel is watching him,” Louise says. “God, I wish I could just take him home with me. He would be, like, the best manny.”

“Michel is babysitting? Voluntarily? Before five in the morning?” Rory decides not to share the fact that Michel’s only prior known stint in babysitting resulted in him rolling the baby under a bed. It just doesn’t seem helpful.

“I said I’d pay him two hundred bucks an hour, and he seemed down,” Louise says.

“Fancy that,” says Rory wryly, and hopes that Louise isn’t actually serious about this whole manny-Michel thing. Lorelai definitely won’t like losing the world’s prickliest concierge.

Poor Stars Hollow. She’s starting to wonder if it will ever recover from Hurricane Raris.


+


Ten minutes later, they’re sitting down at the kitchen table, sipping imaginary mimosas and memorizing their dialogue.

Yep. Dialogue.

It turns out that Madeline and Louise have written scripts that outline exactly how this special breakfast is going to go. 

“I’m not saying ‘on fleek,’” Paris declares, throwing her script down.

“How else are you going to describe my eyebrows?” Louise asks impatiently.

“Drawn on?” Paris offers.

Madeline gasps.

Louise lifts her – okay, suspiciously perfect – eyebrows. “It wouldn’t hurt you to brush up on your inner urban dictionary, Grandma.”

“Every time somebody says ‘on fleek,’ a brain cell dies,” Paris says. “I can see where that might not be a big issue for you, Jackie Siegel, but as for me, I’ve come to really appreciate this whole being-fully-sentient thing, and—”

“I’d take the superiority down a notch,” Louise retorts. “There are plastic Halloween masks of your face. If you don’t believe me, check my Instagram. I posed next to some in a costume shop last year. Hashtag went-to-high-school-with-this-fierce-bitch.”

“You think I don’t know there are plastic masks of my face?” Paris demands. “I know there are plastic masks of my face. That was always going to be a side effect of me becoming a public figure too powerful to be ignored.”

“Your face was hanging right next to Donald Trump’s face,” Louise taunts. “So what, are you guys, like, buddies now?”

“That’s not even funny,” Paris scowls.

“He probably likes you,” Louise pushes. “You’re probably the only person in the public eye who calls people losers more often than he does.”

“DONALD TRUMP HATES ME, AND I WEAR HIS HATE LIKE A BADGE OF HONOR!” Paris bellows. “Do you want me to start a Twitter war with him? I’ll start a Twitter war with him right now! Rory, where’s my phone??”

“I’ll say ‘on fleek’,” Rory interjects loudly.

“Rory, no,” Paris says, like Rory just offered to let Paris have the last spot on a lifeboat off the Titanic.

“It’s two words,” Rory says. “I don’t care, Paris; I just want to go back to bed.”

“You’ll never work in this town again,” Paris warns.

“I don’t know,” Rory says. “Stars Hollow is pretty Team Rory.”

“In any town again!” Paris thunders.

“It’s just a dumb expression, Paris,” Rory says, pressing her hand lightly over Paris’s forearm. “It’s fine.”

Paris’s expression softens. Even in the midst of exhaustion and imaginary mimosas, Rory feels a flash of peace.

“See,” Louise says. “Rory knows how to keep with the times.”

It’s enough to pull Paris right out of peaceful mode.

“Rory knows how to be kind to idiots,” she snaps. “That’s never really been my strong suit.”

“Ice cold, Geller,” Louise says. “This documentary is really bringing out the darkness in you.”

Paris lets out a huffy sigh, but for once, she doesn’t argue.

Once the Rage of Paris isn’t crackling in the air anymore, all of the life seems to go out of the room. It’s all Rory can do not to fall asleep on the kitchen table.

“I can’t believe you guys aren’t loving this,” Madeline says. “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime. I still wish we had thought of it.”

“It was a mistake,” Paris says. “Is that what you want to hear? It was a mistake. It was a mistake, okay? But Michele Bachmann set a fire of righteous fury in me, and now we’re burning Stars Hollow down. There. Are you happy?”

“Oh, come on,” Louise says, relaxing. She pats Paris’s shoulder. “It’s not all bad. Your hair looks, like, the best it ever has, and it’s all being captured on video.”

“My last haircut did cost three hundred dollars,” Paris admits.

“And you,” Louise says, turning to Rory, “you’ll have some great material for some legendary journalism expose.”

Rory gives her a doubtful look.

“She keeps worrying about journalistic integrity,” Paris says.

“Whatever,” Louise says. “Don’t. You can so make this work for you.”

“And besides,” Madeline says brightly, “one day your kids can watch this and be like, ‘Aw, our moms were so young and hot.’”

“What?” Rory and Paris say in unison.

“I don’t mean in like an Oedipal way,” Madeline says. “Don’t worry.”

“Not really the subject of the ‘what’ there, Mads,” Paris says flatly.

Our ... kids?” Rory says, glancing at Paris. “Like, kids belonging to Paris and me ... together?”

“She’s exaggerating,” Louise explains. To Madeline, she adds, “As if these nerds would put their careers on hold for babies.”

“I guess you’re right,” Madeline agrees.

“But hey. At least it’s finally out in the open that Paris was pining for you hardcore from the second you showed up at Chilton,” Louise tells Rory. “I’m glad you guys talked about it and decided to use it to your advantage. Like, somebody needed to bring it up.”

Rory feels the whole world stop.

“All that repressed emotion,” Madeline says, oblivious. “I swear, it was giving me stress breakouts just witnessing it.”

“Do you remember that time you were supposed to go out with Josh Iverson that weekend, but you had to cancel because of the nasty blackhead explosion that came from Paris nonstop ranting about Rory and Tristan and how Rory had betrayed her and she should have known not to trust Podunk Barbie and blah blah blah?”

“Like I’ll ever forget,” Madeline says woefully. “Josh Iverson ...”

“I should have known you weren’t that into Tristan,” Louise says to Paris, like this is a normal conversation to have. “He was so not your type. All that rule breaking and hair gel. But Rory? Rory was infinitely your type.”

“It makes way more sense,” Madeline agrees.

At last, Rory looks at Paris.

Their eyes meet for a second.

Then, without a single word, Paris gets up and leaves. Rory hears the front door open and thud shut.

“Oops,” Louise says innocently. “You guys didn’t talk about that?”

“No,” Rory says, trying to stay patient. Trying not to just go all hulk Rory and smash-smash everything in the immediate vicinity. She can’t just destroy the kitchen. Now that Luke lives here, somebody actually uses this kitchen.

“Can you pretend we didn’t mention it?” Louise says airily.

“Probably not,” Rory says through gritted teeth.

“Sorry,” Madeline says, wincing. “For what it’s worth, I still think you’re a really cute couple.”

“I can see you growing old together with a bunch of cats,” Louise adds.

“Um, okay, that’s nice,” Rory says, dazed. “I really have to go after her now. Thanks for ... your help?”

“You’re welcome!” chirps Madeline.


+


Rory stumbles around the dark snowy yard in a pair of giant slippers with owl faces on them. Based on the size, she figures they must belong to Luke, and based on the fact that they were next to the door, he actually wears them – but that is a mystery to investigate another time. Right now, she has to find Paris.

She tracks a narrow set of footprints to the garage.

Bingo.

Paris is sitting in the corner on top of a chaise longue that Emily gave Mom and Luke in a seriously misguided Christmas gift situation.

“Paris?” Rory says tentatively, turning on the light.

“What’s the number one rule of Madeline and Louise?” Paris says numbly. She won’t look at Rory. Her feet are bare.

“I don’t know,” Rory says, keeping her voice gentle. “What?”

“Don’t listen to them. They’re idiots. Unless you want information on superior brands of bronzer. Then they’re legit.”

Rory bites her lip. “So you didn’t ...?”

Paris looks up, her face flushed and a little blotchy. Rory wonders for a minute if she was crying, and then decides to blame the cold. “You know me, Rory. Do you really think I would stand by and watch you date the masculine moron trio if I wanted to be with you?”

“You aren’t so much with the not going and getting what you want,” Rory admits, sitting on the edge of the chaise longue.

“Exactly,” says Paris. She sounds so sure, but she tenses up the second Rory gets closer to her.

Rory stares at a shelf of old board games across the garage. “If you did ... have those feelings back then ...”

“I didn’t,” Paris says shortly. “Don’t flatter yourself.”

Rory tries not to feel the sting of the words. What else did she expect?

(Not kissing. That’s for sure. Not falling into each other’s arms.)

All right, then.

That’s the end of that.

“Come on,” Rory says. She goes to touch Paris’s shoulder, and then catches herself, and just stands up instead. “Let’s go back inside and finish fake breakfast, okay? You’re right. They’re Madeline and Louise. They’ve never been very good at understanding you. This is no different than any of those other times at Chilton.”

But of course Paris doesn’t go for this extremely reasonable suggestion. Nope. Instead, she stays put. “So Jess is on a quest to lock it down with Alex, huh?”

“Oh,” Rory says, disoriented. “You heard that?”

“I don’t think she’s right for him.”

“Why? I think they’re a great couple.”

“She’s too chipper. It’ll never last.”

“I don’t know,” Rory says. “I think that’s what makes them work well together. They’re just different enough.”

Paris gives her an ‘I don’t believe you’ look. More of the you’re-secretly-pining-for-Jess accusations, then. Great.

Rory decides to shut that nonsense down once and for all. “That was probably the problem with Jess and me. I had such a hard time being honest with him sometimes because – I don’t know, because I was afraid he would think I was needy or something. We were both too quiet about the stuff that really needed to be talked about. But Alex seems like she doesn’t shy away from that kind of thing, and that’s good. That’s what Jess needs. That’s what’s going to keep them happy.” Rory gives her a slight smile. An I’m free, I’m yours kind of smile.

“Whatever,” Paris says sharply. “She’s a pale imitation Rory Gilmore and on some level, Jess knows it.”

... of course.

“Paris!” Rory exclaims, trying not to sink into the depths of being totally pissed off. “He does not. And how is Alex anything like me? That girl has definitely hiked a mountain! Voluntarily!”

Paris ignores her. “Why did he take her back here to propose then, huh? He must have heard that you were here. A week – that’s plenty of time to swap out the new girlfriend for the old true love. I wouldn’t have pegged Jess as a romcom schemer, but God, hats off to him. It’s like Nancy Meyers wrote it. Where’s Katherine Heigl?? Come out, Katie!” She hollers to the ceiling. “We’re onto you!”

“This is crazy,” Rory says, irritated. “You do realize that these ideas are crazy, don’t you?”

“Don’t worry.” Paris’s eyes are getting that steely glint that means doom to all around her. “He’s not proposing to her.”

Oh. Oh no.

“Don’t interfere!” Rory orders. “Paris, I mean it. If you try to do anything to mess this up for him, I will be really, really upset with you. Do you hear me? Just because we’re all caught up in this stupid lie doesn’t mean that we can screw up everybody else’s lives too.”

“So you’re just going to roll over and let him get away?” Paris demands, standing up abruptly. She crosses her arms, getting all up in Rory’s face.

“He already got away a long time ago!” Rory yells. “God, what am I going to have to do to convince you that I’m over it? I’d look really stupid with ‘I’M OVER IT’ tattooed on my forehead, but I’ll go there if I really need to! Kirk tried to become Stars Hollow’s resident tattoo artist a couple of years ago, so I guess I could always give him a call—”

“I know when you’re lying,” Paris says stubbornly, her eyes bright as she looks into Rory’s. “And I’m not going to let your stupid someday guy slip out of your grasp. You’re my best friend.”

“Paris—”

“You remember what you told me back when we were in D.C. that summer, and you were helping me get ready to go out with Jamie?”

Rory thinks back. She dimly remembers brushing Paris’s hair, and then getting shoved into the closet. Pretty standard adventures-with-Paris fare.

“You went on and on about how great it is to find the right person for you,” Paris says. “The person who complements you. Who gets you but who’s different enough to keep you on your toes. How exciting it is to have a relationship like that.”

“You remember that?” Rory says, surprised.

“There were practically hearts spilling out of your eyeballs while you were talking,” Paris says, her voice a little too brittle. “Believe me, I wish I could forget that, but no such luck.”

“Hearts were not spilling out of my eyeballs—”

“I figured out it was Jess you were talking about,” Paris interrupts. “I’m not stupid.”

“I know you’re not.” Rory’s stomach is suddenly filled with fretful butterflies. “Why? Who did you think I was talking about before?”

“Dean,” Paris says, after a pause. “Obviously.”

Oh God.

Oh God.

All of her memories of Paris – every one, right back to the earliest of the blue plaid nemesis adventures – threaten to twist around into something new.

“Paris—” Rory begins, with exactly no clue where she’s going to end.

“Dean, okay?” Paris says loudly, and turns away. “Dean. I thought it was Dean. Dean Dean Dean Dean Dean Deany McFarm Boy. And if you start talking about that steaming heap of bull that Madeline and Louise threw your way just now, I will sell you to Bill Maher, Rory, and if you think he’s got too much integrity to buy a human woman, you’re putting way too much faith in him—”

“Paris,” Rory says, reaching for her arm. “Can’t we just—”

“Knock, knock!” Nigel peeks into the garage, the camera crew hovering behind him. “Rise and shine, Raris! An early morning lovers’ rendezvous in the garage, hmm? Delightful!”

Paris looks at Rory, her eyes bright and blazing. She grabs Rory’s shoulders and pulls her in, kissing her hard. A Godfather kiss. A threat, or an unwanted promise, or something. It’s got none of the softness that Rory keeps stupidly hoping for.

“I’ve got your back,” Paris whispers in her ear before she pulls away. “Don’t worry.”

“Paris—” Rory protests fuzzily, but the cameras are rolling and the day is starting – too soon, way too soon – and Paris is gone before she can think of a single thing to say to make things right.

Chapter Text

FULL TRANSCRIPTS OF INTERVIEW SEGMENTS – PARIS & RORY’S MODERN STARS HOLLOW FAMILY - EPISODE 6: “THE FIRELIGHT FESTIVAL” 

LOCATION: The Dragonfly Inn Restaurant, Breakfast Time

 

LOUISE

Rory, Paris, it is so good of you to take some time out of your busy schedule to have breakfast with little old us.

 

MADELINE

Yeah! You didn’t have to get up this early! We know how hectic things have been for you.

 

PARIS [strangely flat]

Are you kidding? I would have gotten up at 3 A.M. happily if it meant hanging out with a couple of boss bitches like you.

 

RORY

Totally. I wish we could be around you two all the time so you could give us pointers on how to stay as young and hot as you are while still balancing a sweet career and a totes adorbs family.

 

PARIS

Yeah, Louise. How do you keep your eyebrows so on fleek?

 

THE CONVERSATION goes on for much longer, but its inanities are not worth transcribing. This isn’t The E Network.

 

+

 

Today, coffee is Rory Gilmore’s best friend like it never has been before. And that’s saying something.

It’s probably for the best that her brain has turned into a fuzzy caffeinated wasteland. Breakfast with Madeline and Louise at The Dragonfly flies by in a dreamy haze. Rory says the lines that were written out for her. That is, when she’s not drinking desperate swigs of coffee. She burns her tongue, but it seems like a small price to pay for sweet, sweet caffeinated oblivion.

Paris holds Rory’s hand firmly throughout the entire breakfast, their entwined hands resting on the table, and doesn’t look at her once.

Filming wraps up when Michel comes over with Channing, looking surprisingly cheerful considering he’s just spent time with a child. Madeline and Louise really must be the sources of fabulousness he’s been searching for in life if he’s willing to sacrifice so much. Unsurprisingly, Nigel is unable to resist the lure of Michel and adorable children. (Not to mention that he’d been nodding off to sleep while witnessing Madeline and Louise’s Boss Bitch Breakfast.)

“Is it just me, or did he not like us?” Louise asks, glaring at Nigel’s back as he wanders off with his new buddies. Michel throws a yearning glance backward at their table, but doesn’t seem willing to abandon his $200 an hour babysitting gig just yet.

“We’re great,” Madeline says consolingly, patting Louise’s arm. “And the greats are always misunderstood.”

Paris doesn’t audibly scoff at that. The absence of scoff is downright chilling.

“I need coffee,” she says instead, getting up. Without wasting an instant, she bolts toward the kitchen.

“You stole my line,” Rory calls after her, trying to sound chipper.

Trying and failing.

Rory watches her go, caught between feelings of My heart hurts and Typical Paris weirdness and There’s no way she can sabotage Jess and Alex’s relationship from the kitchen of the Dragonfly, right?

When you’re emotionally invested in Paris Geller, it’s a feelings rollercoaster 24/7.

“Hey.” Rory looks over to find Madeline standing beside her, her face crumpled in a frown. “I’m sorry if we messed things up between you guys. I swear, I just wasn’t even thinking about it. I thought you two were really—”

“I know,” Rory interrupts. “It’s—it’s okay.”

“She’s just going all ice queen because she can’t deal with how strong her Rory feels are. We’ve seen it, what, a billion times before?” Louise takes a queenly sip of her mimosa and declares, “Don’t worry about it. You guys will kiss and make up like you always do.”

“We’ve made up,” Rory says, blushing. “We’ve never kissed.”

“You’ve never kissed,” Louise repeats doubtfully, leveling Rory with a very on fleek eyebrow raise of skepticism.

“Well, not before recently,” Rory grumbles.

“And Spring Break ’04,” Madeline contributes.

Rory groans. “Why does everybody remember that??”

“It was super epic,” Madeline assures her.

Was it? All Rory has is a somewhat fuzzy memory of being extremely freaked out in a very loud club. There were exactly zero super epic oh-my-God-I’m-butt-crazy-in-love-with-Paris epiphanies. Most of what she remembers about her freshman year love life is being treated like an increasingly hopeless freak for being single. And, okay, freaking out a lot about Paris’s love life, but Paris had been dating the infirm! What was a bestie to do besides freak out?

She remembers how desperately she used to hope that Paris would come back to their bedroom one day and announce that she and Asher were done for good.  The whole thing was just so weird and gross and resulted in Rory spending a lot of time sitting alone in the room that was supposed to be for the both of them, worrying about what Paris was getting herself into. Part of the reason it had been so easy to fall back into things with Dean was how good it felt to feel special, to feel wanted, to be someone’s number one choice the way she used to be—

“Wow, okay, I can’t really get into every nuance of Paris’s and my relationship in the 2003-2004 academic year right now,” Rory interrupts her own crazy swirling abyss of a brain.

“We didn’t ask you to,” Louise says blandly.

“Because,” Rory babbles on, unstoppable, possessed by a rambly ghost, “there’s a very good chance that she’s going to break up the impending engagement of my high-school-ex-boyfriend-turned-just-friend so that I can have him—never mind that I don’t even want him—because apparently, that’s just what BFFs do!”

“Damn,” Louise says. “She’s dragged you into some next level Paris crazy.”

“Life really does get more complicated when you get older,” Madeline reflects sagely. “Remember when you guys were just really obsessed with the school newspaper?”

Louise wrinkles her nose. “God, what was that called? The Hamilton?”

“You know it was The Franklin!” Rory scolds. “This too-cool-to-remember-things facade isn’t as charming as you think it is.”

“Yes it is,” says Louise.

She’s kind of right. Damn it.

Rory sighs. “Well, will you guys see if you can talk her out of it? She won’t listen to me, and if she screws things up for Jess, I don’t know what I’ll do—”

“Say no more,” Madeline interrupts. “We’re on it.”

“On it like I’ll be on Channing Tatum if I ever get the chance,” Louise says. Well. Snarls, almost.

Rory cringes.

“What?” Louise demands.

“I just feel like ... you know, maybe you shouldn’t say stuff like that, considering your kid’s name and all,” Rory answers delicately.

“Please. Why do you think I named him that? Let me walk you through the scenario. I run into Channing Tatum. I’ve got Channing with me. Channing Tatum says, ‘Hi, I’m Channing Tatum.’”

“Does Channing Tatum really have to introduce himself to people?” Rory muses.

“—and I say, ‘Oh my God, no way! My son’s name is Channing.’ Boom. Instant connection. I’m in. It’s going down.”

“What does your husband think about that?” Rory asks tentatively.

“He thought it was genius. If Channing had been a girl, we would have named him Rihanna.”

Well okay then.

At least Louise isn’t plotting to steal Luke anymore. It’s not like her kid is named Luke.

At the same time, Rory’s pretty sure her fatigued brain is going to melt out of her ears if she has to listen to any more of this.

And so in an act of self preservation, she cries, “Paris could be ruining lives right now!”

“Right,” Louise says, snapping back into action. “We’re on it.”

 

+

 

Madeline and Louise come back five minutes later.

“Paris says don’t worry about it,” Louise reports. “She was just sleep deprived and overstressed. Obviously she’s not going to screw things up for your high school ex-boyfriend who she, and I quote, ‘knew for five minutes and cares about literally less than Frozen’.”

“And she really doesn’t care about Frozen,” Madeline says. “When I was like, ‘What? Everybody loves Frozen’, she said ... ‘fuck Elsa.’” Madeline whispers the last two words like they’re blasphemous to the highest degree possible.

“Oh. Well, okay then.” Rory smiles at them. “Thank you.”

“No problem,” says Madeline brightly. “Wait—where are you going?”

Rory finds Paris in the kitchen, chugging down coffee. The staff are all cowering in the corner. Sookie doesn’t seem bothered; she’s stirring away at the stove fearlessly.

Rory definitely remembers her mom telling tales of Sookie and Michel living in fear of Paris’s visits to the Dragonfly during the Rory’s Break From Yale era. Sookie’s probably just trying to keep a cheerful face on in case the cameras come in.

Or maybe she’s been picking up on Rory’s real Paris feelings and wants to show that she supports Rory in all her romantic decisions, no matter how objectively bonkers.

Aw. That would be kind of nice, under other circumstances. Paris-not-being-a-scheming-maniac circumstances.

“Hi Sookie,” Rory greets her.

“Hiya honey,” Sookie says cheerfully, and goes on stirring.

“How are you? How are Jackson and the kiddos?”

“Good, good, everyone’s good.”

“That’s so nice. I’m glad.” She gives Sookie one last smile, then whips around to face Paris.

“Okay,” she sneers, “what’s up your sleeve, Littlefinger?”

“What do you mean?” Paris asks blithely.

“Madeline and Louise might buy your story, but I’m not falling for it. You’re just trying to get me off my guard so that you can keep on scheming. Well, it’s not gonna work!”

Paris gives her a Look. “You do realize how crazy you sound right now, don’t you?”

“You stole my line,” Rory accuses.

“Get a grip, Gilmore. I’m over it. That was sleep deprivation talking. Not to mention the fact that I’ve completely lost my Madeline-and-Louise tolerance over the years. Is it just me, or are they way more the worst than they used to be?”

“They’re about the same level of the worst,” Rory appraises. “But now they’re the worst with a private jet.”

“God, I can’t believe they made up one hundred percent of my friend group for the first fifteen years I was alive. It’s a miracle I’m not spending my life in a straitjacket, or having opinions about the Kardashians’ life choices.”

“I guess it’s a good thing I showed up when I did to keep you nerdy and proud.”

“Yeah, thanks for that,” Paris says, staring down into her coffee cup.

Paris was pining for you hardcore from the second you showed up at Chilton.

Before Rory can start to decipher the look on Paris’s face (or, alternately, spiral into a total mental meltdown), Paris gives Rory the ol’ scrutinizing stare. “So, what did you come in here for?”

“Seriously?” Rory crosses her arms. If Paris is going to be all back-to-business, then so is she. “To tell you that you need to abandon this thwart-Jess’s-proposal idea.”

“You mean the idea that I already abandoned? And by the way, calling it an idea is a little much. It was more like a momentary flicker in my Madeline-and-Louise-diseased brain. I’m not proud of it, Rory, but even I can’t be brilliant all the time.”

She looks so disgusted that Rory is dangerously tempted to believe her.

The key word being ‘dangerously.’

“You sound like you really mean that,” Rory tests.

“Why wouldn’t I?” Paris answers evenly.

They stare at each other in tense, crackling silence.

The kitchen staff is starting to mumble nervously in the corner.

And then Rory sees it: a flicker of fiendishness in Paris’s eyes.

Or it might just be dust in the air or something, but at this point, Rory’s not in the mood to take any chances.

“If you ruin Jess’s proposal,” Rory explodes, “I swear I’ll make you sorry, Paris! I’ll steal all your whiteboards, and tell all the whiteboard salespeople around that you’re on the blacklist. You’ll never plan efficiently again!”

“Okay, you’re way out of line!” Paris hollers.

“Ooh, look, scones!” Sookie says, bustling over and shoving baked goods into Rory and Paris’s mouths with the swiftness that only a mother of multiple children can bust out. “They’re just—so much better than confrontation—”

“Dammit, that’s good,” Paris scowls through a mouthful of scone.

“It’s kinda hard to be mad while eating this,” Rory admits, reluctantly basking.

“My work here is done,” Sookie says, and returns to the stove.

Rory devotes the next minute to letting herself disappear into sconey heaven. No stress. No outside world. No impending Firelight Festival disaster. Just scones and Paris and a moment of peace.

Embracing the moment-of-peace thing is actually kind of nice. This scone is amazing, and it smells like coffee in here, and there’s wintery sunlight glinting through the window, catching in Paris’s hair and giving her this golden glow that seems somehow completely fitting.

And if Rory was going to listen to certain people, this is the human being who’s been in love with her—in love, in like, in something—for the past twelve years.

“What are you looking at?” Paris asks.

“Nothing,” Rory says. Moment of peace over.

“Listen,” Paris says once she’s done chewing. “The fact that you think that I care enough about Broody McHairGel to spend any time or energy on him insults me, Rory. All I’m planning on is kicking some serious Modern Stars Hollow Family ass and then putting all this crap behind us. Get ready to give the people the schmoopiest, most sickeningly romantic event in television history. We’ll make Will and Kate’s wedding look like an episode of Pawn Stars. The goal is to make Michele Bachman cry and barf at the same time while she’s watching—which we both know she will be—and I will settle for nothing less.”

“As always, I admire your vision,” says Rory.

“Which means that we’re not going to look like jackasses doing the Firelight Fairy Dance. Your moves need some serious work.”

“I am not that bad!”

“I’m so not the kind of person that says ‘oh honey,’ but oh honey.”

“Hey, you’re not exactly Britney!”

“Aren’t I, Rory? Aren’t I?”

Rory does have to admit that for a neurotic book nerd, Paris is abnormally gifted in the moves department.

“What can I say?” Paris shrugs. “Some people are naturally graced with the power of the dance; others try and fail until their psyches shatter . I’m Mila, you’re Natalie Portman.”

“Yes, please, compare our situation to Black Swan. That’s really going to bolster my enthusiasm.”

“I’m sorry. You’re not that bad. But I know how you like to be perfect in all you do. It’s what makes us drift compatible. So let’s make this hideous grown up Toddlers and Tiaras abomination of a dance number something worth giffing. In a good way,” Paris adds as a stern afterthought. “Not a ‘Jennifer Lawrence tripping up the stage’ way.”

“Didn’t people think that was adorable?” Rory points out.

Paris snorts. “If the best you can do is charm people with your inability to be a functioning adult human being, then are you really succeeding? You might as well be a kitten video on YouTube.”

Which is fair enough.

Paris really does seem to be in in-it-to-win-it mode, with nary a distraction allowed. It’s like last night never even happened. Like what Madeline and Louise said didn’t matter at all. Like any emotional freak-outs that may have ensued are now null and void.

“Do you swear you’re not planning to do anything to Jess and Alex?” Rory finds herself asking.

Paris rolls her eyes. “I swear. Let them get engaged and have their dream hipster nuptials where the guests all get to drink dandelion wine out of mason jars and eat tofu cake. (So not going if I’m invited, by the way.) All I’m focused on right now is finishing this thing and making conservatives barf-cry.”

“Well, good,” Rory says weakly. Then she reevaluates that statement. “Also, gross.”

“What can I say? This lifestyle isn’t for the dainty of stomach.”

“Or people who like the idea of holding onto their last shred of dignity.”

“Exactly.” Paris grips Rory’s shoulders. Rory thinks of Paris pulling her in for that Godfather kiss in the garage. “Everything I do tonight, I’m doing to make sure we end this thing as champions; screw everyone else. Remember that.”

“Okay, fine.” Rory shrugs her off. “Calm down, Cersei Lannister.”

“Well, who am I? Cersei or Littlefinger? Your Game of Thrones references are very inconsistent today.”

Logically, Rory gets that this isn’t the most scathing of criticisms.

Still, something in her just crumples.

“I know,” she whimpers—oh great, she’s a whimperer now. “I’m just so tired.”

Sookie clucks her tongue sympathetically from the stove. Meanwhile, Paris’s expression softens. She looks at Rory in a way that somehow gets past the billion layers of exhaustion and worry and unholy nervousness, and Rory’s heart goes calm. And then maybe skips a beat or two.

Paris tears her gaze away after a moment, then pours Rory a cup of coffee—also known as salvation—and holds it out to her.

Rory takes the cup gratefully, and their fingers meet.

Paris was pining for you hardcore from the second you showed up at Chilton.

Paris pulls away. “Remember,” she says brusquely. “If you fail today, you’re failing for two, Natalie. Get it together.”

Without further ado, she storms out of the kitchen.

Rory stares after her.

“Oh, honey,” Sookie says sympathetically.

Chapter Text

 

By the time afternoon rolls around, Richard and Emily Gilmore having dinner in Stars Hollow sounds like the greatest way to spend an evening that Rory could ever imagine.

Anything that’s not dancing sounds like the greatest way to spend an evening that Rory could ever imagine.

On the plus side, after hours of rehearsal she’s pretty sure she and Paris are prepared for tonight. If they’re going to do the stupidest and most unnecessary dance known to mankind, well, at least they’re going to do it well!

What’s going less well is actual interaction with Paris. With every hour that passes, she seems to retreat more and more into Robot Paris mode. By the end of the practice, Rory’s resigned herself to the futility of trying to start any small talk that isn’t directly related to giving Republicans Firelight Festival nightmares for years to come. She knows how Paris gets sometimes, so fixated on whatever she’s trying to accomplish that she forgets to operate on a normal human beingly level.

But it’s been awhile since she was like that with Rory. Over the years, Rory has secretly prided herself on her ability to snap Paris out of it and bring her back to the world of the mostly non-crazy.

She feels like she’s seventeen and accidentally did something to make Paris hate her. It still leaves the same hollow sick sinking feeling in her stomach, but roughly a million times worse. Back then, Paris was the almost-a-friend that Rory never could have predicted. Now, Paris is like a limb or something. Maybe even more important than a limb. Necessary for a complete Rory Gilmore existence.

The grandparents’ car is already parked outside the house when they get home from Miss Patty’s. Emily must have been watching from inside for the camera crew to show up, because she bursts out of the front door with all the subtlety of Scarlett O’Hara and cries, “Rory, Paris! There are my girls!”

“Simply divine, Emily!” Nigel effuses, scurrying up the driveway. “Will you do that again so that we can capture it properly on camera?”

Emily, of course, obliges.

“Jeez,” Paris grumbles, watching the déjà vu unfold.

“You’re the one who got them involved,” Rory sing-songs under her breath, and then they’re swept up the steps and into Hurricane Affectionate Grandmother.

“It’s so good to see you both,” Emily says, wrapping an arm around each of them and guiding them into the house. “Albeit at a very strange time for dinner.”

“We have to be back at Miss Patty’s at five thirty sharp for costumes and hair and makeup,” Rory says, and manages not to grimace while saying the words.

“Oh, as if either of you will need any makeup. You’re flawless as can be.”

“Look who’s talking!” Paris says in that fake-Paris voice. Rory’s getting really sick of that voice. Of this fake world where Paris and her grandparents are best pals and they’re all one big family and everyone is happy and capable of holding casual conversations with each other.

When they step inside the house, Rory is immediately overwhelmed by delicious food smells. It’s clear Luke has been making some miracles happen in the kitchen. Meanwhile, Emily and Paris seem to have spiraled into some sort of complimenting-each-other competition for the camera, and Nigel is eating it up.

“Richard! Come sing Paris’s praises with me,” Emily calls.

Richard puts down the copy of Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) that he must have discovered on the coffee table. “Gladly, my dear.”

Nigel does a giddy little bounce as Richard joins the party.

It feels like a good opportunity to sneak away.

And so sneak away Rory does, ducking into the kitchen. Luke is at the stove working his magic, and Lorelai gets up from the table at the sight of Rory.

“Hey, dancing queen! I thought I heard a girl and her trusty camera crew.”

“Then why didn’t you come say hi?”

“Well, I would have, until my mother decided we needed to coordinate our casual greeting of you by bursting out of the front door like Keira Knightley in a Chanel commercial. You know me, I like a good dramatic entrance, but things were veering dangerously close to Jenna Maroney level madness.”

“I forgive you,” Rory says. “Mostly because I’m too exhausted to hold a grudge.”

Lorelai pouts sympathetically. “Aw, honey. Break any toes yet?”

“Only the toes of my dignity.”

“Huh?”

“Yeah, don’t expect me to say anything that makes sense today.”

“Poor little groove thing shaker.” Lorelai kisses Rory’s temple. “Have you had coffee?”

“I’m about ten percent Rory, ninety percent coffee at this point in time.”

“Yikes. That’s probably not what the doctors would call wise.” Lorelai pauses mock-thoughtfully for a moment, then drags Rory toward the coffeepot. “Well, come on, let’s see if we can get you to ninety-five.”

“Indubitably, Dr. Gilmore,” Rory says, and accepts the cup of coffee that her mother pours for her.

“She’s never gonna sleep again if she drinks that,” Luke warns, “and she needs sleep.”

“Is it that obvious?” Rory asks, just loving that confidence booster.

“You look great,” Luke backtracks sheepishly. “You always look great. It’s just a sleepy great right now.”

“I wouldn’t say no to some sleep,” Rory says. “Like, say, sleeping through this entire stupid night and not waking up until the only cameras in Stars Hollow are the ones on everyone’s phones.”

“Pfft,” Lorelai scoffs. “Do the great lords and ladies of the dance let sleep get in their way? Did Natalie Portman sleep in Black Swan? No, she did not. When she was in bed, she was doing things that you should never do in front of your mother in front of her mother. On second thought, maybe sleep isn’t the worst idea—”

“I’d really appreciate it if people would stop making Black Swan references,” Rory declares.

“You won’t hear any Black Swan references from me,” Luke vows.

“Because you don’t know what it is?” Rory ventures a guess.

“Exactly,” says Luke.

“You’re a good one, Lucas Danes.” Luke bristles slightly at the ‘Lucas,’ but doesn’t verbally strike back. Aw. Being an old married person has really softened him. “And,” Rory continues, “it smells amazing in here. Thank you so much for leaving the diner to cook for us.”

“It’s no problem,” Luke assures her. “In fact, you probably did me a favor. If Kirk had asked me to give him feedback on his talents—and I use that word loosely—one more time, he would have gotten to see my talent, which happens to be beating annoying people to death with a spatula.”

“And making amazing mid-day feasts,” Rory teases. “Don’t sell yourself short.”

“Get a man who can do both,” Lorelai says with a hearty wink. Then she says to Luke, “Wait. Are you saying you’re willing to make Lulu into a spatula widow?”

“Kirk,” Luke announces grimly, “has been working on his bellydancing. See, I know that because he showed me.”

“There’s a certain quiet dignity to being a spatula widow,” Lorelai decides.

“Why was Kirk bellydancing at you, exactly?” Rory asks. A dim dread starts to rise up in her.

“Oh,” Luke says, with the tense too-calmness that always precedes his most legendary rants. “He’s decided tonight’s his night to make it big. Apparently, he’s gonna be in the background impressing America at the Firelight Festival. He plans to, and I’m quoting here, ‘make background the new foreground.’”

“Oh boy,” says Rory.

“He’s a man of many talents, according to him and only him. The struggle – once again, according to him – was deciding which of those talents to show off. I saw bellydancing. I saw juggling. I heard the song stylings of Kirky Beige the Macy Gray impersonator.”

“Oooh, Macy Gray!” Lorelai says. “I haven’t thought about her in forever.”

“Where is Macy?” Rory muses.

“So Rory, just try to stand in front of him tonight while there’s filming going on,” Luke concludes. “And maybe wear tall shoes.”

“You mean high heels?” Lorelai says.

“Same thing,” Luke shrugs.

“Not really,” Lorelai says with an affectionate-slash-judgy huff. To Rory, she adds, “It’s like the man has never heard of platforms.”

“Then shouldn’t we envy his ignorance?” Rory says.

“Good point,” says Lorelai.

Rory adds another concern to the ol’ worries pile that is the impending evening. It feels inevitable that Kirk is going to crash into either her or Paris at some point tonight, and that somebody’s walking away with some grievous bodily harm.

Or not walking. Most likely not walking.

The only way to triumph over the feeling of dread paralyzing her body, she concludes, is to lean into the silliness.

“Maybe he’ll do a live reenactment of his short film,” she speculates. “It’s been way too long since I saw A Film By Kirk.”

“I sent you the YouTube link!” Lorelai says indignantly.

“If I watched every YouTube link you sent me, I wouldn’t have time to get dressed in the morning!”

“You exaggerate,” Lorelai accuses.

“You didn’t have to link me to every Ylvis music video. I get it. They’re funny and Norwegian.”

“But Rory,” Lorelai implores in an annoying sing-song, “what’s the meaning of Stonehenge??”

Rory makes a dramatic show of collapsing face-down onto the table. An action that has become an unsettlingly regular habit over the past few days.

It’s actually kind of comfy, considering the circumstances.

Who needs a pillow when your eyes are closed and you’re resting on a flat surface?

“What are you doing?” come Paris’s sharpened tones.

“Paris,” Rory says, forcing her eyes open and sitting up. “Hi.”

“You’re fading fast,” Paris determines with a sort of clinical coldness.

“Not all of us embraced the dark kiss of vampirism so that we’d never have to sleep again, Edward Cullen,” Rory says grumpily.

“That was a weirdly specific Twilight reference.”

“I had to read them to make sure my mocking was accurate!”

Paris huffs impatiently, making strands of hair dance around her face. “Nerd.”

Then she leans down and presses her lips to Rory’s forehead, which would have been enough of a dead giveaway that the camera crew had ambled in even if you couldn’t hear the footsteps. Rory looks over, and sure enough, there they are, accompanied by Richard and Emily.

“Go to bed and close your eyes for fifteen minutes,” Paris instructs. “It’s as good as a five hour nap. That’s scientifically proven.”

Even the words ‘five hour nap’ make Rory’s heart ache with longing. “That doesn’t seem possible.”

“It got me through med school. You’ll deal.” Paris pauses for just a second too long. “Sweetheart.”

Rory notices her grandfather watching them with concern. Rory gives him a weak, what-can-you-do smile.

Meanwhile, Nigel is committed as ever to making TV magic happen. “Emily, Lorelai, I’ve been dying to get you together. This must be such a special evening for you,” he says excitedly.

“Having my parents over for dinner? Nige, it’s the stuff dreams are made of.” Off Luke’s doubtful look, Lorelai says, “What? Dreams, night terrors—same difference.”

“No, no, I meant—” Nigel pauses, puzzled. “Is having your parents over for dinner really such a rare occasion?”

“Uh, of course not! They’re over for lunch, breakfast, you name it.”

“Those are the two other meals,” Luke tells her. “There’s nothing left to name.”

“Okay, brunch denier,” Lorelai scowls. “Shunner of linner.”

“You just let me know when linner catches on,” Luke says.

“The trend is starting tonight, buddy.” Lorelai pokes his shoulder. “You’re one of the forerunners of the linner revolution, whether you like it or not.”

Emily clearly decides to just pretend her daughter’s not speaking—a pretty common Emily Gilmore tactic. “We just love small town charm, don’t we, Richard?”

“Can’t get enough of the stuff,” Richard says affably.

“That makes three of us!” Nigel exclaims. Emily titters sociably. Sobering, Nigel says, “But no. I’d really love to hear your thoughts as Rory’s grandmother and mother on her big day.”

Something about the phrase ‘big day’ sends a gross shiver through her.

“It’s not that big,” Rory protests. “It’s not like being born, or graduating college, or watching the Lord of the Rings extended editions for the first time.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Nigel says rhapsodically. “It seems big to me! A fairytale festival!”

“Firelight Festival,” Rory says glumly.

“Nigel, we would love to chat with you,” Emily declares graciously.

“Uh, I guess we’d love to chat with you, then,” Lorelai says with a very unconvincing smile.

“Wonderful! Where would you like to talk?”

“Here in the kitchen should be fine,” Lorelai suggests.

“Really, Lorelai? The kitchen? You want us to be interviewed on television sitting in your kitchen like some scullery maid?”

“Sorry we don’t have a drawing room, Mom. Sorry we can’t convene in the parlor.”

“I think the front porch would be simply perfect,” Nigel interjects brightly. “There are few things more charming than spending an afternoon just lazing around on a good front porch.”

“Nigel, I always say that,” Emily says, at which point Lorelai breaks into a very suspicious coughing fit.

Paris clears her throat, snapping Rory’s attention back to her.

“Fifteen minutes,” Paris says brusquely. “Rest. Now. I’m stealing your parents’ bed.”

“So you do need sleep like the rest of us.”

“Can it, Bella,” Paris says, and then turns and storms away. She does a furious little heel click before she disappears from Rory’s view. Determined to perfect those dance moves until the very end.

Meanwhile, Nigel herds Emily and Lorelai and the camera crew out onto the porch.

“Ookay, then,” says Rory. She turns to ... well, her grandfather, since he got miraculously left out of Nigel’s interview plan.

“Um, I guess it’s super fast naptime for me before the big night begins. According to Paris, I’ve got fifteen minutes.”

“Good idea,” Richard says. “If you need someone to wake you in fifteen minutes, I’d be happy to oblige.”

“Please do,” Rory says. “I’m sorry you didn’t get to be in Mom and Grandma’s special interview.”

“I think I’ll find the will to live on,” Richard says wryly. “Especially with some light reading at my disposal. She’s funny, that Kaling girl. Paris should try reaching out to her on Twitter instead of provoking Donald Trump at every turn.”

“You read Paris’s Twitter?” Rory asks, smiling.

“Oh, I’m on the cutting edge of technology,” Richard assures her with a twinkle in his eye.

“I don’t doubt it,” Rory says. “You know, if you’re in the mood for witty writings of TV funny ladies, you might like Bossypants by Tina Fey too. It’s fluff, but it’s good fluff, you know?”

“I do enjoy her credit card commercials. You’ll have to show me how to download it onto the Kindle.”

“I thought you were on the cutting edge of technology,” Rory reminds him.

Richard smiles at her. “There’s one exception, and it's called making excuses to spend time with my granddaughter.”

Rory smiles back. “Goodnight for fifteen minutes, Grandpa.”

“Goodnight for fifteen minutes, Rory.”


+

FULL TRANSCRIPTS OF INTERVIEW SEGMENTS – PARIS & RORY’S MODERN STARS HOLLOW FAMILY - EPISODE 6: “THE FIRELIGHT FESTIVAL”

INTERVIEW – Lorelai Gilmore and Emily Gilmore

LOCATION – the front porch of the Gilmore/Danes residence

INTERVIEWER
Now, Lorelai, you’ve made it clear that you enthusiastically support your daughter’s relationship.

LORELAI
Team Raris forever. Or as I like to call it: Team Pory Gilger.

[Let the record state that EMILY looks not precisely impressed by this team name.]

INTERVIEWER
And Emily, you spoke glowingly of Paris to us in the past.

EMILY
Can you blame me? The girl is an angel.

LORELAI
One of the biblical ones. You know, with the sword and the twelve faces.

EMILY
Lorelai, really.

LORELAI
I’m saying that with a future mother-in-law’s love. Obviously. Hey – it’s kind of like all those lovely descriptions of Luke you used to come up with, Mom!

EMILY
I’m sure it is.

INTERVIEWER
You said, Emily, that you and Richard have loved Paris ever since Rory brought her home to meet you years ago. But was it ever a struggle for you to accept that your granddaughter has chosen to spend her life with another woman?

LORELAI
Fun fact about my mother, Nige: a more accepting person has probably never drawn breath on this earth.

EMILY (smiling)
You’re too kind, Lorelai.

LORELAI
How could I not be, with such an accepting mother? It’s just the way I was raised. I tell you, Nigel, this woman is an angel. The fluffy clouds and harps kind. Can’t you just imagine a halo atop that auburn head?

EMILY (smiling harder)
Nigel, I’m going to answer your question now.

INTERVIEWER
Spectacular!

EMILY
While no, I did not expect my granddaughter to spend her life with a woman, I’m happy to support her in all her decisions. As my daughter said, I’m a very accepting person.

[At this point, LORELAI is overcome with a coughing fit. Perhaps plagued by some illness?]

EMILY
Do you need a lozenge, Lorelai?

LORELAI (recovering)
Do you have a lozenge, Mom?

EMILY
I most certainly do not. You don’t carry around cough drops in a Louis Vuitton.

LORELAI
Ricola tease.

EMILY
Nigel—

LORELAI
Riiiicolaaaaa!

EMILY
It’s true that on occasion in the past, I’ve gotten carried away with thinking I know best about the lives of my family members. It’s possible that once or twice, this tendency has caused conflicts between myself and my loved ones.

LORELAI
That was before she became so accepting, you see.

EMILY (oddly pensive)
Yes, it was. [A pause.] But I love Rory with all my heart, and I’m proud to be there for her, whatever she chooses. It’s an honor to be a part of her life, and one that I hope never to jeopardize by regarding her with judgment instead of support. One can waste so many years when they approach life that way, even if they think they’re acting out of love. The fact that Rory trusts me enough to let me into her life ... I count myself very lucky to have gotten that chance. It’s hard to imagine what these past many years would have been like otherwise.

LORELAI
Aw. Mom.

INTERVIEWER
Lorelai, you sound like you’re not used to hearing your mother talk this way!

LORELAI
Uh, of course I am, Nige. This woman is a regular well of compliments and affection. Hey, Mom! Tell him all the good stuff about me next.

EMILY
Oh good Lord.

INTERVIEWER
Oh, yes! Let’s hear the good things about Lorelai! I’m sure that list would go on for pages and pages.

LORELAI
Well, I don’t know if we have time for pages. But heck, Mom! Treat us to page one.

[A long pause.]

EMILY
Lorelai manages to eat an astonishing number of French fries without dropping dead from congestive heart failure. I suppose you could call that a skill, in its own bizarre way.

[Another long pause.]

INTERVIEWER
Ha ha ha! Oh, goodness gracious. You almost had me there, Emily! Let me guess: that was your best Lucille Bluth impression.

LORELAI
‘I don’t care for Lorelai.’

INTERVIEWER
‘I don’t care for Lorelai.’ Oh, classic!

The INTERVIEWER and LORELAI laugh hysterically.

EMILY
What?

INTERVIEWER
‘Get rid of The Seaward.’

LORELAI (in a shockingly effective Snooty Old Lady voice)
‘I’ll leave when I’m good and ready.’

The INTERVIEWER and LORELAI continue to laugh hysterically.

EMILY
What?


+


It turns out that fifteen minutes is a hideously brief amount of time.

Rory finally nods off. What feels like one second later, there’s a light knock on her bedroom door.

“No, whyyyyyy,” she mumbles, and takes a few seconds to feel abjectly sorry for herself.

Then she sits up. The act of sitting up may be the hardest thing she’s ever had to do. Forget fixing her life after the whole dropping-out-of-Yale debacle. Forget turning down Logan’s proposal. Forget leaving her mom and the promise of dozens of rollercoasters behind in order to very suddenly become an employed journalist-shaped adult. This, this business of sitting up—this is the hardest challenge Rory Gilmore has ever had to meet.

She does it.

But man oh man, is it intensely unrewarding.

Finally, she finds the strength to (at least try to) smooth her hair and calls, “Come in!”

Richard enters obediently. “You look exhausted, poor girl.”

“Nothing a team of professional makeup artists can’t fix,” Rory says, trying to sound chipper.

“When all of this is over, you deserve some relaxation. I tell you what: I’ll have your grandmother book you an appointment at one of those lavish spas of hers.”

“Honestly, I would rather spend a weekend reading in my pajamas.”

Richard chuckles. “A girl after my own heart.” His eyebrows furrow as he looks at her more closely. “You are all right, aren’t you?”

“Sure,” Rory says with a sigh. “Cameras following me everywhere? I’m living the dream. At least according to Madeline and Louise.”

“But you’ve never been interested in fame for fame’s sake,” Richard says discerningly.

“No. And I gotta say, I don’t know how Taylor does it.”

“The power-mad man who makes you all congregate in the dancing barn? I wasn’t aware he was popular.”

“Swift. Sorry, I should have clarified.”

Richard laughs, and Rory feels a slight sense of I-don’t-entirely-hate-the-world in her heart. “And how’s Paris holding up?”

“Oh, you know. She’s Paris. She’s terrifying in her thirst to succeed. All that fun stuff.”

“Ah yes,” says Richard. He sits down at the foot of Rory’s bed. After a moment of tactful silence, he says, “Things seem a bit chilly between you two.”

“Yeah, well. It’s been a long two weeks. We’re both just tired.”

“I can imagine. I suppose you’ll be glad when all of this is over, hmm?”

“Oh yeah. Once things are back to normal, it should—it should all be good.” Rory puts on the best smile she can, and thinks about drifting back into pre-Nigel normalcy. There’s a part of her that hates the idea of being so far away from Paris, and another part that wants to lean into the way things were before and pretend that nothing’s changed.

She suddenly feels so overcome with the urge to cry that it almost makes her head ache. Without quite meaning to, she covers her face with her hands.

“Rory?”

“I’m fine,” she says shakily from between her fingers, not completely able to keep the weepiness out of her voice. “I’m fine. I just – I was up really early rehearsing breakfast with Madeline and Louise, and I said ‘on fleek’—”

“Dear God. Why?” Richard murmurs, aghast.

“And Madeline and Louise said—” Rory stops.

“Said what?” Richard asks.

“They seemed to think that maybe Paris ...” Rory inhales. “... that she ... liked me back when we were in school. You know. In a more-than-friends kind of way.”

“Ah,” Richard says.

“And it’s completely crazy, and when I talked to Paris about it she said it wasn’t true, and I know I should just believe her and get over it. But I know her, and I know that she gets like this sometimes, where she gets so stubborn and stuck in her own head that she won’t admit what’s really going on, and instead she just turns into this really efficient terrifying robot person, and if that’s what she’s doing this time, I don’t want her to get trapped in it. I don’t want us to miss whatever chance we might have. But then it sounds so stupid to say it out loud, because it’s Paris, and how are we even supposed to be in a relationship? We’re like the strangest best friends ever. It’s a miracle we still talk to each other. It defies science! Did you know that she’s declared us to be mortal enemies for life on at least six separate occasions in the twelve years we’ve known each other? And now, what? She’s my Pacey? And so I try to tell myself that once this is over and we’re past it, I can get back to imagining that person I might be with someday. Get back to thinking about how—how they’re out there, and my life still has all this possibility. But when I do think about it, it just makes me really sad. Because they won’t be her.”

Rory finally succumbs to the urge to cry. She can’t remember the last time she needed a good cry quite this much. Or, to be more accurate, a really bad ugly cry. There’s no way this isn’t an ugly cry.

Then comes her grandpa’s hand on her back and his voice, gentle. “I know that feeling, as it so happens.”

“You do? Why?” Rory is so, so, so not in the mood to find out about the (second) dissolution of her grandparents’ marriage right now. She might have to throw herself out the window. Which won’t do much harm, on account of the whole first-floor thing, but as a symbolic gesture, she feels like it will sum things up pretty accurately.

“When I was engaged to Pennilyn Lott,” Richard says, and that’s a blast-from-the-past relief, “I did strive to keep things going between us after I first met your grandmother. But the thought of a life without Emily was such a depressing thing. When I tried to imagine the future, there seemed to be no color in it. Breaking off an engagement to someone is no small feat, but I mustered up the nerve and I did it. And damned if it wasn’t the best choice I’ve ever made.”

“Oh yeah?” Rory says, hope starting to rise in her.

“Oh yeah,” Richard repeats in Very Serious tones, making Rory laugh. “You know, I like Paris. I’ve always liked her a great deal. She’s an extraordinary girl—well, young woman now. I’ve enjoyed having her be part of the family over the past few weeks. Not to mention that time that you brought her to the family Christmas party a few years ago. Granted, she may have horrified some of our guests with her political views, but there’s no denying that she brings a certain zestful presence to a room.”

“Well, she and Doyle had just split up, and I didn’t want her to be alone for the holidays.” Rory smiles slightly at the memory. “She did make some waves, huh?”

“One of the guests assured me that my granddaughter’s companion was another Hillary in the making.”

Rory laughs. “I’m definitely going to have to pass that one along to her.”

“I don’t know that it was entirely meant as a compliment,” Richard adds, frowning slightly.

“She’ll take it that way. Don’t worry.” And then it finally registers in Rory’s brain. “‘Companion’?”

“Do you know, it’s possible he thought you were life partners,” Richard says in a tone of pensive surprise. “It didn’t cross my mind at the time.”

Rory feels caught between laughing and more weeping hysterically. It would have been nice for Mr. Snobby Christmas Guest to fill her in on the whole companions thing before the situation became more or less broadcast to the entire world.

“But my opinion on the subject isn’t the one that matters,” Richard says more seriously. “Rory, what is it that you want?”

It feels so strange, to have her grandfather looking at her like he is, all kind and supportive. Like she could say anything and he would keep sitting right there, making her feel better. He’s so different from the cold and distant man that her mother always described when Rory was little. 

Rory stares at the bookshelf across from her bed. Most of the books that are left here now are the ones she loved as a kid, stories about trapped girls defying the odds and finding adventures. Being brave.

Staring at the spine of Anne of Avonlea, she says the truth out loud. “I want to ... be with her, I guess. Is that stupid? It feels stupid.”

“Not stupid at all. This girl is devoted to you. She adores you—it’s plain to see. And it would be a shame for you to miss out on a great opportunity just because both of you are too afraid to make the first move. After all, neither of you are usually timid of heart.”

“So you don’t ... disapprove?” Rory checks.

“It may not be what I expected for you,” Richard says. “And if your mother had come home with the same news when she was young, perhaps I would have started having heart trouble much earlier in life.”

“Not funny,” scolds Rory.

Richard chuckles a little. “But the only thing I disapprove of is my granddaughter missing out on a chance at happiness. And if you ask me, I think you have a very good chance. You two have had a special bond since you first brought her home to our house for that business project at Chilton.”

“A special bond? I can barely remember that project, but I’m pretty sure all she did was berate me.”

“A certain amount of berating can keep things fresh. Take that from your grandparents who’ve been married for over forty years. Judging by the Richard and Emily Gilmore gold standard, you and Paris are a couple for the ages.”

“God.” Rory lets out a watery little laugh. “Imagine what Grandma would say if she knew about this.”

“Never mind your grandmother,” Richard advises, patting her hand. “It may take her a little time to adjust to the news, but she only wants what’s best for you. You just do what will make you happy.”

“Adjust to what?”

Rory looks up at the new voice. Emily is standing in the doorway.

“Oh,” Rory says quickly, trying to give off the air of somebody whose heart didn’t just plummet to their toes, “nothing. Hi Grandma.”

“Hello,” Emily says icily. “Adjust to what?”

“Rory’s quite right: nothing at all,” Richard says smoothly, getting up from the bed. “Now let’s get ready for more time in the spotlight, shall we? You look lovely, my dear.”

Emily ignores him. “Because it sounds like I’ll adjust to the fact that you and Paris are in a real relationship. You know. Assuming you ever get around to telling your hysterical old-fashioned grandmother.”

“Grandma—” Rory attempts, feeling more nauseated with every step that Emily takes toward her.

“I can’t believe you would spin a lie this elaborate just to avoid having to tell me the truth. You’ll tell the world on national television, but not me?”

Grandma—” Rory says, standing.

“You’ve officially surpassed your mother, which is something I never thought possible.” Emily’s eyes are gleaming, and Rory can’t quite tell if it’s from tears or pure fury.

Richard frowns. “Emily, it was a private conversation, and Rory will tell you what’s going on in her own time—”

“And of course you’ll tell your cuddly old grandfather, but the idea of sharing any aspect of your personal life with me is tantamount to having a heart-to-heart with Hitler—”

There’s the sound of footsteps scuffling, and Rory looks past her grandmother to see Nigel and the crew appearing outside the door. Lorelai is at the head of the group, a distinct ‘Danger! Danger!’ expression on her face.

“Hi Mom and everyone else!” Rory yelps, desperate.

“—and I swear, Rory Gilmore, you become more beautiful every day,” Emily adapts gracefully. She puts her hands on Rory’s shoulders and presses an elegant kiss to her cheek. “It will be such a treat to get to sit down for a meal with you and your sweetheart.”

Richard coughs nervously.

“Thanks Grandma,” Rory says, and decides that Emily Gilmore is in fact the most terrifying person in the world.

Chapter Text

Paris can’t sleep.

Of course she can’t.

She should have seen this coming. It’s not like she’s going to be able to just lie down and catch zzz’s in the bed of some randos. Granted, Lorelai and Luke are less random than most, but Paris doesn’t know enough about them to trust their bedding-laundering habits.

Lorelai definitely isn’t the type to abide by the wash-your-sheets-once-a-week rule. Luke’s more of a wild card. He keeps the kitchen stocked and the family fed, which means that he’s down with taking on the more traditionally feminine role in the household. (Which, props. In a congratulations-on-meeting-the-minimum-requirements-for-being-an-acceptable-human-being kind of way.) But who knows how far that extends? His style is clearly lumberjack-inspired, and it’s not like they’re exactly renowned for their cleanliness and attention to laundering on a regular schedule. If Paris needed someone to chop down a tree or clog her arteries, sure, Luke would be her guy, but trusting him on this? No thanks.

Lorelai was a maid once.

Then again, maybe she vowed when she was young and poor and bitter and sick of changing a hundred sheets a day that she would never take her work home with her.

And that’s not even getting into the fact that Lorelai definitely eats in bed. If rats crawl out from under the blankets any second now and start nesting in Paris’s hair, she won’t even be surprised.

Plus, the whole people-have-sex-in-this-bed thing.

God.

Take the time to appreciate the things that life puts in your path, says the Terrance voice in her head. Don’t instantly look for what’s wrong.

A nap in a bed when she’s exhausted. That’s good. That's enough.

Inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth. Inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth.

Her head hurts a little less. She tries to find peace by observing her surroundings, like Terrance says to.

Lorelai must use the same laundry detergent that Rory does. Paris has always been a staunch buyer of the scent-free detergent; she’s not about to tempt allergic reactions just so her clothes can smell like a springtime breeze or a lavender kiss or whatever. Rory, predictably, is just a little less sensible and a little more pretty than Paris is, in laundry and in life. Rory’s one of the sharpest people Paris knows, but she also has the ability to buy the most Anne of Green Gables-approved sounding laundry detergent on the shelf and not look like an idiot. When Paris first met her, she couldn’t wrap her brain around it. That ability to be smart and soft at the same time.

Once when they lived together in college, Paris was so swamped with studying that she barely had time to eat, let alone stick to the wash-your-sheets-once-a-week routine, and the thought of it was driving her nuts. To the point where, in a fit of academic agony, she tore all the bedding off her bed and left it on the floor, stomping out while vowing to burn it when she got home.

When she came back from the library at two in the morning, she found her bed perfectly made, and smelling just a little different. Springtime breeze or lavender kiss, probably. (How do the people in charge of naming laundry detergents not spend their entire lives in one continual barf fest at their own inanity?) Usually artificial scents are synonymous with Time For Paris To Feel Like She’s Getting Stabbed In The Skull, but she hadn’t minded it so much that time. It smelled familiar and comforting, and Paris didn’t really realize why until the next day when she was standing next to Rory.

Sometimes she still thinks about how well she slept that night. It was weird, is all. Getting a sound, unbothered night’s sleep isn’t exactly a Paris Geller norm.

Hell, taking a power nap is apparently impossible.

She finally gives into the inevitable and sits up, swinging her legs back over the side of the bed.

Then she pulls the little box out of her pocket and opens it.

She’s not sure where Nigel & Crew got an engagement ring on short notice, but it’s a nice one, she guesses. Sparkly and everything. Paris decided when she was nine that there was only one thing she didn’t want to know everything about, and that was jewelry. The idea of growing up to become her mother was too depressing. So she’s not sure about karats or the cut or whatever, but she does know that tonight it’ll look nice and shiny on camera.

Nigel didn’t stop to wonder why Paris had suddenly come to him with the grand idea to propose to Rory at the Firelight Festival. He just said it was a wonderful idea, the perfect finale, and then hopped off to find a ring and start making the fairytale come true.

If there’s one thing she learned from binge-watching episodes of The Office with Rory a few years ago, it’s that you can’t have two proposals at one event. (Well, that and that Jim Halpert is totally overrated.) Two proposals equals total social faux pas. Jess Mariano definitely won’t be willing to participate in something as uncool as a proposing epidemic. It’s like two steps away from a double wedding.

And sure, maybe it will just buy Rory a little more time to confess her feelings and lock the guy down already. But maybe seeing the proposal happen—even if he knows there’s nothing real going on between Rory and Paris—will spur that idiot into action. Remind him that Rory is amazing and she’s not just going to sit around waiting for him forever.

Paris snaps the ring box shut and tries not to think of how Rory’s face will look when Paris springs this on her. It’s for the greater good. Rory will thank her for it someday. Not to mention that it’ll be ratings dynamite.

The bedroom door swings open, and Luke comes in. He wastes exactly no time in starting to unbutton his shirt.

“Great,” Paris says, and shoves the ring box back into her pocket. “Thanks. This is just what I need. Magic Mike: Flannel Fantasy.”

Luke swears and whirls around to look at her.

It would be pretty funny if Paris was in the mood to laugh.

“Ah, jeez—Paris. Hi. I didn’t know anyone was in here.” He starts buttoning his shirt back up.

“When did you last wash your sheets?”

“I dunno. Last week?”

“You don’t know?”

“Last week,” Luke says more definitively.

Paris squints warily at him. “What are you doing here?”

“You mean in my own bedroom?” Luke asks.

Oh yeah. “I just thought you would be down with the family for dinner. That’s all.”

“Everybody's busy -- interview stuff, and Rory's sleeping, so I figured I should change before we eat. I’ve been cooking for awhile.”

“You can go in the bathroom,” Paris says, gesturing to the adjoining door.

“Of course. Why didn’t I think of that?” Luke huffs, and Paris realizes that that probably wasn’t such a socially A-plus thing to say. Still, he grabs some clothes from the closet and obediently trots off to the bathroom.

She finds herself looking at the bedside table. A copy of The Martian rests open and face-down on the table (apparently someone hasn’t heard of bookmarks), and a few framed pictures sit behind it. There’s one of Rory and Lorelai and Luke and April and Paul Anka all squeezed together and smiling in front of a Christmas tree, and another of Luke and Lorelai sitting on a bench smiling at each other, stuff all dusky and fairylit in the background. They look younger in that one.

“So, how long have you been with Lorelai again?” Paris finds herself asking. She’s been told the whole saga before, but the intricacies of her best friend’s mom’s love life never really stuck around in her brain when she had Gray’s Anatomy to memorize.

“Coming up on ten years now.”

“Was this when you first got together? The picture on the nightstand, I mean.”

“That was back when we were just friends. An old friend of mine took it. She’s good, huh?”

“How long were you friends? You and Lorelai, I mean. I don’t care about your ex-girlfriend who became your ex-girlfriend after she saw this picture of you and Lorelai.”

“How did you kn—You know what. Never mind. Me and Lorelai were friends a pretty long time. She started coming into the diner when Rory was little. You should have seen the stacks of books that kid would carry around with her. We’re talking a serious safety hazard. I’d tell Lorelai, ‘You can’t just let a little kid carry a stack of books like that. She’ll break both her legs or knock down Fran Weston.’ And I didn’t want the customers who would have been at Weston’s buzzing around the diner and expecting me to make them fancy baked goods. You get donuts, you get muffins, you get pie—that’s it. But the books just kept on coming.”

Paris looks at the pictures on Lorelai’s bedside table. There’s one of Lorelai and Luke kissing on their wedding day beneath the chuppah that Lorelai keeps in the front yard (despite being emphatically not Jewish), and one of Lorelai and Rory and Richard and Emily on the same day, and one of Lorelai looking mind-blowingly young with a dark haired little girl in her lap. And there’s one of Rory all grown up or close to it, wearing jeans and a t-shirt and standing outside on what was inevitably a perfect sunshiney Stars Hollow summer day, looking over her shoulder and beaming.

“It got so bad I finally had to build Rory a book wagon, for her own survival, but then Lorelai didn’t like that. She insisted that her daughter wasn’t gonna be the weird kid who dragged around a wagon. But Rory loved that thing. It was great. And then she’d always check out so many books that she didn’t have the strength to pull them all, and Lorelai would be the one having to drag it around town.”

Luke chuckles, nostalgic, and Paris wonders what it’s like to look back on moments like that after it’s all worked out against the odds. It must feel good. To know that you weren’t just hoping for no reason, and that all that slowly dying inside was worth it.

“But you liked her,” Paris says. “When this picture was taken.”

“What? I don’t know. Of course I liked her. We were friends. You like your friends.”

“Oh.” She feels unaccountably disappointed at that. It must be all the sleep deprivation and lie-living, or something.

She’s used to feeling like she doesn’t quite fit with other people—it’s pretty much her default setting, and she’s usually glad about that. (Have you seen other people?) But just for once, it was a nice thought. That someone else felt the way she does now, and lived to tell the tale.

Luke comes out of the bathroom. He’s wearing slacks and a button-up shirt. For once, Paris doesn’t feel the impulse to call him the burly man version of Claire Danes’s character in My So-Called Life.

He looks at Paris, and seems to change his mind about something. Great. She must look as pathetic as she feels.

He sits down on at the end of the bed.  “I liked her,” he says. “I didn’t want to dwell on it too much, because I didn’t think anything would ever—But yeah. I liked her a lot for a really long time.”

“And one day she liked you back,” Paris says experimentally.

“Yeah,” Luke says. “That was a good day.” Then he grimaces. “It was also the first day I saw Kirk naked, but I guess that was just the universe balancing itself out.”

“The first day?”

“Stick around this town long enough, and I defy you not to see Kirk naked.”

“Gee, that’s a real motivator. I think I’ll stay forever.”

Luke laughs, and Paris decides she kind of likes the guy.

“You want to hear something weird?” he asks.

“What?”

Conspiratorially, he says, “She liked me all along too.”

Paris can tell he’s trying to tell her something, in that so unsmooth well-meaning dad way that she never saw even a flash of from her own father. Some classic Chin up, honey, it will all work out bull.

“But how often does that happen?” Paris counters. Something in her just can’t let that one slide. “Pining for your best friend for years and then, what, living happily ever after? Did Nicholas Sparks write your life?”

“I don’t think you get to play the Nicholas Sparks card unless someone dies a weird dramatic death.”

“You’re familiar with the soul-sucking oeuvre of Nicholas Sparks?” Paris says doubtfully.

“I’ve heard Lorelai and Rory rant about Nicholas Sparks,” Luke corrects.

“Same,” Paris says.

They sit in silence.

“Like cancer,” Luke pipes up once the silence gets to be too heavy, “or a sailing accident, or, I dunno, mutual death by old age and handholding.”

“Dementia and handholding,” Paris corrects.

“Oh, right. Dementia. Why do they know so much about this stuff if they hate it so much?”

“You could apply that question to approximately eighty percent of what they talk about.”

Luke chuckles, and Paris feels a little stab of something sad and happy at the same time. Just a couple of Gilmore girl lovers, commiserating over their lots in life. It’s easy to feel like part of the family, just for a second.

Luke seems to pick up on the fact that she’s drifted accidentally into melancholy-ville. He knocks his knuckles lightly against her leg, a gesture of comfort that should be annoying but isn’t. “You’ve gotta communicate. Say what you really feel. That’s the most important thing.”

“This from the guru of love and deep frying,” Paris scoffs. “Thanks a lot.”

“I read a book once,” Luke says, shrugging. “And then, after awhile, I forgot to remember the stuff from the book. That didn’t go great.”

“When she got with Rory’s dad?” Paris discerns.

“Yeah.”

“But that was like five minutes of bad decision-making. She got over it.”

Paris thinks of Rory, of being kissed in that random classroom like it meant something, like it was something real instead of a mistake. Paris thinks of Rory and Jess, giving each other quiet little I-know-you, I-missed-you looks from the second he showed up in town.

And she thinks of Rory, a few years ago but it feels like yesterday or maybe even this morning, mopey and tired after getting back from Lorelai and Luke’s wedding, watching The Six Wives of King Henry VIII with a giant bowl of popcorn and her feet in Paris’s lap, mumbling, “I think I really messed up this one.” And that wasn’t the only time. Rory slamming her laptop shut just a few seconds too late, so that Paris was still able to catch a glimpse of Hiking Barbie’s Facebook profile. Rory oh-so-casually saying stuff like, “But I never really saw Jess as an outdoorsy type, did you?” so that Paris knew that she’d been mulling over it.

And Paris isn’t an idiot. She knows that Rory is a romantic right underneath that practical exterior, and that ending up with your high school bad boy soulmate is exactly the kind of move that Rory Leigh Gilmore, and only Rory Leigh Gilmore, could actually pull off.

She’s watched Rory regret the whole emo-kid-that-got-away thing for years. And Paris knows what Rory does when, every once in awhile, things don’t go the way she’d always counted on. She crumples. She does something stupid and easy because it’s comfortable when the big bad real world gets to be too much. Losing her virginity to her married ex-boyfriend. Stealing a yacht and dropping out of Yale.

Having a weird fling with her best friend who, historically, has always driven her out of her mind because even that’s easier than facing up to the fact that the guy she were always counting on wants to marry someone else.

And sure, there’s a part of Paris that just wants to roll with it. Settling-out-of-misguided-desperation Rory is still Rory. Sweet-voiced and sharp witted and so pretty that it alternates between making Paris angry and making her feel like she’s just been caught off-guard by a sunrise. Annoyingly tall and unstoppably brilliant and literally always reading now that iPhones are a thing. Rory, who swore she would never support e-books because e-books don’t have that book smell and then caved after a month and spent $300 on Amazon in two hours and recommended books to Paris constantly for weeks afterwards. Rory, who never cares when Paris sends her twenty texts in a row because she has to get her feelings out on the new episode of Game of Thrones or the institutional misogyny running rampant in this country that leads to the undue vilification of Hillary Clinton or the fact that the new JT song is undeniably catchy, damn it. Rory, who has always listened and always cared and always seen Paris as a real person, even when it was a pain in the ass to do it.

She won’t let Rory settle. She cares about her too much for that.

“You okay?” Luke asks gently. 

“It’s going to be weird when your stepdaughter is also your niece,” Paris says, getting up and smoothing her clothes. “Good luck with all that. I feel like this town won’t really be willing to turn a blind eye to the incest taboo. But hey, I have full faith in Stars Hollow’s ability to couple a stoning with a sock hop. Make it a special night for everybody.”

“Wait. What?”

“She’s in love with Jess,” Paris says. “What? You didn’t know? I know it’s classist to stereotype fast food workers when it’s really the system that’s broken, but damn, you’re slow.”

“Paris, Jess is—”

“With someone else. Yeah, I’ve heard, whatever. You think that matters? That girl is a Rory’s Dad if I’ve ever seen one. She’ll pass. Rory’s the Luke.”

“Rory is not—hey, listen, Rory is not the Luke,” Luke says, and grimaces at referring to himself in third person. Great. More people flabbergasted by the general insanity of Paris. It must be a day that ends in -y.

“There’s something between them. I can’t be the only one who sees that.”

“Well, sure. They’ve always gotten along. And yeah, when they were younger, I hoped that they might stay together; it seemed like maybe that was what Jess needed to grow up, or something. Not that that should’ve been Rory’s problem, but you know. When she liked him, it was definitely a relief to me. But he managed to grow up on his own, and he’s got a really good life now, and a good thing with Alex—they’ve got a cat, even; he sends April pictures of it all the time. A cat, that’s kind of like a kid. I mean, hairier than a kid, and less loud than a kid, but that’s still a long-term commitment right there. And the thing is, Rory knows about the cat. I really don’t think you need to worry about Rory—”

“She would never pick me,” Paris says, and then it’s too late and the stupid pathetic words are out of her mouth before they’ve even really gone through her head.

“Didn’t she already ...? At the Romeo and Juliet thing, when you guys were gone, Lorelai seemed to think you were ...” He chickens right out of that statement, and stares down at his feet. It’s a miracle the guy doesn’t start humming and twiddling his thumbs.

“Coming dangerously close to having sex in an empty classroom isn’t the same as picking somebody.”

Luke gets caught between cringing and making Sympathy Face. The resulting expression must be, Paris knows, objectively hilarious. But she still doesn’t feel like laughing.

“I’m her friend,” Paris says, because it’s the truth. “I’m her weird, exhausting friend, and that’s all she’s ever going to want out of this relationship.”

Luke’s brow furrows sympathetically. “Paris, you’re great.”

“I know I’m great,” Paris snaps. “That’s men for you, always thinking women are somehow miraculously unaware of their own value until some gallant dude points it out to her. Boy, I’m glad the town donut provider condescended to step down from his patriarchal pedestal to tell me, the multimillionaire best-selling author and political pundit, that I’m great—”

“That’s not what I meant,” Luke says impatiently. “It’s just, I know Rory really cares about you.”

“But not like that.”

Luke keeps looking at her like he can’t possibly understand where she’s coming from. God. She really is going to have to walk Old McDonald through this one. Maybe he’s stuck a fork into a toaster one too many times and has fully lost his ability to reach obvious conclusions.

“You know what Rory does?” Paris says. “She mocks the ridiculous. It’s kind of her thing. I’m not stupid. I know that she and Lorelai have given me the Nicholas Sparks treatment at least once a week since the year we met. I know she loves me, and I know I’m an important part of her life. But I’m never going to put any stars in her eyes, you know? She puts up with me. That’s the way it’s always gone.”

“Paris,” Luke says, sounding so sympathetic that it makes Paris want to throw herself out the window or hug him or something.

“What?” she says instead. “Are you going to tell me I’m being pessimistic and she’s really two seconds away from falling into my arms?”

“I don’t know,” Luke says evenly. “Rory and I don’t really have a lot of talks about her feelings in the dating department. But I think you’re selling yourself short. And the only way to really know what’s going on is to talk to her.”

“So she can revel in my patheticness? Swell.”

“So you don’t drive yourself crazy wondering.”

Damn it. That sounds really smart.

Instead of telling him so, she goes with the much safer, “Please. I surpassed crazy a long time ago. Ask anyone.”

Luke gives her a smirk. “Then you’re marrying into the right family.”

Paris folds her arms in front of her chest, feeling suddenly outside of the emotional cyclone that was threatening to destroy the room seconds ago.

“Thanks for telling me you washed your sheets last week,” she offers.

“I did wash the sheets last week,” says Luke.

“Sure,” Paris says. “I so believe you.”

“There you guys are.” Paris looks over to see Lorelai walking in. “You’re missing out on some real fun downstairs.”

“Oh yeah?” Luke says.

“Well,” Lorelai reconsiders, “some call it fun. I call it ‘shoot me in the face before I ever agree to do another on-camera interview with Emily Gilmore.’ I don’t eat an astonishing number of French fries, do I?”

“Nope,” Luke says. “‘Astonishing’ doesn’t begin to cover it.”

“Hey, hon?”

“Yes, hon?”

“If you’re gonna bust out that kind of talk, I know the perfect conversation partner for you downstairs. Her name rhymes with ‘Devily.’”

“Interview no good?”

Lorelai sighs. “Interview was fine. But there’s only so much preening for the camera that even I can take. Which apparently can’t be said for everybody, by the way. I’d better get back down there fast before my mom signs a deal for her own spinoff. The day my mother has a reality show is the day I—” Lorelai pauses, frowning. “Actually, I don’t know what I’d do. When I try to imagine it, I just see blinding white and hear a distant sound like waves calling me home. That can’t be a good sign, can it?”

“Sounds peaceful,” Luke says.

“Sounds like catatonia, my friend.” Lorelai shifts her attention to Paris and smiles. “So, what have you two been up to hiding out up here?”

Paris feels a lurch of general despair at the thought of Lorelai knowing about the conversation that just went down. Lorelai is good to talk to, but she also must tell Rory everything. And the thought of Rory knowing about this—

Luke quickly says, “Just talking about you and me. She asked about the picture, how long we’ve been together; that kind of stuff.”

Lorelai grins. “Oh-ho-ho Paris, are you in for a saga. A great story. A romance for the ages. A real Romeo-and-Juliet-can-suck-it-Oh-wait!-No-they-can’t-because-they’re-dead situation. Did he tell you about how he was pining for me?”

Luke scoffs. “I wasn’t—”

“Did you show her the horoscope?”

“Believe it or not, I don’t have the horoscope on me right now.”

“Lies. I know you keep it in your boxers at all times, like a good doting beau.”

“Can you not talk about my boxers in front of company? Which don’t have a horoscope in them, by the way,” Luke adds for Paris’s benefit.

“Pfft, she’s family. Show! Her! The horoscope! Show! Her! The horoscope!”

Paris feels an astounding lack of curiosity about the horoscope. ‘Family’ stings a little.

“See you downstairs, Paris,” Luke says with an exaggeratedly beleaguered sigh, and starts heading toward the door.

“Yeah,” Paris says faintly. “See you.”

“See you, doll,” Lorelai says, all happily oblivious of any recent emotional meltdowns. “Knock ‘em dead tonight.”

Luke gives her a little wave, and then the two of them take off into the hallway, chattering to each other.

Now that she’s alone, Paris sits back down on the bed for a second. She closes her eyes and breathes in, deep and slow. She just needs to get her head straight, and get rid of the nerves.

Easier thought than done. It feels like her stomach has been invaded by drunk butterflies. Just really stumble-fluttering around in there like a kaleidoscope of idiots.

Randomly, she’s struck by the memory of being in this room before. It looks pretty different now—Lorelai must be all about the renovating—but something about having that nervous feeling up in this space suddenly brings her back. Rory was raiding Lorelai’s closet so that Paris could go on a date with Tristan. Paris felt this weird combination of sick-and-happy as Rory pulled clothes out of the closet and appraisingly held them up against her, like Paris was in any way a normal human being who could do normal girl things with a girl who was nice when she had no reason to be and smiled like it was all going to be fine. The drunk butterflies, Paris had figured then, were strictly of the I’m-looking-forward-to-my-date-with-the-poster-boy-for-bland-2000’s-male-hotness variety.

And here she is, an adult so successful that Tristan probably cries himself to sleep at night because he didn’t preemptively get his gold-digger on when he had the chance, and she’s still being reduced to butterflies by Rory Gilmore.

But now isn’t the time for butterflies. Now is the time for pure, efficient triumph.

There’s an engagement ring in her pocket and by God, she’s going to propose to her best friend on national television after doing a really complicated public dance.

And there’s an exact zero percent chance that she’ll ever actually be married to said best friend.

But hell, if things go to plan, she might get to experience the pure delight that is sitting at the singles table at a Gilmore-Mariano wedding. So at least she’s got that going for her.

“You look nice,” comes Lorelai’s voice from the hallway, and Paris is shaken back into the realization that other people exist.

“Gotta look sharp for the cameras,” responds Luke wryly.

“Oh, for sure. Just promise me you won’t leave me for whichever Real Housewife tries to dig her fake nails into you first.”

“I make no promises.”

“Heartbreaker.” A pause that Paris so does not like. “How’s she doing?”

“I don’t know. It seems like it’s really starting to get to her.”

“To both of them.”

Paris bristles. The last thing she’s gonna take right now is a pity party from the Rory ‘rents. She might feel like she's seconds from breaking apart into a thousand stressed out sleep deprived futilely pining pieces, but damned if anyone else has the right to talk about it. Even if they are talking about it because they care. She doesn't want to get used to them caring. What would be the point?

She stands up, takes one last calming breath, and then strides out of the bedroom with a gait that she specifically perfected to make grown men tremble in fear. It’s a whole your-actions-say-normal-walking-but-your-vibe-says-Krav-Maga thing.

“I want you in perfect onscreen TV parenting mode the second we get down those stairs,” she says when she reaches Luke and Lorelai in the hall, pointing at them. “I’m talking reactions so sickly sweet and emotionally supportive that it would make Marmee March say, ‘Whoa, settle down, it’s just your dumb kid.’ When the cameras are on you, those baby blues better be shining with tears of pride and love at all times, got it?”

“Got it,” Lorelai says. For once, somebody’s shocked the witty retort right out of her.

“Got it,” Luke says, holding up his hands like Paris just pulled a gun on him.

“Good,” Paris says, and storms down the stairs.

It’s time to make this Firelight Festival her bitch.

Chapter Text

Something is off.

“Don’t be nervous,” Nigel instructs. “Just chat like you normally would at any family dinner.”

“That won’t be a problem,” Emily says with a smile. Paris knows that smile. She’s smiled that smile. It’s the smile you flash at someone before you systematically annihilate them.

Yep. Something is definitely off. Richard keeps shooting nervous looks his wife’s way across the table, and Rory looks even more pitifully crushed by the universe than she did before. She must really be feeling the Jess-induced anguish hard.

Luke passes Paris the dish of roast potatoes. While she spoons potatoes onto her plate, she notices that he’s looking at her the way you’d look at a starving dog. It’s all very I’m so sorry for you, but please don’t bite me.

God. Being surrounded by all these feelings is the pits.

Paris looks across the table. Lorelai is uncharacteristically silent and dishing a giant heap of salad onto her plate. Which, based on everything Paris has ever heard about Lorelai, means that her brain is broken.

Paris kicks Lorelai under the table.

Lorelai stops with the salad and springs into action, like one of those talking dolls whose string just got pulled. “So, I had the weirdest dream last night. I woke up one morning, and all of a sudden, I had two heads.”

Weird,” Rory says emphatically, widening her eyes. It’s like she’s doing an impression of herself. Her cutesiness levels have surpassed Drew Barrymore’s.

“Mondo weird! But that isn’t the weirdest part. The second head ... belonged to none other ... than Anjelica Huston! And Luke totally liked my Anjelica Huston head better.”

“Don’t look at me,” Luke says, just a beat too late. “I’m not responsible for dream Luke’s actions.”

“You sure? Because it was like all this—” Lorelai makes a lot of swooshy gestures around her face. “—didn’t even exist.”

“Lorelai, how many times have we shared a Friday Night Dinner?” Emily asks.

“I don’t know,” Lorelai replies. “How many Fridays are in a year? Multiply that by eight billion, and you’d just about have it.”

“And yet still you have the conversational instincts of a hyperactive six year old.”

Richard laughs. It’s a way-too-enthusiastic laugh. That remark was deserving of a mercy-chuckle at best.

“I’m a regular Billy Madison,” Lorelai says, partly to try to cover up the laugh faux pas.

“Who?” Emily says, frowning.

Lorelai pauses thoughtfully, then declares, “Honestly, even the idea of beginning to explain Billy Madison to you makes me tired. So let’s just leave that one a mystery.”

“Very well,” Emily says. She turns and fixes her attention on new targets. “Rory, Paris. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard the story of just how it was that you two first discovered you had feelings for each other. Isn’t it funny, that I wouldn’t know a thing like that? After all, we are family.”

Paris can’t believe it. Emily is going off-script. Emily never goes off-script. She is one of the few people Paris has ever known who can actually value a meticulous game plan.

“Fine film, Billy Madison,” Lorelai says loudly. “You see, Adam Sandler is the privileged heir to his father’s hotel empire, and life is great. That is, until his dad gives the company to someone else. Well, Billy’s not standing for that, that’s for sure, and—”

“Lorelai, a hostess shouldn’t interrupt her guests,” Emily says airily. “It’s like you’ve never had guests over for dinner before.”

“What? I have so. Would someone who’d never had guests over before have these totally-not-brand-new napkins?” Lorelai demands, waving said napkin.

“Rory,” Emily prompts.

Luke grabs Lorelai’s napkin-brandishing hand and lowers it back down to the table.

“It was at a Bangles concert, Grandma,” Rory says, prodding a potato uncomfortably with her fork.

“Yes, but how did it happen?” Emily rests her elbows on the table – isn’t that a major faux pas? – and clasps her hands, leaning in and resting her chin on them. Her eyes gleam in a way that can only be described as primly apocalyptic. She might be the most terrifying woman Paris has ever seen, and Paris has seen (and verbally eviscerated) Ann Coulter in person. “Rory, when did you just know that she was the one for you?”

“Jeez, Mom. Pry much?”

“I’m not prying, Lorelai. I’m simply trying to find out more about the great love story of my granddaughter’s life. If she’s sharing it with the rest of the world, then it shouldn’t bother her to tell little old me, now should it?” Emily levels Rory with a cool smile.

“It doesn’t bother me at all,” Rory says brightly. Paris knows that tone. Rory’s bothered tone. “Um, I don’t know, Grandma. I guess the first time I really knew I liked her was at the concert.”

“At the concert.”

“Yep.”

“A concert you attended when you were sixteen years old.”

“Again, yep.”

“Very good,” says Richard. “A wonderful story—music being the food of love, and all that. Let’s move on, shall we? I bet the world would love to see some of what the four-legged Gilmore can do. Where is Paul Anka?”

“Technically, he’s a Gilmore-Danes,” Lorelai says. “A Ganes, if you will.”

“He is not a Ganes,” Luke says. “He’s a dog. Dogs don’t have last names.”

Lorelai gasps. “I can’t believe you won’t bestow the Danes family name upon Paul Anka. That guy’s been nothing but good to you.”

“It’s not even the Danes family name, it’s the Ganes family name—which, by the way, is not a name.”

“Ernest J. Gaines,” Rory says bleakly.

“Well, obviously it’s a name,” Luke says. “But it’s not a name in this situation.”

Lorelai scoffs. “Next you’re gonna tell me that Lukelai isn’t a thing.”

“Lukelai isn’t a thing—”

“Paul Anka!” Richard calls over their squabbling with wild desperation. “Paul Anka! Pizza! For the love of God, man, pizza!”

Paul Anka’s answering bark rings through the house, but he doesn’t show up.

“Sometimes I daydream of having a family that doesn’t derail our every conversation with nonsense,” Emily says with a dainty sigh.

“Don’t I know it, Emily,” Paris says, steering the conversation to jaunty commiseration territory. She just needs to turn this into a joke fest over the insanity of loving a Gilmore, and—

“It’s such a treat to have someone who understands.” Emily doesn’t so much as glance Paris’s way. She keeps her eyes fixed on Rory. There’s no way around it: Emily’s gone rogue. “You picked an amazing girl, Rory.”

“I know,” Rory says faintly.

“My, it’s remarkable to think of finding your soulmate when you’re so young. And what was it you liked about her, at this Bangles concert?”

Paris curses herself for bringing up the friggin’ Bangles concert to Bill Maher in the first place. She hates that she shared the memory—one of the relatively few nice ones in the younger years of Paris Geller—with the idiot scourge that is humanity.

Rory is quiet for a minute. Then she says, “I guess it was the first time that I ever really saw her outside of Chilton, so she wasn’t trying to intimidate me for once. It was the first time we were almost sort of friends. And besides,” she adds, looking up at Paris and giving her a little smile, “she liked Eternal Flame. You know someone’s a good egg if they like Eternal Flame.”

And despite Emily going rogue and the fact that Rory definitely spent her power nap time crying into her pillow about Jess being taken off the marriage market (there’s no explaining the totally-dead-inside look on her face otherwise), Paris smiles back.

“How nice,” Emily says frostily. “But I didn’t ask about being friends. When did you know you had romantic feelings for her? How many years ago? Was it when you were still seeing Logan?”

“Can we please not bring up Lauren Logan?” Lorelai interjects hastily. “Let’s leave some things in the past, am I right? Rory was into Johnny Depp in 2006 too, but we don’t talk about that. And by Johnny Depp, I mean the career of Johnny Depp. Obviously. Not his masculine physique.”

“You seemed so devoted to Lauren,” Emily adapts smoothly, her eyes still fixed on Rory. Paris is starting to doubt that she’ll ever blink again. “I’d hate to think it was all a lie.”

“I was devoted to Lauren,” Rory says, frustrated. “It took me and Paris some time, okay? We were friends, and it was a strange thought to move out of the friendship realm and into something new. Even if ... even if I wanted to.” She looks at Paris again, this sincere bright blue gaze.

Paris feels like she’s Viserys Targaryen in that scene where he finally gets what’s coming to him and Khal Drogo dumps a molten gold helmet on his head. Except instead of molten gold, it’s feelings. An unbearable make-you-dizzy rush of love and pure terror. She suspects the impact will probably be the same. Face melting. Relatively sudden yet agonizing death.

Rory doesn’t mean it. She can’t. She’s trying to make this convincing. That’s all. But she keeps looking at Paris like that, bright eyed and hopeful, and it hurts.

“We were friends too,” Luke blurts out, the verbal equivalent of diving in front of somebody who’s got a bullet hurtling their way. “Me and Lorelai. Strange, long time friends.”

“He built me a friendship chuppah,” Lorelai jumps in. “What the hell, right?”

“It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

“When?” Emily asks Rory, ignoring that pitiful attempt at a distraction. “When did you realize you felt this way about her? What changed? When did you tell your mother?”

“Seriously?” says Lorelai. “This again?”

“This is none of your business, Lorelai,” Emily says sharply.

Rory stares at Paris for one last lingering second, and Paris is getting really sick of having molten feelings poured over her head—

“I need to get something,” Rory  says abruptly, and gets up from the table.

“Rory!” Emily chastises. “It’s very rude to just get up and walk away in the middle of a conversation—”

“Rory, hon?” Lorelai asks. “Where are you going?”

Paris knows she should say something too—it’s what a concerned partner would do—but she can’t seem to make her mouth move.

Rory disappears into her bedroom for a minute. She comes back out with a book in her hands, a tattered-looking paperback.

“I can’t get this quote out of my head,” Rory says. Her hands are shaking. She sounds the way she used to before a speech or a debate at Chilton—a little too polished, with nerves on fire underneath. “I saw the book earlier on my shelf, and I thought of the quote, and so I’m just going to ... share the quote with you all.”

“A book,” Richard says, relieved. “Hooray.”

“I don’t see what this has to do with anything,” Emily says sharply.

“Mom, let Rory read us the damn quote,” Lorelai snaps. Then she catches herself. “Also, I love you?”

Emily rolls her eyes. “I’m touched.”

Rory goes on, “So, um, this is from L.M. Montgomery, and she’s—she’s really good, and you should give her a shot if you haven’t. Some people might say her work is too sentimental, but I grew up here, so obviously I have a high tolerance for sappy. And it’s the Firelight Festival, so what better time of the year is there for sap?”

Rory stands a little straighter; her voice smooths into the even cadence that comes out whenever she’s got something to read from. “‘It was as if a veil that had hung before her inner consciousness had been lifted, giving to her view a revelation of unsuspected feelings and realities. Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one's life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one's side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music, perhaps...perhaps...love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath.’”

Rory stops reading and the book folds closed in her hands. She looks at Paris, and her eyes shine.

God. Rory is having a full-on Jess Mariano induced delusional meltdown.

Who’s going to put the kibosh on this meltdown?

It should be Paris to do it. She’s never shied away from popping people’s delusional bubbles before. And yet something has left her inconveniently frozen.

Perhaps it crept to one's side like an old friend through quiet ways.

Perhaps love unfolded naturally.

Paris waits for Lorelai to make some Seth MacFarlane level quip about all the shafts and sheaths in that passage, not to mention the gay knight; there's no way Lorelai is leaving that one alone. But it stays quiet. Paris sneaks a glance her way.

Lorelai is looking at Rory with a teary-eyed smile.

The delusion is spreading. The delusion is spreading.

And it’s not only Lorelai. Richard is watching Rory like he’s never been prouder of anyone. Even Emily’s not looking so severe anymore.

Luke catches Paris’s eye for a second and nods slightly. What’s that supposed to mean? Go get ‘er, tiger?

After what feels like an hour or maybe a thousand years of silence, Rory says, “And Grandma ... that’s it, I guess. I don’t really know when I started to feel differently. I just know I can’t imagine being with anyone else.”

She meets Paris’s eyes again. What the hell is going on? If Paris didn’t know better, she would think that Rory actually believes herself right now.

Which would be unacceptable. Apocalyptic. Paris knows she wouldn’t be able to endure being just another cobblestone on the path of Rory Gilmore’s Journey Back To Her High School Broody Boo.

“Well, all right, then,” Emily says after a long moment. It’s probably the closest thing to surrendering that Emily Gilmore has ever done. Richard pats his wife’s shoulder. It’s nice, probably.

Paris can’t seem to tell for sure. She’s starting to feel like her brain is Han, Luke, and Leia and reality is the trash compactor room, walls closing in. Nasty little alien serpents swimming around, just waiting for a victim to latch onto.

“Beautiful!” Nigel says. Paris had forgotten he was here. “That will be romantic dynamite on camera. We’ll play a song over it. Something by Ed Sheeran. There won’t be a dry eye in the viewing audience.”

“He does a killer Fresh Prince theme song rendition,” Lorelai contributes helpfully.

Nigel frowns. “I was thinking something more like ‘Photograph’ or ‘Thinking Out Loud’.”

“No one understands me,” Lorelai tells Luke in a totally conspicuous undertone.

“It was a solid Fresh Prince rendition,” Luke consoles her.

Thank you,” says Lorelai.

Paris can’t take this. The bantering, and the camera crew, and the acting like everything is business as usual instead of business being hurled face-first into a goddamn sharknado!

“Rory, can I talk to you for a minute?” Paris asks, the words bursting out of her by accident, sounding loud and shrill in her ears.

“Yeah,” Rory says, sounding a little breathless. She looks all bright and hopeful, and Paris has a horrifying sudden realization: Rory probably wants to hear something beautiful and loving too. That would make sense. Paris racks her brain for a poignant quote from her childhood reading to reciprocate the gesture, but all that comes immediately to mind is ‘fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.’ Thanks, Machiavelli. Rad dating advice—

No, not dating advice. Never dating advice. This isn’t the start of the glorious Raris love story. This is the start of Rory Gilmore checking into the loony bin, unless Paris does something to curtail it, now.

“Alone,” Paris adds sharply as she stands; she can see Nigel and the camera crew getting ready to follow.

“Now, Paris, you know the conditions we agreed upon—” Nigel begins.

“It’s about a rash, okay?” Paris thunders. “You got me. I didn’t really want to bring it up at the dinner table. Telling your sweetie about your bodily ailments and oozings—that’s real love, folks.”

“Oozings?” Rory says warily.

“Dear God,” mutters Emily.

“Only the loveliest anecdotes grace the dinner table when Lorelai Gilmore hosts a soiree,” Lorelai announces grandly, and starts waving the new napkin again.

Paris grabs Rory’s hand, and doesn’t think about the fact that she’s holding Rory’s hand, and she drags her up the stairs. It's lecture time. This crap needs sorting out once and for all.

Chapter Text

Paris storms up the stairs, Rory’s hand locked in hers, and doesn’t stop until she and Rory are standing in the upstairs bathroom. She’s so distracted by the maelstrom of what the hell is going on what the hell what the hell in her skull that she can’t even freak out over the explosion of beauty products sprawled across the counter. God, Lorelai needs to chill. She’s an adult woman, not a tween with babysitting money to blow.

Paris knocks over a bottle of something pink and strawberry-scented as she turns on the sink full blast.

“Is that really necessary?” Rory asks, wincing at the spray of water.

Paris gestures to the door. “I don’t want the camera crew to hear us.”

“They’re going to think I’m washing your rash.”

“That’s love, baby,” Paris snaps. Rory makes a face, and Paris lowers her voice. “Now, what the hell was that?”

“What do you mean?” Rory asks, looking suddenly awkward.

“Your mom cried, Rory. You quoted a Canadian and your mom cried.”

“She didn’t cry.”

“Her eyes were all shiny. It counts. It was officially more emotion than she showed when we watched The Fault in Our Stars last summer.”

“Well, The Fault in Our Stars is drivel,” Rory says fairly.

“True,” Paris says. “And I appreciated watching it with peers who were willing to throw popcorn at the screen with me; otherwise I definitely couldn’t have made it through. But that’s not the point. Why are you doing live readings of L.M. Montgomery and pretending to love me??”

“I—”

“Wait, I know. That was the deal, right? That was what you signed up for when I dragged you into this mess. So now it’s like, only a crazy person would get mad at you for just doing what you promised to and going above and beyond because you’re Rory Gilmore, that’s what you do!”

“Paris, I—”

“And what is wrong with your grandmother? I thought I could count on her, at least, to make it through dinner without sinking to the dignity level of a YouTube comments section. I don’t want to be the one to say the d-word, but she leaves me very little choice.”

“Demonic possession?” Rory says knowingly.

“Dementia. Get it together, Rory.”

“I know. That was mean. I think my mom might have possessed me for a second there. It’s just, she—”

“I’m not done yet!” Paris bellows.

“Oookay,” Rory says, but puts a finger to her lips. 

Right. This is supposed to be a quiet confrontation. The kind that doesn’t get picked up by mics and used in episode promos in between cat food commercials.

“You’ve got,” Paris whisper-lectures, “to control your damn face. We’re supposed to have been together for years. You should be calm, neutral, a little dead in the eyes. Instead, you’re the human equivalent of the heart eyes emoji. I haven’t seen your Harlequin Romance face since the days of Huntzberger! What’s wrong with me, Rory? Do I have Huntzberger on my face??”

“No,” Rory says, “you don’t have Huntzberger on your face.”

“And why did you read that passage?? Are you trying to get the kids back into the quaint Canadian lit? Because newsflash, Gilmore, it ain’t gonna happen! If it’s not yellow and bastardizing the romance languages in a migraine-inducing helium squeak that never ends, the kids don’t care!”

“I don’t care about the kids,” Rory whispers impatiently.

“And what the hell is up with your eyes?” Paris rages on.

“My ... eyes?”

“They’re too blue. It’s incapacitating. Stop it.”

“Can’t really do much about that,” Rory says. Then she stops, brightening. “Hey. Is that Paris for ‘I like your eyes’?” She smiles a teasing little smile that’s nothing short of life-ruining. She’s so gorgeous it makes Paris’s stomach hurt. 

This used to happen in those early days at Chilton, too. Paris just figured it was hatred-induced. That it was normal to hate someone’s face so much it gave you a stomachache and heart palpitations, no matter how many times the world wide web refused to recognize that as an existing cause of medical ailments.

“I mean it, Rory,” she says, and this time her voice comes out more like a dying person’s last gasp. “What are you doing?”

“I told you,” Rory says; she grabs a purple hair tie from the counter and starts fiddling with it. She’s nervous.

Paris frowns. “You really didn’t.”

“Okay, I didn’t, but Lucy Maud should have done the trick. I’m ... pledging my troth.”

“What?” Time to look away from those frigging eyes. There’s no trusting them. She stares instead at the little rubber ducky with devil horns sitting beside the soap dish.

“I’m saying I want to do this. For real, not for television purposes. Frankly, I can’t wait until the whole TV thing is over with. I might even stop watching TV after this. What is TV besides time you could be reading, anyway? I think this new no-TV lifestyle is really going to take us places. But don’t tell my mom I said that—”

She’s rambling. She looks so giddy. All sparkles and hope, all fluttery-voiced, like Amy Adams in Enchanted. (Paris definitely never would have watched Enchanted if it weren’t for Rory Gilmore.) And then, all at once, it makes sense.

“I get it,” Paris says, realization dawning. “You’ve snapped.”

“What?” Rory frowns. “No I haven’t.”

“I’ve seen it before. Hell, I’ve been there before. You remember the Yale Daily News bunker.”

“Yes,” Rory says with a sigh. “I remember the bunker.”

“You’re so burned out by this new life of deception and by dealing with me and by Jess thinking he’s going to marry Granola Barbie; it’s finally taken its toll! I know you’re tougher than you look—you’d have to be, or you would have crumbled into dust the first time I talked to you—but this was it. The straw that broke your hump, you sad, lovelorn camel.”

“Really not loving you using the word ‘hump’ in that context.”

“WELL, HOW SHOULD I USE IT?” Paris accidentally shouts.

They both go quiet, Rory looking a little pink. There’s the definite sound of scuffling outside the bathroom door.

“THE RASH! IT BURNS!” Paris hollers, for authenticity.

“EESH,” adds Rory awkwardly. “LOOKS VERY PAINFUL!”

The whole sink thing, Paris realizes, was a rookie move; she should have gone for the shower in the first place. She fights her way past the shower curtain and switches the water on. The water pressure is pathetic. Dainty as a sentence of L.M. Montgomery prose about beautiful friendship and golden-hearted roses. Perhaps love unfolded naturally. She grabs the showerhead and twists it until she finds the machine-gun-staccato setting. That’s more like it. Angry and deafening.

“So now I’m washing your rash in the shower?” Rory gathers while she turns off the sink.

Paris sits on the side of the tub. It makes her think of when she was a kid and hadn’t wrangled her stress-induced asthma into submission yet, and Nanny would sit with her and rub her back, murmuring encouragements while Paris pitifully inhaled the steam. Breathe in, breathe out.

Rory comes over and perches on the other side of the tub. “This is going to make some seriously embarrassing reality television.”

“Also known as America’s crack,” says Paris. “Don’t worry about it.”

They sit for a minute, not talking. Paris is starting to regret the shower setting. The ceaseless, aggressive rhythm of it is starting to seem louder and louder, making her head pound.

“Paris. Will you just let me explain?”

“I don’t have time for you to explain.”

“I was talking to my grandpa about you, and my grandma overheard, and she misunderstood what I said and thought that you and I had been together for a long time. And if there’s one thing Emily Gilmore can’t take, it’s feeling like she’s been kept out of her family members’ lives. You know, because of the whole Tragicomic Saga of Emily and Lorelai thing. It made her go a little postal in there. I think that was just her special little way of letting me know that she knew that she’d been lied to. I mean, not that she had, but she thought--anyway. I’m not gonna go down the Gilmore family angst rabbit hole right now. The point is, you know what? I’m glad she did. Because when she was grilling me about us, I realized I didn’t want to try to keep quiet anymore. I just wanted to say what I felt.”

Paris lets herself look at Rory.

Rory is staring at her, her face kind and open, the sweetest thing Paris has ever seen.

Almost nothing is easy for Paris, apart from verbally eviscerating morons. But this, this--

It would be so easy to just lean in and kiss her. To pretend the love shining in her face is real, and Paris’s for keeps.

Something in Paris’s expression must weaken and cave, just for a second, because the corner of Rory’s mouth quirks in a smile. She leans in, resting her hand on Paris’s thigh, and closes her eyes. Her lips brush Paris’s, just barely, an invitation.

Paris jerks back. “No.”

Rory’s eyes open. “What?”

“No, no, no, no, no. You’re not doing this.”

“You don’t want me to do this?”

Paris grabs her hand, but only to push it off her leg. “Rory, this is your chance, all right?”

“I know. I’m taking it.”

“Listen to me. Jess is dumb. Men are dumb. Given the opportunity, they’ll settle down with whatever little missus crosses their path. Anything to avoid doing the dishes and figuring out where to put the detergent in the washing machine, am I right?”

“I’m pretty sure that Jess can wash his own clothes--”

“All the better; what a catch, huh? But he’s making a mistake with Alex, and that would be all fine and dandy to me if it weren’t for one thing: you want him. So you’re going to get him.”

Rory stands up suddenly, like she just got thrown up all over. Hell, in a way, she did. Just replace the vomit with inarguable truth bombs.

“Oh my God, Paris! Are you serious right now?”

Of course. Of course she’s not making this easy. Of course she won’t just listen.

Time to bust out the inarguable logic. Paris just wishes she had access to PowerPoint. She’ll have to make do with what she’s got. “You’re a master in the art of self-sabotage. I’ve watched you do it ever since we met. You decided when you were three that your life’s dream was to go to Harvard, so the time comes around and you go to Yale? Wow, that makes sense. And then when one challenge gets thrown in your way you decide, hey, maybe a college education isn’t for me; I’ll spend my time arranging DAR tea parties instead! And what’s with the cushy staff reporter job? Aren’t you supposed to be reporting from the war-torn streets of Syria right now?”

“Oh right,” Rory huffs. “I forgot. You’re Paris Geller. You respond to confessions of love with insults.”

Paris doesn’t, won’t let herself get stuck on that ‘love.’

“I’m not trying to hurt your feelings. I’m just stating the evidence. You do this. You’re the master of settling for the perfectly respectable backup option because you’re scared of getting what you really want.” She takes a deep breath. It’s time to break out the big guns. God, this would be so much more effective with a PowerPoint. “The first time Jess tried to get back together with you, you went for Dean instead, even though you were so obviously bored with the very essence of Farm Boy. The second time Jess tried, you used the ‘oh, I just love Logan so much I simply couldn’t break up with him’ excuse, despite the fact that the scrub had just cheated on you with an entire bridal party and you dumped him, what?, a year afterward.”

“Because I did love Logan! And that was a good year for us. We were on separate paths, that’s all--”

“You need to stop running away from this, Rory. If Jess is who you want, then go get him.”

You’re who I want.”

“No,” Paris says, because she has to. Because this, right here, is it. “I’m the perfectly respectable backup option. I’m 2004 Dean. I’m 2006 Logan. What I’m not is an idiot.”

Rory’s face changes. For a horrible second, Paris worries that she might start crying. Then instead, she throws her hands up in the air. “God, I don’t know why I even try with you! I must have been completely delusional to think you would make this easy, or let this be even a little bit nice.”

“Easy’s for losers. So is nice. So stop pussyfooting down the easy nice path and go get what you actually want for once in your life.”

For a moment, Rory just glares at her. It’s kind of terrifying, even to Paris, to see so much anger in those angelic baby blues. It’s been years since Rory has been angry, really angry, with her. As adults, they’d finally settled into something steady. The strongest relationship in Paris’s life. The closest thing to family.

Until this. Until Paris just had to ruin everything.

Don’t you think I want to say yes to you? Paris would say, if she was stupid enough to engage in this conversation. Don’t you know it’s killing me not to? But I can’t, because I’m right about this. I know it and deep down you know it too.

Finally, Rory lets out a noise of disgust and turns, storming out of the bathroom. The door slams behind her. Rory is so not a door slammer. Just the sound feels like being punched.

“I wouldn’t go in there if I were you,” Paris hears her say to the camera crew.

“Is the rash bad?” Nigel asks anxiously.

“Nigel, it’s a friggin’ nightmare.”

Paris stares at herself in the bathroom mirror. It’s starting to fog up. Her face is nothing but a vaguely peachy blur. The corners of her eyes sting.

She breathes slowly in and out, thinking again of Nanny and sitting next to the tub, trying to find her breath, when she was young. Granted, this bathroom is hobo garbage compared to the one at her parents’ old house, but she decides that she likes it better. This house is the first one she’s ever really spent time in that actually feels like a home.

Then she hears Rory’s voice again. Paris’s heart forgets to beat. “I forgot something.”

“Is it about the rash?” comes Nigel’s idiot voice. “Is it ... oozing ?”

“Yep,” Rory says. “Save yourselves.”

Then she slips into the room and closes the door behind her.

Paris crosses her arms in front of her chest. “What are you doing here?” The words come out flat.

Rory stands in front of her. She looks for a minute like she doesn’t know what to do; then she settles for taking Paris’s arms and gently uncrossing them. Paris can’t seem to move, so she lets her. Rory doesn’t let go; instead, she takes Paris’s hands in hers.

“I know you’re freaking out right now,” Rory says steadily, “because I know you. You’re hard on yourself—even harder on yourself than you are on everyone else, which should be literally impossible—and I get that. But I mean what I said, okay? And I’m going to keep meaning it. And sure, yes, Jess was a big part of my life once, and so was Logan, and so was Dean. But there’s one person I met when I was young who has stayed a part of my life every day since. And it’s not any of them. So get your brilliant head out of your perky butt and listen to what I’m actually saying, okay? Maybe not today, because I know you’re a panicky dweller who doesn’t exactly gracefully adapt to life changes, and I get that feeling, I do. But listen to me someday. Someday soon. And now I’m going to go, because I’m still seriously annoyed at you and I really, really need to be Paris-free for ten minutes, but that doesn’t mean I’m giving up, okay? I’m Galaxy Questing this thing.”

“What?” Paris says blankly.

“Never give up, never surrender.” Rory squeezes Paris’s hands, then does a dorky little salute. Then, seeming to decide that that's not enough of a parting gesture, she leans down and kisses Paris’s forehead quickly. “Now, get ready to humiliate ourselves via the art of dance, damn it.”

And with that, Rory turns and marches out of the bathroom.

Paris stares after her, dizzy.

Chapter Text

Paris has wanted to believe a lot of stupid things throughout her life. That her parents loved her deep down and just sucked at showing it. That Tristan really did want to go out with her. That she would never get tired of being with Jamie. That not getting into Harvard didn’t mean something unfixable was broken inside of her. That she would never get tired of being with Doyle. That the do more do better do more do better what’s wrong with you voice in her brain would finally lay off and let her rest once she made her first million.

So she’s ready for this. The ultimate test. She’s been preparing her whole life.

When she was a freshman in college, sleeping with a professor and finally shedding that Paris Geller: The Miss Havisham of Chilton skin just a little, she kissed Rory during spring break. It was purely pragmatic. A total ‘so this is what the kids do these days’ faux pas. She had been too determined to do spring break right to focus on the things she should have cherished: being close to Rory, the feel of her hair and her face and her lips. Later, giggling and idiotically tipsy with Madeline and Louise, Rory had said that she could never date Paris because Paris was way too high maintenance.

Paris has always remembered that. It’s not really a surprise—Paris has an exceptionally good memory. You have to, to make it as a woman in this dumpster fire of a world.

 

+

 

The Stars Hollow town square is like something out of a mushroom trip. Paris assumes. You don’t become a force to be reckoned with at age twenty-five by Broad City-ing your way through life.

Technically, yeah, the town looks beautiful for the Firelight Festival. There are fairy lights strung everywhere and big paper stars glowing in the trees, and a huge bonfire casts out a cheerful red-gold light.

But the people. God, the people.

Every single townie is wearing, over a few layers of winter-wear, a gigantic black T-shirt with “TEAM RARIS” in white letters on the front. If she were anywhere but in Stars Hollow, Paris would alert the authorities. Since she is in Stars Hollow, she’s guessing the authorities are probably wearing the T-shirts too.

“What the hell is this, Taylor?” Luke says, swatting away the T-shirt that’s offered to him. “You are aware that this is gonna be on TV, right?”

“Exactly. I see nothing wrong with showing our support for our town’s best couple,” Taylor Doose says, bristling. On Paris’s worst days—so, today—she suspects that the world sees her exactly like Taylor Doose.

“I told ya, Taylor! It’s weird!” Babette pipes up. Paris can’t believe she knows all these peoples’ names now. “And besides, I thought me and Morey were Stars Hollow’s best couple!”

“Uncool, Taylor,” says Morey.

“You really think you’re Stars Hollow’s best couple while Lukelai draw breath?” Kirk asks, affronted.

“What about you and Lulu?” asks Babette.

“I’m realistic about the value of my relationship. Team Lukelai will reign supreme forever.”

“Aw, thanks, Kirk,” Lorelai says. “Finally, someone gets our supreme power.”

“At last,” Luke deadpans. “Taylor, just lose the T-shirts, okay? It’s for the best.”

“The T-shirts, Lucas, are exactly what this evening needed to take it to the next level! In fact, I have it on good authority from the teens of Stars Hollow that T-shirts declaring your allegiance to various romantic quote-unquote ‘teams’ is quote-unquote ‘lit.’ I did some internet research, and according to Google, that’s a very good thing.”

“The teens are messing with you, Taylor.”

“The teens wouldn’t dare!”

“Since when do you trust teens, huh? You sure didn’t when was a teen.”

“Well, you clearly weren’t to be trusted, Butch Danes.”

“Butch Danes,” Lorelai giggles, slapping her knee.

“I agree with Lucas,” Nigel says. Then, very considerately, he turns to Luke and asks, “Or do you prefer Butch?”

“... Lucas is good,” Luke says grimly. Lorelai cackles.

“Excellent, Lucas! You see, Mr. Doose, I’m just a bit concerned that it’s going to come off a little ... cultish. This feels less Quaint Small Town and more Somebody’s Going To Start Passing Out The Kool Aid.”

“Well, we can’t have that. Not when Hank from Woodbury will absolutely be tuning in.” Taylor whips a megaphone out of, seemingly, nowhere. The authoritarian slash old time director-y part of Paris can respect that. “ATTENTION, PEOPLE. REMOVE YOUR T-SHIRTS. I REPEAT, IF YOU ARE WEARING A SHIRT BY KIRK, NOW IS THE TIME TO REMOVE IT.”

Kirk peels off his T-shirt. Underneath it is another T-shirt. This one says ORIGINAL JUGGLING BY KIRK. The less Paris—and any other human being—knows about that, the better.

Unfortunately, she gets to find out more immediately.

“Here are your eggs, baby!” Kirk’s wife Lulu trills as she hurries over with a package of, sure enough, eggs.

Paris has never judged someone’s life choices harder than Lulu’s.

Well. Unless you count her own stupid heart’s. Paris chooses not to. At least she’s resolved to bury her Rory feelings under several layers of pragmatism. What the hell is Lulu doing with her life?

Being happy, by the looks of it, says a nagging voice in Paris's head.

“What’s with the eggs, Kirk?” Luke asks wearily.

Despite his constant exhaustion with Stars Hollow weirdos, Luke sure seems unable to resist engaging. Meanwhile, Lorelai and Rory have started chatting quietly; Lorelai seems to be checking up on how Rory’s doing. She has an arm around Rory’s shoulder and keeps talking to her in soft, supportive tones. Paris can’t make out the words, but she feels a pang anyway. Must be nice to have a family.

At least Emily and Richard are stuck here in egg hell with Paris and Luke.

“I’m glad you asked, Luke,” Kirk says as he accepts the eggs from Lulu. “You see, anyone can juggle balls. Balls bounce.”

“Thank God Lorelai’s not paying attention to this,” Emily mutters to Richard. “We’d never hear the end of it.”

“Balls are known to do that,” Luke says meanwhile to Kirk.

“But eggs?” Kirk says. “If you drop an egg, it’s all over. Your juggling credibility, like the egg, is nothing but slimy gunk on the ground.”

“I won’t have you dropping eggs all over the town square, Kirk!” Taylor says, zooming back over from nagging townspeople to take their rejected T-shirts off faster. He grimaces. “Talk about unsanitary.”

“Oh, I never drop an egg, Taylor. You can count on that.”

“Really?” Luke says. “Because I feel like this explains all the dropped eggs that were outside the diner earlier.”

“I wasn’t born never dropping an egg. It’s the kind of skill you have to hone.”

“Right. Of course.”

“The people of America will glimpse my juggling skills in the background of this dance number,” Kirk goes on, “and they’ll have no choice but to wonder. Who is that man? What’s his story?”

“They’ll be wondering, all right,” Luke says gravely.

Paris wonders if she should put a stop to this. Having an idiot juggling huevos in the background of the televised musical grand finale of their deception-laden reality show seems like an inherently flawed idea. But she can’t seem to muster up the energy. The important thing is that they make it through this dance, and that she proposes to Rory and stops Jess from proposing to Not Rory. If Kirk wants to make a fool of himself in front of their eventual viewers, fine. Eggs it is.

Maybe this is a sign that she’s growing and learning to relinquish control over things she has no power over.

Maybe she’s just really, really, really tired.

Paris has never been a sound sleeper, but she likes the idea of trying to change that once this is all done. She could use a good six months of hibernation. Medically induced, if necessary.

Maybe when she wakes up, all of these Rory feelings will be gone, and she’ll be able to occupy the same room as her best friend without wanting to throw herself out a window or, worse, pledge her eternal love or something.

Maybe when she wakes up, Rory won’t be there at all. Instead, she’ll be living her best life, back with Jess and embracing adventure, traipsing around the world telling big stories about things that matter.

That’s the goal of all this, isn’t it?

Well, that and making Republican bigots barf-cry.

Paris scans the crowd and spots Jess and Alex standing a little away from everyone else. They’re both still wearing the Team Raris T-shirts and laughing, play-wrestling like idiots as they try to help each other take them off. Paris hadn’t known that Jess could laugh. It’s a surprisingly good look for him. Rory will like that. She likes having someone to laugh with. Paris has mused over it for years and finally concluded that it has to be why she stuck with Huntzberger for so long.

Rory and Jess, laughing their way through life together.

It’s the sort of thing you’re supposed to want for your bestie.

“Hey.” She looks over to see Rory approaching her. “Whatcha thinking?”

“That we need to go get dressed now.” Paris turns and books it toward the dance studio. She’s not giving Rory any time to flash more life-ruining googly eyes.

Courtesy of Nigel & Co., there’s a team of stylists and makeup artists waiting for them inside the studio already, looking vaguely creeped out by all of the giddy children swarming around. One squad of stylists grabs Rory, and the other swarms around Paris, leading them both off to separate dressing areas cordoned off with brightly colored curtains.

Paris has just been forced into a chair in front of a makeshift vanity, and is trying to remind herself that busting out your krav maga moves on a team of innocent but extremely annoying stylists is never the way to go, when she hears an unexpected voice.

It's Lorelai, poking her head in. “Hey, all. Boy, is there some fabulous energy going on in here. I’m just wondering if I can have a second alone with our tiny dancer. I’ve just … got some ointment. For the rash situation.”

The stylists immediately hustle on out. ‘Rash’ really is the magic word.

Paris can’t even be mad that Lorelai’s making her sound like some scaly dermatologically challenged freak. The quiet and the relative emptiness is too much of a relief.

“Hey hon,” Lorelai says.

“Hi Lorelai,” Paris says. “You know there’s not really a rash, right?”

“That’s a relief,” Lorelai says, holding up what she brought, “because this is lip gloss.”

“Ah.”

“I don’t want to overstep my bounds. I just want to tell you a little story.”

“Okay,” Paris says warily.

Lorelai is quiet, like she’s trying to decide how to begin. Paris sends a thousand mental prayer hands emojis to the universe that this will be just a quick pep talk about not letting your stupid heart interfere when you’re in something to win it. She’s doubtful, though. That sounds way more like Emily Gilmore territory.

Finally, Lorelai begins. “So, many years ago—so long ago that pagers really felt like they still stood a chance in the cutting edge world of technology—Sookie gave me some advice. It was about Luke.”

Paris stiffens. God damn it. This can go nowhere good.

“This was back when he and I were still deeply in Just Friends territory, and granted, it took me about two years after that to actually make any progress in the Luke department, but never mind that; do as I say, not as I do, yada yada yada. Anyway: Sookie told me to just look him in the eye. And it would be right there.”

Paris waits for more romantic babbling, but Lorelai doesn’t say anything more.

“What would be there?” she finally asks, and hates herself a little for asking.

Lorelai is quiet for an unnervingly long time, a solemn look on her face. The scuffling and excited shrieking from outside seems to fade away. “Just look her in the eye, kid. It’s right there.”

Paris doesn’t know what she’s supposed to say to that. For once, she just doesn’t say anything.

Lorelai nods slightly, like an answer to a reply she didn’t even get. She pats Paris’s shoulder, then leaves.

Paris stares at her reflection in the mirror. It looks awful. Exhausted. When all of this is over, she’s going on vacation for a month. The hibernation thing might not be feasible, but the South of France? That’s definitely happening.

The squad of stylists hurries back in, wielding makeup brushes and sparkly fabric and a bunch of other crap that makes Paris momentarily pray for the floor to swallow her.

“Look, it’s got pockets!” whispers one of them, swishing the red dress around. “Perfect for stashing a surprise engagement ring in.”

“Wow,” Paris says flatly. “And still no Nobel Prize? Where is the justice, huh?”

They all fall abruptly silent, looking at her in dismay.

Oh, right. People don’t like it when you do that.

“I mean,” Paris says, “I love it. Thanks.”

The stylists burst into happy cheers.

She really, really hates them.

 

+

 

By the time the festival’s about to begin, Rory and Paris have been transformed into full Firelight Festival Queens splendor. They’re wearing matching dancing outfits: sort of a Baby at the end of Dirty Dancing number, but the dresses are red and covered in sequins. (And they, most importantly of all if you’re Paris, have pockets. She had taken the ring out of the box so that it wouldn’t be noticeable, so now it’s just a tiny glittery circle concealed underneath layers of gauzy red fabric. It still feels like it’s weighing her down.)

Both she and Rory are sporting gaudy, fake ruby-encrusted tiaras over hair that’s been carefully curled, not to mention hairsprayed so many times that it’ll be a minor miracle if a brush ever makes its way through again. Their matching character shoes are covered in so much red glitter that Dorothy Gale would tell them to tone it down.

In short, they look ridiculous.

Rory also, predictably, somehow looks devastatingly beautiful.

How does she do that? It defies science. It pisses Paris the hell off, but in a way where she also wants to maybe recite a sonnet to celebrate the situation.

But there’s no time for sonnets.

(Not that she would sink that low anyway. She’s not sixteen, no matter how much she feels like she is.)

It’s time. The townspeople have gathered around the square, sans cult-y T-shirts and all sporting excited smiles. There are cameras everywhere; Nigel clearly doesn’t want to miss a moment. All of the dancers are waiting at the door of Miss Patty’s; they’ll all begin the dance there and dance their way across the square. Since they’re the headliners, Rory and Paris get to dance all the way up into the gazebo. Miss Patty made that sound like some kind of honor that, frankly, Paris can’t even begin to fathom.

“Fever” starts to play, the sound so loud it twitches in Paris’s bones. The little Stars Hollow dancers shuffle out of the studio and pour into the town square, itty bitty flickers of sparkly yellow and orange, most of them totally disgracing the choreography in two seconds flat. All they have to do is snap their fingers in time to the song and not fall over as they sashay. Apparently, that’s too much to ask. Miss Patty is using a remix of the song that repeats the instrumental intro over and over for about a minute, and now Paris fully gets why. If all these kids are out in the square an hour from now, it’ll be an accomplishment.

She taps her toes aggressively to the beat. She just wants this to start already so she can get it over with.

“Well, this might be the stupidest thing we ever do,” Rory mutters while they wait to follow. “Although at least you’re not dressed like Romeo. I was a little worried when he got name-dropped in the song lyrics. And I know you still have the wig.”

“Please. You’re still pretending my Romeo was anything less than a triumph? My Romeo cemented our A+. The teacher said it put a subversive contemporary spin on the gender politics of traditional Elizabethan theatre. Do you really think we would have gotten that grade with Tristan as Romeo? As if.” She realizes then that Rory made that reference on purpose in order to get her talking instead of stressing.

Freaking Gilmore. It’s a pain in the ass to have someone who knows you this well.

(Who kisses your forehead, who never gives up, never surrenders.)

“Besides,” Paris says sharply, “this isn’t Chilton Reminiscing Hour. We need to shut up and focus.”

“Nobody puts Paris in a corner.”

“Damn right.”

Rory reaches over and squeezes Paris’s hand. Paris should tug her hand away, but, well, they’ll be holding hands during the dance soon anyway. What’s the point?

So she doesn’t squeeze back, but she lets herself stay. 

Never know how much I love you, sings Peggy Lee, and that’s their cue to groove on out there.

Never know how much I care

When you put your arms around me

I get a fever that’s so hard to bear.

 

+

 

The ceremonial Dance of the Fire Fairies goes off without a hitch. Once the kids aren't expected to do anything besides stand in the middle of the square, wave their arms, and make "OooOooOoOo" noises along to the music, that is.

Paris has all the moves burned into her muscle memory, and as usual, her body doesn’t let her down. It’s her mind (and her heart) that’s always been the real problem. For now, with bright lights shining on them in the dark chilly evening and countless eyes and camera lenses drinking them in, she switches that part of herself off and just does what she’s prepared for.

Rory keeps up. She doesn’t have Paris’s natural moves, but she did the work, like she always does, and it shows. It’s probably a good thing Paris’s mind is turned off right now, because dancing to a sultry Peggy Lee ditty with the girl of your dreams is dangerous territory in a way she never realized until this second. Like a lesbian Moulin Rouge situation, except instead of dancing across the sky, they’ve fallen into a volcano or something.

Rory has an incredible ability to make Paris feel like she’s fallen into a volcano.

For the grand finale, they dance their way up the steps of the gazebo, and then Rory spins into Paris’s arms. Paris dips her perfectly. (Take that for originally thinking that Paris would lose the upper arm strength contest just because she’s a few inches shorter, Miss Patty. Paris, unlike Rory, is humanly capable of going to the gym on a regular basis.)

As Paris lowers Rory, holding her steady, a memory hits her: being back at the beginning of all this madness, kissing like movie stars in front of a Starbucks while the paparazzi cameras flash around them.

Back then, Paris couldn’t have predicted this. She’d still believed, like an idiot, that somehow the puzzle pieces wouldn’t click into a bigger picture. That she wouldn’t figure it out. She should never underestimate her ability to figure things out. She’s a genius, after all.

They’re supposed to be gazing into each other’s eyes right now. That was Miss Patty’s vision for the choreography. (‘Make it hot, hot, hot, girls!’ she’d said, and then remembered all the children in attendance. ‘… er, to match the bonfire.’) Instead, Paris stares at Rory’s eyebrows, because she’s not about to accidentally follow Lorelai’s advice from earlier. She doesn’t want to look for it, whatever it is, in Rory’s eyes, and then find nothing there besides Jess-induced delusion.

No one seems to notice Paris’s eyebrow staring. Well, maybe Rory does, but Paris isn’t really looking at her, so that doesn’t count.

Their audience loves it. Thunderous applause fills the square. The cheering can probably be heard in Hartford.

Paris quickly glances out to the crowd to make sure Jess and Alex are still there. She looks past Rory’s family members and friends, who are all beaming, and past Madeline and Louise, who are hollering “Yaaaas, queen!”, and past Kirk, who’s juggling eggs with Lord of the Dance-style intensity.

There they are. Alex is clapping like a ‘90s kid on Christmas with a new Tickle Me Elmo. Jess has a smirky smile on his face.

Watch this, you lucky bastard, Paris thinks. Pay attention.

Her mind control powers are apparently weak tonight, because he’s looking at Alex instead, saying something that makes her laugh and swat his shoulder.

If he knew what she was giving up, well, Paris likes to think that Jess would at least send her a thank you note one day.

She turns back to her dancing queen. Rory is breathing fast, her face pink in a way that can’t entirely be attributed to the twenty layers of blush. Her skin is shining, and her blue eyes are brighter and sweeter than anything, and Paris loves her, and it doesn’t matter.

That’s it, really. What it all boils down to.

Rory leans closer to Paris.

“That was good, I think!” she whispers into her ear, then pulls away and waves at her family in the crowd. They wave giddily too.

She turns back, looking at Paris again, and some of the joy falls off her face. It’s replaced with that wary look that Paris knows well.

Damn it. Paris was supposed to hide her intentions better than this.

Well, too late for that. It’s the real show time now.

Paris reaches into her pocket. The fabric is silky against her fingers, warm from the exertion of dancing. The ring feels weirdly hot against her thigh. Tolkien-y and ruinous.

She takes it out. A collective gasp fills the air. Rory’s face has gone totally blank.

“Rory Gilmore,” Paris says; her voice comes out steady, thank God, with a hint of determined steel, “will you marry me?”

There. It’s out. He can’t propose tonight. She’s bought Rory enough time to win him back.

Her question inspires another audible gasp from the crowd. Paris looks down at the ring, and sees that her stupid hands are shaking. She can hear the pounding of footsteps as the camera crew hurries closer.

Rory keeps staring at her with that perfectly unreadable look. Paris waits for it to morph into suppressed anger.

And then something changes.

Rory’s eyes soften. Her mouth curves a little. There’s a fondness on her face, a gentleness, that takes Paris right back to those days at Chilton, that painful wonderful whirlwind of months when she realized that the small town Pollyanna who’d come there to ruin her life was actually the best person she’d ever known. She remembers meeting Rory’s eyes in the giddy dark as The Bangles played, and discovering that Rory had been looking at her already, and happily, too. Paris knew then that for the first time in her life, she had a real friend. No one had ever bothered to look at her like that before.

Like Rory’s looking at her now.

“Yes,” Rory says simply.

The crowd bursts into riotous applause; next to this, the post-dance celebration was nothing. There’s whistling, and audible crying. Kirk shouts “Huzzah!”; it’s followed by the sound of eggs splattering on pavement. She hears someone else scream out “Bitch, finally!”, and thinks it might be Louise. Even though it’s loud, it feels far away, too. Part of a different world.

Now is the time you’re supposed to move closer. To put the ring on and kiss. It won’t be convincing if Paris doesn’t kiss her. It will blow the whole finale of this freaking show, and they’re so close to getting away with this.

What’s more, Rory looks like she wants Paris to kiss her. Whatever that is in her eyes, that gleam, that certainty, well, it’s still there. Just waiting patiently for Paris to step forward and meet it.

Lorelai was right. It is. It’s right there.

So Paris does the only thing that she can. She turns around, and she runs away. The ring falls to the gazebo floor with a sad little thud.

Chapter Text

It’s the first time that Rory’s ever accepted a proposal in her life.

Granted, it was a fake proposal (it has to have been a fake proposal, but why fake propose? Why not tell Rory about it? Paris, what are you doing?), so she’s not so sure what she just agreed to. But it felt like the right move. Like something true, underneath the many layers of deception and confusion and exhaustion eating their lives.

She had just known in that moment—in spite of all the madness, in spite of Kirk juggling eggs—that there was something real in the question. And so she told the truth.

And now, she’s watching Paris Geller sprint away from her with the kind of formidable speed that you usually reserve for zombie apocalypses. Paris shoves her way through the crowd of confused Stars Hollow folks, showing no mercy. The camera crew hastens after her.

Well. There’s only one thing to do now.

No way is that girl getting out of here without giving Rory any answers.

“Paris!” Rory shouts, and runs after her. She’s not a great runner during the best of times. Her mom admitted once, after being sworn to honesty, that when Rory runs, she looks like a newborn ruminant mammal who’s inexplicably also drunk.

And this? This definitely isn’t the best of times. Everybody is watching, including cameras, and she’s wearing heels (albeit dance-friendly ones). But what other option does she have? Watch Paris run off and try to drown herself in the lake? No way.

She notices the camera crew sprinting after her as best they can through the crowd. If there’s one thing she knows, it’s that whatever’s going to happen when she catches up to Paris—well, she definitely doesn’t want it caught on film.

“Taylor!” Rory pants as she nears him. “I need to talk to her alone. Can you just … stall them, somehow?”

It’s a long shot. Taylor’s never really done anything to make Rory’s life easier before. But to her surprise, his expression turns determined. Even kinda heroic.

“People of Stars Hollow,” Taylor thunders into his somehow-always-present megaphone. “Commence Harlem Shake video reenactment!”

Rory blows him a kiss, then keeps running. Behind her, the town square falls into pure chaos. Because he has amazing DJ powers, Kirk has the Harlem Shake music blaring in seconds. The noise thumps through the town square, reverberating in Rory’s bones, and the townspeople rise to the occasion epically. There are some truly disturbing dance moves happening, and honestly, it’s pretty touching in the current context. She really does love all these weirdos.

But right now is about finding another weirdo.

She slows down a little once she’s made it a few blocks and the mood switches from Bustling Excitement to Ghost Town. The whole place seems asleep, the music growing quieter the farther away she gets. For the first time, she starts becoming uncomfortably aware of just how unfit for February weather this dress is.

God, where are you, Paris? And why are you so freakin’ fast?

“Hey, kid.”

She turns to find Lorelai and Emily hurrying toward her.

Rory feels a surge of relief. “Mom, Grandma, what are you doing here?”

“We thought you might like to not freeze to death,” Lorelai says, holding out Rory’s beige peacoat. “Not to mention some help.”

“Thanks, Mom,” Rory says, sliding into the coat.

Emily takes off her own scarf,  a deep blue cashmere masterpiece, and tucks it around Rory’s neck.

“Grandma, you don’t have to—”

“Nonsense.” She adjusts the scarf, her movements way more maternal than usual. “I’m sorry that I spoke to you the way I did at dinner, Rory. Your mother explained the situation to me. I shouldn’t have overreacted. I suppose I didn’t do well with the idea that you had been keeping something so important from me.”

“I know,” Rory says. “I get it. In fact, you sort of helped me.”

“Did I?” Emily asks, surprised.

“I told Paris how I really felt, which is something I’ve needed to do for ages. It’s a relief to just have it out there.”

“Ages?” Lorelai says. “It’s been two weeks, doll.”

“Has it?” Rory groans. “God. It feels like, oh, I don’t know, six years.”

“Love years,” Lorelai says sagely. “Like dog years, but less hairy and infinitely more miserable.”

“Luke and your grandfather stayed behind to make sure the camera crew won’t make it through the crowd,” Emily says.

“They did?” Rory can’t help smiling at the thought.

“Luke’s quite good at getting the townspeople to act on his behalf,” Emily remarks. “He seems to inspire some loyalty around here, doesn’t he?”

“He’s a regular Khaleesi,” Lorelai says.

“Whatever that means,” Emily says with an eyeroll. “Anyway, Richard just started aggressively humming Mozart. Those camera-wielding busybodies won’t stand a chance of getting away.”

“Good,” Rory says. Even if Paris never talks to her again, well, at least she’s got a grandfather who’s willing to aggressive-hum Mozart on her behalf. That’s something.

“So, uh,” Lorelai says, “what the hell was all that?”

“Oh, you mean the unexpected fake proposal?” Rory says.

Was it a fake proposal?”

“Was it not a fake proposal?” Rory says. It sounds ludicrous, but a strange look has appeared on Lorelai’s face. Rory narrows her eyes. “What do you know?”

“Nothing!”

“Really?”

“I might have given Paris a little pep talk before the dance. About looking into your eyes and seeing that it’s there.”

“What’s there?”

“You know, it! I don’t know what the it is. Intense crushing? Eternal devotion? Some heady mix thereof?”

“So you told her to propose to me?”

“No! I just told her to stare into your beautiful eyeballs and realize how much you dig her. That’s all. I swear.”

“But she didn’t look into my beautiful eyeballs until after she’d proposed,” Rory says. “So I don’t think it was your pep talk that made her do that.”

She takes a minute to think about it from Paris’s point of view.

And then, like an unpleasant lightning bolt, it hits her. (Although, okay, there’s probably not a pleasant way to be hit by a lightning bolt.)

“Jess and Alex!”

“What about ‘em?”

“Jess was going to propose to Alex tonight, remember! So Paris must have decided to steal his proposal thunder by publicly proposing to me first. Damn it. I knew I shouldn’t have let her watch The Office with me.”

“Brilliant,” Emily says admiringly.

Rory and Lorelai stare at her.

“Well, it is!” Emily says. “It would be the height of bad taste to propose to your significant other right after a public proposal. Even that ruffian wouldn’t have been able to deny that.”

“You can stop calling him ‘that ruffian’ now, Grandma. I promise, he’s grown into a productive member of society.”

“With that beard? I doubt it. The point is, it was a very clever move on Paris’s part.”

“Really, Mom?” Lorelai says. “Was it? What would happen if two people proposed to each other in the same place on the same night? Would the world cease to be? Would the universe crumple in on itself?”

It is, Rory knows, a classic instance of Lorelai pestering Emily just to be contrary. There’s no way Lorelai Gilmore would be cool with a copycat proposal.

“And so you would have liked it if that Taylor person proposed to Miss Patty right before Luke asked you to marry him?” 

“A) Luke and I agreed to get married mutually, so there was no proposal our second time around. B) Taylor and Miss Patty? Ugh. What’s wrong with you?”

Rory decides to ignore the little mother-daughter spat. Sometimes, it’s the only thing you can do. After all, she’s got real problems. “She promised me that she wouldn’t interfere with Jess’s plan. I should have known better than to take her at her word. The sleep deprivation is making me stupid! She’s convinced that Jess and I subconsciously want to get back together.”

“You don’t, do you?” says Lorelai with a look of great distress.

“No, we don’t!” Rory snaps.

“Thank God. No Les Cousins Dangereux in Stars Hollow.”

“Dangerous cousins?” Emily says. “What on earth does that mean?”

Lorelai sighs. “You really need to watch Arrested Development, Mom. It’s time.”

“I do not!” Emily says, affronted. 

“You don’t even know what it is! Maybe you’ll love it. Maybe seeing your soul sister Lucille Bluth in action will really enrich your life. Did you ever stop to think of that?”

“Who is this Lucille Bluth person you’re always talking about? I know it can’t be a compliment—”

“See,” Rory says loudly, trying to steer things back on track, “this way, Paris thought she was giving me more time to go after Jess.”

“But instead you’re going after her,” Lorelai says, abandoning her snarking at Emily.

“Obviously!” Rory replies, frustrated. “How could I not?”

Lorelai’s expression turns all gentle and affectionate. So does Emily’s, which is a little disturbing. There’s definitely some pity in the way they’re looking at Rory right now, too.

Aw man. It must be really bad if her mom and her grandmother snapped out of a bickering fit that fast.

“This is it,” Rory says forlornly. “This is the weirdest thing that’s ever happened in Stars Hollow.”

“What?” Lorelai says. “No way.”

“I got the whole town to pretend I’ve only dated girls for the sake of a documentary film crew and then accepted a random fake proposal from my fake girlfriend as a way to tell her that I have real feelings and want her to be my real girlfriend, and then she turned and ran away. She left me at the … what’s the proposal version of altar? Whatever it is, it’s weird. If Taylor actually writes that history of Stars Hollow musical like he’s been threatening to for years, there’s no way that’s not going in there!”

“Oh, come on, hon. It’s not so weird. Remember that time when you were in high school and Kirk made us all pretend we didn’t know him for like six months so he could, and I quote, ‘make a name for himself on the mean streets of Stars Hollow’? He wouldn’t even let us call him Kirk. He had some whole new name. Once I slipped up, and he fined me five dollars and a frozen pizza. That was way weirder than this!”

“Mick,” Rory says glumly.

“What?”

“That’s what he wanted us to call him. Mick.”

“Okay, then. See? You’re nowhere near as weird as Mick.”

“I guess,” she says wearily. “I just really hoped the whole saying-yes romantic gesture thing would go a little bit smoother. Like, not resulting in the immediate disappearance of the gesturee.”

“Well, we’ll help you find her,” Lorelai says. “This place is notorious for not being, y’know, all that big. I’ll go one way, Grandma will go another, and we’ll all check back in with each other.”

“I’ll go to the house,” Rory says. “That’s where all her calming coloring books are. And if she’s not there, well, at least I’ll get to change out of these stupid shoes.”

Lorelai nods and reaches into her pocket. “Here. Phone.”

“Great. Thank you.” Rory checks her phone. No notifications. “What are the odds she’ll actually pick up if I call her?”

“Well, since I’ve also got her phone, I’d say they’re hovering right around zero.”

Rory sighs. She takes Paris’s phone too, and pockets them both.

“Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Grandma. I love you.” She gives them each a quick hug.

“We love you too, Rory,” Emily says.

“Now,” Lorelai says, “go get your woman.”

“Yes,” says Emily zestfully, “go get her!”

Rory and Lorelai give her matching looks of shocked amusement.

“What?” Emily sniffs. “I can be supportive.”

“Clearly,” Lorelai says, grinning.

Rory blows them a kiss goodbye, and—God help her—goes to get her woman.

(Or at least a comfier pair of shoes.)

 

+

 

Rory’s phone chimes with text alerts as she walks back home in the dark, little lists from her mom and grandmother about all the places Paris isn’t.

She better not have really thrown herself in the lake, Rory thinks a little grumpily as she reaches the Gilmores’ mailbox. She’s so not in the mood to deal with any Ophelia-esque shenanigans.

But then she sees that she guessed right: Paris is standing in the yard beside the chuppah, idly tracing its carvings with her finger. In the distance and the dark, she looks like something out of a ghost story or a fairytale or something, with her blonde hair falling past her shoulders in elaborate curls and the red dress swishing as she sways a little back and forth. 

Rory pulls out her phone and quickly texts Lorelai, Found her. Don’t come home for awhile, okay?

Gotcha! Lorelai texts back, followed by an endless line of winky-face emojis.

Jeez.

Rory shoves her phone back into her pocket, then takes a deep breath and heads toward Paris.

“Hey,” she says lightly, not wanting to spook her, “there you are.”

Paris doesn’t answer for a long time.

Maybe it’s for the best. Rory can’t think of a single good conversation starter for an ‘I proposed to you and then ran away when you said yes’ situation.

“No one in your family is Jewish,” Paris says at last.

“That’s true,” Rory says, slowly approaching her.

“So what gives?”

“It was a gift for my mom from Luke, back when he thought she was going to marry Mr. Medina. He made it for her anyway. It’s kind of a whole big thing in the saga of them.”

“Huh,” says Paris. “It’s pretty.”

“It sure is.”

“I like the goat.”

“Me too. His name is Gilbert.”

“Of course it is.”

Rory is standing on the other side of the chuppah now. She rests her hand on one of its posts, mirroring Paris’s stance across from her.

“So, uh, what was with the sprinting away, Forrest?”

“I didn’t plan that.”

“But you planned a televised fake proposal without letting me know beforehand.”

“Of course I did. Jess would have looked totally lame if he’d proposed afterwards. I did that for you. Sometimes true friendship means looking like a colossal asshole in the short term and a hero in the long term.”

Rory decides not to engage (Pun! ... God, she’s tired) with that one. “Yeah, I kinda figured as much. So why’d you run?”

“I needed a minute.” Paris traces a carved flower with one finger, giving it all her attention.

“Okay,” Rory says softly.

Finally, Paris looks up at her. “You don’t care if Jess proposes to Alex.”

“I don’t. In fact, I’m happy about it. They seem really good together, don’t you think?”

“You don’t want him.”

“Nope. As I said many, many times.”

“Because you want …” But then Paris falters.

Rory feels a surge of fondness, the same feeling that’s inconveniently flooded her since that first year at Chilton. Every time Paris’s face turns unsure and wondering and sweet like that, Rory can’t help but love her. It’s why, even in their darkest friendship hours, Rory could never imagine them being out of each other’s lives for good. Who else would look at Rory like that?

Gently, she lifts Paris’s hand away from its quest tracing the carved flower. Her fingers are freezing, just like Rory’s. Rory bends down a little and presses a kiss to Paris’s palm. It’s too cold to feel much of anything, but there it is: the promise of warmth somewhere underneath.

She looks up to see that Paris is finally watching her.

“Me,” Paris says, like she’s testing a hypothesis.

“And you got it in … well, not one. Ten, maybe. Or six hundred.”

“Don’t act like it was obvious,” Paris scolds. She pulls her hand from Rory’s, all the better to dramatically gesture at her. “Or like I’m the stupid one for not just automatically buying that you’d want to be with me. I don’t exactly fit your Pretty Boy romantic history.”

“That’s true,” says Rory. “You’re way prettier than all of them.”

“Don’t be cute. You know what I mean. You get why I had a hard time believing you really wanted this. I mean, you and me? You with me? It’s ridiculous.”

“Ridiculous how?”

“You’re amazing perfect Rory Gilmore. And I’m ...”

“Amazing perfect Paris Geller?”

Paris scoffs. “Please.”

“Fine. You’re not perfect. The ‘amazing’ I’m gonna stand by, by the way. But the point is, I’m not perfect either. And that’s one of the reasons I love you so much. You don’t expect me to be perfect all the time. You’ve always challenged me to be better, and called me out when I’m being stupid, and I can’t even imagine what it would be like not to have that in my life. I think you’re the most terrifying, brilliant, awesome, exciting, exhausting person I’ve ever met.”

“Exhausting?”

“Sure. But that’s not always a bad thing. Luke called my mom exhausting in his wedding vows. Exhausting’s nice. It means I sleep soundly at night.”

“So now you’re drawing comparisons between me and your mom.”

“Ew, no I wasn’t!”

“Far be it from me to bring Freud into this profession of love, but—”

“Love?”

“You said love before,” Paris points out sharply.

“So did you,” Rory retorts. “Just now.”

They stare at each other for a questioning moment. The intense focus in Paris’s eyes makes butterflies bloom in Rory’s stomach. Songbirds, too. All the bright winged things.

“You love me,” Paris tests. She takes a step closer.

“I love you,” Rory says. The birds and butterflies have left her stomach; they’re fluttering everywhere.

“I love you,” Paris echoes.

“You love me?” Rory asks. She can’t help smiling.

Paris links her fingers through Rory’s. Their hands stay poised in the air, palm to palm, like they’re about to do some old courtly dance. “We’re really doing this?”

“I’m down,” Rory says with a breathless little laugh.

I’m down,” Paris repeats, glowing. Then she catches herself. “This is the dumbest conversation we’ve ever had. This is the day the Ivy League wept.”

“Well, I think we’ve got a pretty good excuse, considering the circumstances.”

“There’s never an excuse for talking like an idiot, Rory—”

Rory takes Paris’s face in her hands and kisses her. Paris seems happy to be interrupted for once; she stands up on tiptoe, tangling her hands in Rory’s hair to pull her close. The cold and the exhaustion drift away. Rory can’t even stop to worry about whether it’s bad manners to kiss under someone else’s true love chuppah.

“What do we do now?” Paris asks when they part, resting their foreheads together.

“Everyone’s still in the town square. We should probably go back and just tell them that we’re engaged, so that the show can have its happy ending and Nigel and Co. will finally leave us alone.”

Are we engaged?”

“I don’t think so.” Rory frowns, confused. “You’re the proposer, you should know more than me!”

“We should probably have sex before we get engaged,” Paris declares. “This isn’t 1850.”

Paris.”

“What? I’m just keeping it real. Like I’m going to be chained down to a dud in the bedroom for the rest of my days.” She sounds like normal Paris, barbed snark queen, but her eyes are unmistakably sparkly with joy.

“You think I’m a dud in the bedroom?” Rory teases. “Me? Perfect, amazing Rory Gilmore?”

“You’re Schrodinger’s dud. A dud and not a dud, all at the same time, at least until I—”

“If you say anything about looking in a box right now, I’m breaking up with you.”

A gleeful smile spreads across Paris’s face.

“What?” Rory asks, laughing.

“You can threaten to break up with me,” Paris says rhapsodically. Her voice is higher and sweeter, the way it always gets when she forgets to not let herself be too happy. “Because we’re together.”

Rory beams. “It’s pretty cool, isn’t it?”

“Do we really have to go back?”

“Well,” says Rory, “maybe we should go inside and get out of these dresses first.”

“Rory Gilmore, you strumpet.”

“Because it’s freezing out here and this is super impractical clothing for February! Not to mention that I seriously can’t take these heels anymore.”

“Sure, sure.”

“Come on, weirdo. You’ve probably got hypothermia already.”

 

+

 

It feels weird to step inside when it’s dark and empty. Over the past few years, Rory’s gotten used to walking into this house and being met with hugs and bright lights and delicious smells, the brave traveler coming home.

She feels brave right now, despite the lack of reception. Paul Anka does come to investigate, but he hops right back onto the sofa to snooze once he confirms that they're not invaders.

“So I’ll just, uh, change in my room,” Rory says as she turns on the living room light. There’s something in the air that makes her suddenly nervous. They’re alone in the strangely lovely dark and they were just holding hands and kissing in the cold and now they’re supposed to go tell cheerful lies in front of everyone again. When, really, they could just stay here. Start to explore what’s true between them.

“If you want to change out here, I promise I won’t look,” Rory blurts out.

Well, that was moronic.

“You can look,” Paris says. It’s not so much flirty and inviting as it is ‘what’s your deal, Gilmore?’. Typical Paris, to go from insecure to boss bitch in two seconds once she’s gotten proof that her mushy feelings are mutual.

“I know I can,” Rory says. “Because we’re ...”

“Girlfriends?” Paris suggests. 

“Girlfriends!” The word makes her feel like there’s La Croix buzzing in her veins. “I just ... won’t look right now, because we’re ...”

“Supposed to go back and live a lie for our camera crew and this entire bizarro town?”

“Yes,” Rory says. “Exactly.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Paris says, and starts pulling out the bobby pins holding her tiara in place. “The sooner we end this hot mess on a high, the better.”

Rory turns and heads to her bedroom, trying to walk casually. Instead she bumps into the wall, because apparently she really is her mother’s daughter. At least when it comes to adjusting to sudden romantic developments with your longtime best friend.

She’s better at eating vegetables.

When she gets to her room (no serious injuries suffered, thank goodness), she gladly kicks off the stupid red sparkly high heels. Then she grabs a sweater from her closet and pulls a pair of clean-enough jeans from her laundry hamper. Taking part in a reality show that’s also an elaborate lie really hinders your ability to stick to your laundry schedule.

Then, practically weeping at the thought of a nice comfy sweater, Rory pulls the dress over her head.

And realizes too late that she forgot to take off the tiara first.

The dress snags on the stupid thing and gets stuck, leaving Rory’s head completely trapped in swishy red fabric. Her eyes are covered and everything.

Well, this isn’t exactly the vibe she dreamt of sending out to her new romantic partner.

Still, after struggling in vain for a minute, she knows she has to issue the SOS.

“Paris!” she yelps.

“What?” Paris calls.

“Wardrobe malfunction! A little help, please?”

After a few seconds of silence, she’s greeted with some heartwarming words.

“I’ve encountered some lame come-ons in my day,” Paris says, “but this one deserves a trophy.”

“It’s not a come-on! I’m stuck! It’s a dangerous situation over here!”

Paris rolls her eyes—Rory can’t see it, of course, but she knows it. Still, she comes over and helps untangle the dress from the evil tiara. Rory sighs with relief once she can see something besides red fabric.

Hey, wow, Paris is standing really close.

And now Rory’s wearing nothing but her underwear.

She stares at Paris, who’s in a Yale T-shirt and teal boyshorts.

Paris stares at her. And, like, not just her eyes.

The moment threatens to teeter dangerously toward jumping into each other’s arms—

But there’s no time! There’s no time!

Rory clears her throat. She starts fishing bobby pins out of her hair. Time to get this stupid crown off her head. “We’ve seen each other in various states of undress a ton of times over the years. This doesn’t have to be a whole thing. Just because we’re ... together now ... doesn’t mean we have to lose our minds right away. They’re waiting for us at the Festival and we still have to go finish that up. We owe it to the town. And to Nigel, I guess.”

Paris nods her way through Rory’s mature responsible speech. Then she replies, “Or I could tear your bra off with my teeth.”

“Paris!” Rory drops her tiara on the vanity table with a clatter.

Paris cringes. “Right. Teeth felt extreme as soon as I said it. I just thought I’d try something feisty. It’s E.L. James’s world and we’re just living in it, you know?”

“You stole that from me,” Rory accuses. “Except I’m pretty sure it was Avril Lavigne when I said it. Man. How the mighty fall, huh? Where is she?”

“I updated it for modern day use. Besides, occasionally you’ve been known to say a funny thing worth quoting.”

“That’s me. Occasionally Funny Girl.”

“Logistically speaking, hands would probably work better,” Paris goes on. “Regarding the bra removal situation.”

“Paris!”

“What?”

Rory realizes that she doesn’t object to anything in that statement; really, it’s just a habit by now. “... Nothing, that sounds good, actually.”

“Yeah?” Paris says hopefully.

“Why not? But you better get over here, because I’m freezing.”

For all the talk of (the modern equivalent of) bodice-ripping, Paris is actually very safety first. She grabs a throw blanket from the foot of the bed and tosses it over Rory’s shoulders.

“Thanks,” Rory says, grateful for the warmth.

Paris rubs her hands up and down Rory’s blanket-covered arms. “There’s nothing sexy about freezing to death. Not even 90s Leo could pull it off looking good. If that means I have to deprive myself of the view, well, that’s a price I’m willing to pay.”

“You think there’s a view?” Rory asks, absurdly flattered. She did kind of keep up with that Pilates for Beginners YouTube video that one time last month.

“You remember how mad I used to be in P.E. class?” Paris asks, sitting down on the bed and crossing her legs.

“I figured that was just because you hated gym,” Rory says as she sits next to her. Their bare knees press together. “And, you know, everything else.”

“That was a big part of it. But I’m also realizing that there might have been a correlation between that and trying not to look at you in the locker room when we changed.”

“You were trying not to look at me?” Rory asks, delighted.

“At the time, I told myself the urge to look was totally reasonable. You know, knowing your enemy as thoroughly as possible. Searching for potential physical weaknesses. I always figured I could karate chop you right in the exquisite collarbone if need be.”

“Well, that was very gay of you,” Rory says fondly.

“It was, wasn’t it?” Paris agrees, looking pleased.

“Once,” Rory says, the memory suddenly emerging from hibernation, “I was at Dean’s watching a movie and I fell asleep, and I had a dream that you and I were kissing in one of the bathroom stalls at Chilton. He told me I was smiling in my sleep and asked what I was dreaming about, so I told him ‘eating ribs.’”

“Seriously?” Paris snorts.

“I decided it was misplaced anxiety over crushing on Jess,” Rory says, “because you, like Jess, drove me nuts and were really super smart. Wow. I had totally forgotten about that.”

“Oh, young us. They were brilliant, but they were stupid.”

“Old Paris is pretty stupid too.”

“How do you figure?”

Rory dorkily gestures at herself. “You’ve got the collarbone of your dreams right here and you’re reminiscing about gym class.”

“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather be eating ribs?” Paris quips, leaning closer.

“Mmmm.” Rory pretends to deliberate. “Close, but nope. You win.”

They smile at each other, silly and smitten and still coated in so much makeup that even Dolly Parton would say, ‘Whoa, settle down, darlin’.’ They must look ridiculous right now, but it doesn’t feel ridiculous. Rory reaches up to trace Paris’s collarbone lightly over the soft cotton of her T-shirt. Paris flushes pink, even underneath all that blush.

“Can you believe this?” Paris asks, her voice small and breathless. She brushes her fingers lightly against Rory’s knee.

The answer is yes and no all at once, a feeling so strong it almost hurts. So Rory kisses her instead, careful but hungry too, and hopes that it’s answer enough. She thinks it must be, from the way that Paris is kissing her back, and as they melt into each other, everything in her sings finally, finally, finally.

Chapter Text

They head back to the town square an hour later: coats on, dresses swapped out for jeans and character heels for boots, and hair looking mighty suspicious. There are some activities that even copious amounts of hairspray can’t entirely withstand. Rory had grabbed a few knit caps from the house before they left. She passes one to Paris as they walk.

“What’s this for?” Paris frowns down at the hat. It’s a survivor from the week that Lorelai thought chartreuse might be her new signature color. (It wasn’t.)

“To cover up your hair,” Rory says. “We look like beauty pageant contestants who just got swept into a tornado.”

“Or beauty pageant contestants who just had spectacular sex,” Paris counters.

An involuntary, impossible-to-fight smile tugs at Rory’s mouth as she puts on her own hat.

“It’s crooked,” Paris says. She pulls Rory’s hat down so it’s a little more snug, then lingers there, smiling up at Rory. Rory dips down to sneak a kiss. She can’t believe how easy this is. Underneath the emotional cocktail of relief and wanting and pure stupid bliss, she keeps trying to find panic. She and Paris, they’re panickers. The past two weeks have been basically a nonstop festival of proving that. But now, it just feels calm, and good. She feels ready.

And thank God, she thinks Paris does too.

“Spectacular, huh?” Rory asks teasingly.

“You know me. Usually I try to steer clear of superlatives, sexually speaking. You don’t want your partner to stop making an effort because the praise has been heaped on right away. To pull a Modern Family, as it were. But I know you. You’re a reliable overachiever.”

“You’ve got me there. Well, I’m glad you’re happy, because honestly, I didn’t totally know what I was doing.”

“Me either,” Paris says, her eyes bright and giddy. “It was kind of great, wasn’t it?”

Rory gets just what she means. Yes, it was a little fumbly, and at one point Rory had to stop Paris from grabbing her laptop and doing a Google search, but it had been better, somehow, than some movie-perfect version would have been. To know someone so completely and still discover a new world in them—is there anything lovelier than that?

And when you’re so used to striving for perfection all the time, well, it’s amazing to forget about that and just go for it, and know you’re with someone who’ll laugh with you and pick you up if you fall.

(Metaphorically speaking. Nobody fell off the bed or anything.)

“You know,” Rory says, smiling, “it kind of was.”

Paris grins at her. They link arms and keep walking, nestled against each other to fight the cold.

When they reach the town square, the Stars Hollow emergency dance party is still going strong. “Fernando” by ABBA is blaring through the square; good ol’ DJ Kirk. Rory appreciates that he picked something famous enough that paying for the rights to play it in an episode would cause more trouble than it’s worth. A little further investigation from afar reveals that Nigel is dancing with Michel, who’s apparently been relieved from Channing-babysitting duty.

Aw. Maybe Nigel’s not a totally ruthless showbiz monster after all.

They’re able to immerse themselves in the crowd without attracting any immediate attention. No one expects them to come back dressed down like this. As they sneak by Nigel, they hear him explaining to Michel that his first name is actually Frederick, which kind of sounds like Fernando, but he goes by his middle name since he feels more like a Nigel.

“You should be a Frederick,” Michel recommends with his usual tact.

“D’you know, maybe I should!” says Nigel with complete cheer. “Please, call me Frederick if you want to!”

“All right...” says Michel slowly, baffled at such agreeable behavior. A little smile curls at his mouth; the rest of his face looks confused about it.

Maybe the guy has finally met his match.

Rory grabs Paris’s hand as they continue weaving through the crowd. She spots her mom and Luke dancing and chatting animatedly. Richard and Emily are nearby, swaying in each other’s arms with the polished class they always bring to a dance floor. Rory truly never thought she’d see the day that her grandparents slow danced to “Fernando.” This night is kind of a miracle for a lot of reasons.

“Is it time?” Rory asks Paris.

“Might as well,” Paris says.

Hand in hand, they head for the gazebo.

“Hey, everybody!” Rory says, waving her free hand. “If we could just have your attention for a minute …”

Nigel leaves Michel behind (but takes the time to bow at him with dorky gallantry first) and scurries over to the cameras. The ABBA goes quiet, and the crowd’s attention shifts. Rory looks at Paris; they exchange a little smile. Then, showtime.

“She said yes!” Paris yells triumphantly, holding Rory’s hand up like they just won a prize fighting championship.

“We know she said yes,” says Taylor. “We were all here for that part. What we don’t understand is why you responded to her perfectly nice proposal by turning and running away.”

Miss Patty clears her throat. And then does it again, more pointed. It takes four throat-clearings in total before Taylor gets the hint.

“I mean,” Taylor says, “hooray for the happy couple!”

That’s all the positivity it takes for Stars Hollow to erupt like a joy volcano.

“Congratulations, Rory and Paris! Whoohoo!” Lorelai shouts from the crowd.

Everyone standing around her joins in—even Luke, who isn’t much of a cheerer, and Richard and Emily, who’ve put dignity on pause for once. Sookie is openly weeping, and Lane and her family are doing the wave. (Well, not Mrs. Kim, she’s just standing there looking vaguely exasperated, but even that’s a lot of support from her.) Kirk festively hurls eggs into the air and doesn’t even try to catch them. Madeline and Louise do a victory dance that most definitely doesn’t belong on a show with the word “Family” in the title. Jackson stands next to them, holding Channing and looking totally perplexed as to how he wound up with a child who isn’t even his.

Jess and Alex are nowhere to be seen. Hopefully they’re having an amazing night of their own.

And then, piercing the heart of Stars Hollow’s merriest festival since both of Lane’s kids mastered tying their own shoes, comes:

STOP!!!!

It takes a minute to see where the shout came from.

There’s a blonde guy standing across the square, panting like he ran all the way here instead of getting out of the limo that just pulled up. For a second, Rory knows he’s vaguely familiar, but can’t even register who he is. Someone from TV? It’s been so long since she thought about him. And then, all at once, she realizes it’s—

“Brad??” she and Paris say in baffled unison.

“Chilton Brad?” Rory elaborates.

Chilton Brad, a.k.a. Brad Langford: nice kid, child actor, and slight thorn in Paris’s side circa 2001-2003. He hasn’t aged much; he still has his spiky hair and boyish face. He’s definitely looking way more dapper now than he did in his Chilton uniform, though. That probably ties into the has-a-limo thing. Rory realizes that she had no idea until this moment what happened to him. They aren’t even friends on Facebook.

“That’s right!” he cries. “Chilton Brad! Also known as Mark in the Broadway touring production of Rent!”

“Well, color me impressed,” says Paris flatly. “Gee, mister. Can I have your autograph?”

“No!” Brad says firmly, pointing a finger at Paris. “No, you don’t get to do this anymore! I’m an acclaimed actor now, Paris! I’m going to be playing Kristoff in the upcoming live action remake of Frozen! I’m going to have my own CGI reindeer friend! What do you have?”

“Oh, I don’t know, Brad. How about fame, fortune, acclaim, considerable Krav Maga expertise—and, until thirty seconds ago, a beautiful adult life unblemished by the presence of the high school milquetoast?” Paris snaps back. Then she looks at Rory, and her expression goes temporarily heart-eyes’d. “Not to mention the world’s most kickass girlfriend.”

“Yeah!” says Rory, for moral support.

That,” says Brad, “is why I’m here!”

“Really, Brad?” Paris says. “That’s why you’re here? To voice your opinion on the love lives of your high school classmates? I would say ‘friends,’ but let’s not kid ourselves.”

“We were sort of friends.” Rory still can’t quite take watching Paris eviscerate the poor boy. Er, man.

“We kinda were,” admits Brad, softening. “You were always nice to me. Hi Rory!”

“Hi Brad!” says Rory awkwardly.

“Oh, please,” groans Paris.

“But just because Rory was nice to me,” Brad goes on, regaining his fury, “doesn’t mean you two aren’t living a lie! Yeah, that’s right! A lie!”

A collective gasp ripples through the crowd. Rory so blames Babette or Miss Patty for starting it. She knew they weren’t up for this level of high stakes deception! Well, maybe Miss Patty, but definitely not Babette.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Paris says stonily.

The camera crew zooms toward them, determined to capture the moment as close up as possible. Rory tries harder to look chill than she has ever tried before in her entire life.

“I went to school with you guys,” Brad declares, “and never once during that time were you two a couple!”

“We were a secret couple,” Paris retorts, unshaken.

“Please,” Brad scowls. “You were awful to Rory. There’s no way you were a secret couple. Rory respected herself too much for that. She was a young woman with a good head on her shoulders!”

“That’s not totally true,” Rory says. “Did you hear about how I stole a boat? And a … cornstarch?”

You weren’t a couple!” Brad shouts.

“How would you know?” Paris demands. “Shawn Spencer you ain’t! And you took like two years off to play—what was it? Oh yeah! The back half of a cow in Into the Woods!”

“I was Jack!” bellows Brad. Well, the  best Brad can bellow, which still isn’t very good despite the whole professionally trained actor thing. “And I was winningly naive, dammit! And who the hell is Shawn Spencer? Your ex-boyfriend?”

“A viable alternative to the typical genius detective reference!” bellows Paris. “‘Sherlock’ is the lazy plebe’s pop culture crutch!”

“She loves Psych,” Rory explains. Maybe she can just get everyone talking about Psych! Maybe this can be solved as easy as that! Maybe she’s in deep, deep panic-induced denial right now! “She says Lassiter is her kindred spirit. Me, I’m a Gus/Juliet hybrid—”

“I’m a Henry,” Luke shouts from where he’s standing. Bless him.

“You’re not going to distract me with TV show babble! I know I’m right about this!” Brad spins around until he’s facing a camera; he wags a finger at it. “They weren’t a couple! They were occasionally friends, but mostly enemies! Rory tried to set her up with Tristan, for God’s sake!”

“Tristan? Is that a girl’s name?” Nigel asks, frowning.

“NO!” Brad yells.

“But it definitely could be,” Madeline says.

“Ooh, I love that,” says Louise.

“Right?” says Madeline, pleased.

“You’re getting a little sister, and her name’s going to be Tristan,” Louise coos at Channing, who’s finally in her arms.

“You’re here too??” Brad cries out in dismay at the sight of Madeline and Louise. “WHAT IS HAPPENING? What is this farce?? Rory Gilmore and Paris Geller were not a couple! This whole story is a lie! And guess what, Paris? You’re not God! You can’t just bend reality to your whims and crush whoever you want to along the way! Doyle happens to be one of the six screenwriters in charge of the Frozen live action remake—”

“Of course he is,” Paris mutters.

“And he made it very clear that he was with you for years! Monogamously! Heterosexually!”

“That little man’s going down,” Paris snarls.

“I mean, I talked to him way before all this,” Brad says, looking suddenly worried. “It’s not like he blew your cover or anything. Frozen: The Live Action Remake wasn’t built in a day.”

“The little man’s safe,” Paris amends, “for now.”

“Not to mention,” Brad rails on, “that during a lot of that time, according to human man Doyle McMaster, Rory was with some guy named Logan!”

“You mean Lauren?” asks Nigel.

“I mean LOGAN,” cries Brad, ignoring the ‘shut up, shut up!’ gestures from every inhabitant of Stars Hollow.

It goes completely silent, like everyone’s been petrified by a terrible truth bomb basilisk. All Rory can think is that Logan so isn’t going to appreciate his name being the thing that struck a whole town silent on reality television. (But Colin and Finn will definitely get a chuckle out of it. That’s something, isn’t it?)

“You’re hysterical,” Paris finally sneers at Brad.

“I thought you might make this difficult,” Brad snarls right back. “So I brought backup.” He gestures dramatically at the limousine he came in.

The limo door opens slowly, and out steps ...

Rory gasps.

“Oh, fucking hell,” Paris says in dull horror.

“Far be it from me to quote a meme,” says Francie Jarvis, “but surprise, bitch.”

She’s as ginger and as terrifying as ever. Her desire to snootily stir up trouble is pretty much crackling in the air around her.

“Hi Francie,” Rory says meekly, waving.

Paris grabs Rory’s hand and drags it down.

“Once a Puff, always a Puff?” Rory mutters helplessly.

“I’m going to murder you,” Paris replies between clenched teeth.

Well, that was a short honeymoon period.

“By the way,” Francie tells Nigel, her voice ringing through the square, “they’re not a couple. Paris had a boyfriend in high school that made her totally neglect her scholastic responsibilities. Rory told me all about it and broke Paris’s little hetero heart in the process. It was a whole thing.”

Well, crap.

Nigel stares at Rory and Paris. Behind his glasses, his eyes are huge and sad. “Paris, Rory, is this true? Has all of this been … a lie?”

Paris glances at Rory. Rory looks back and shrugs weakly. Now that it’s actually happening, it’s weirdly hard to feel upset. (Maybe she’s still a little afterglow giddy.) Getting found out eventually was inevitable. The whole plan was just too bonkers. It’s a wonder that they even made it this far.

She thinks back to what feels like years ago, even though it’s only been two weeks. Waking up to Paris in her room on the morning all this started. Paris alight with nerves and misery at the thought of this plan failing. 

Well, Paris doesn’t need to admit defeat. Rory can handle this one.

“What’s true,” says Rory, stepping forward, “is that I really do love her, and she loves me too, and we’re together.”

“Together like you’re standing next to each other right now, maybe!” Brad scoffs.

“Mmmhmm,” says Francie loftily.

“Together like we literally just came here from having sex,” Paris fires right back. “If you don’t believe me, well, the proof is written on this body!” She points at herself while performing what Rory’s going to go ahead and declare the worst shimmy ever. “What do you want to see? Probable scratch marks on the back? A veritable festival of hickeys? Evidence of my inflamed carpal tunnel? You name it, I got it!”

“Oh God, Paris!” Rory groans. She glances miserably at her family, and is comforted to see that Lorelai is attempting to cover Emily’s ears, Emily is attempting to swat Lorelai away, and Richard is trying to intervene to stop a full on throwdown. Hopefully that means they didn’t entirely hear that. She does catch the eye of Luke, who gives her a grimace and the world’s most awkward thumbs up.

“Sorry,” Paris says sheepishly.

Rory tries to steer things back on track. “Okay. That got more detailed than necessary...”

“Good for you, sugars!” calls Babette.

A whoop comes from the crowd that Rory recognizes as Lane’s.

“... But also, um, yes, Brad. And Nigel. And Francie. We’re together like romantic-couple-together. It’s just … well, the rest of it is a little bit tricky.”

“Please,” says Nigel, glaring at them, “enlighten us.”

The camera crew draws closer.

Rory turns and looks at Paris. Paris takes Rory’s hand and nods. A we-got-this, victory-is-ours nod. It feels like standing onstage at Chilton again, ready to trounce any opponents who dare to take on Geller and Gilmore.

Rory nods back, smiling slightly, and lets Paris lead this time.

“It started where all my best stories start: me verbally eviscerating inferior pains in my ass. Certain people here will be able to verify that that’s a specialty of mine. This time, I just happened to be on television while it happened …”

 

+

 

There’s a lot of explaining, and a lot of chaos. At one point, Brad cries, and it’s so uncomfortable that Paris, of all people, is the one to comfort him until a strangely protective Francie fights her off. (“He doesn’t need any more Paris stories to bring to therapy, okay?”) At another, Paris steals Rory’s phone so she can have Terrance the life coach in one ear and her lawyer in the other. Then everybody takes a break and dances to more ABBA. Then Paris’s lawyer shows up in a helicopter, quickly followed by what is quite possibly the whole legal team from ABC, and there’s a lot of yelling and serious fast talking and a little more ABBA.

Eventually, though, it all gets sorted out. The show will go on, with a few little adjustments. Nigel might even forgive them.

It isn’t what Rory always wanted out of life (which is to say: not making any appearances on reality television ever), but it could be worse.

Rory and Paris don’t make it back to the Gilmore-Danes house until the sky is starting to change from black to navy. Everyone else went to sleep hours ago; Rory assured her family that they didn’t have to stick around past midnight. Luke and Lorelai must be passed out upstairs. Richard and Emily are asleep on the couch, sitting next to each other like they’d tried to wait up for Rory and Paris to come home. Paul Anka is curled up on the third couch cushion, his head on Richard’s knee.

It’s a quiet little trek to Rory’s bedroom, and Rory closes the door with a gentle click behind them. She grabs a few pairs of pajama pants from her dresser and tosses one at Paris.

Paris frowns at the happy little sheep print covering the pants, but puts them on anyway.

“I can’t believe it,” Rory sighs, stepping into her own pajama bottoms. These ones are covered in adorable hedgehogs. (Telling Emily that she liked cute pajamas a few gift-giving seasons ago has definitely had more long term ramifications than she could’ve imagined.) “Bed. It’s been so long.”

“We were just here,” Paris reminds her.

“But not in a resting capacity.”

“True.”

They make silly faces at each other and kiss. Then Paris flops down onto the bed, and Rory follows suit.

“Finally, we can sleep.”

“Please,” Paris says. “I haven’t fallen asleep without counting at least eight hundred and twenty nine sheep first in my whole adult life. Or taking an Ambien.”

“I know. You’ve mentioned that once or twice over the years. Let’s not return to the days of Paris and Ambien.”

“I did do a lot of regrettable online shopping that I can only assume seemed sensible at the time,” Paris agrees.

“That giant glow-in-the-dark globe.”

“Hey. I like that globe.”

“It needs its own room!”

“Then it’s a good thing I’m rich enough for a globe room.” Paris nestles back into the pillows. “You could read to me.”

“Oh yeah? What are you in the mood for? These shelves have got all the greats you could ask for. Dostoyevsky, Morrison, Eliot, Ishiguro, Kinsella ...”

“Google my name and read me the most recent headlines,” Paris says. “Duh.”

“Oh, of course.” Rory grabs her phone and types Paris’s name into Google. “Here we go. Paris Geller’s Mysterious Documentary Series Still Underway, Filming In A Town Once Described As ‘Too Quaint To Be Trusted.’”

“Ha.” Paris rests her head against Rory’s shoulder.

“I’d say we’re just quaint enough to be trusted, but whatever,” Rory grumbles, scrolling down. “Conservatives Blast Paris Geller’s Real Time Rant At Michele Bachmann, Calling It An Unmerited And Vicious Attack.”

“Babies,” Paris scoffs.

“Oh, here’s some Buzzfeed: ‘I Read All Of Rory Gilmore’s—Yes, Paris Geller’s Rory Gilmore’s—Articles, And The Lesbian Subtext Is Real.’ Wait. What?”

Paris cackles drowsily.

“Gonna have to return to that one when I’ve got more energy,” Rory mutters. “Here, more Buzzfeed: ‘Paris Geller’s Top 20 Fierce Looks That Make You Want To Yell “STEP ON ME”.’ Huh. Is that ... a good thing?”

“Mmm,” says Paris.

“Well, okay then. This is definitely the one to click on. Ooh, this is a good picture of you. Subtitle: ‘No offense, but I’m about to physically fight Rory Gilmore for her.’ Yikes. I better sleep with one eye open, huh?”

She looks over. Paris is sound asleep. For once, no Ambien or legions of sheep required.

Rory smiles, turns off her phone (why look at pictures of Paris when she’s got the real thing right here?), and sets it on the bedside table.

Then finally, wonderfully, deliciously, she closes her eyes. The pillow is cool and soft and smells like home, and Paris’s even breathing is like the best kind of white noise. Rory rolls onto her side and snuggles against her, draping an arm over her waist.

“I’m the big spoon always,” Paris mumbles sleepily.

“Sure you are, champ,” Rory says.

Paris sinks right back into sleep, so Rory decides to break all the rules and keep this big spoon thing going. She presses a light kiss to the nape of Paris’s neck. Paris lets out a happy little sigh.

They’ll wake up in time for dinner, probably, and Luke will make amazing burgers in the kitchen and Richard and Emily will pretend not to know how to eat them at first but eventually bow to Luke’s culinary genius, and Lorelai will devour a freakish amount of French fries but still bat her eyes at Luke for more, and Sookie will swing by with dozens of exquisite cupcakes and a million hugs, and Babette and Morey will see her and figure it’s a party and come congratulate Rory and Paris on very nearly succeeding at the whole large-scale deception thing, and maybe Jess and Alex will drop in with a new ring on Alex’s finger and Liz and T.J. and Doula trailing after them with giddy and almost definitely inaccurate recaps of the proposal, and Lane and Zack and the boys will show up after a text from Sookie promising cupcakes and Lane will make smug-slash-supportive ‘I knew it but also I’m so happy for you’ faces at Rory while Zack and Steve and Kwan compete to see who’s the best at catching fries in his mouth. And Paris will start to get used to it, this big little bustling world of togetherness, and Rory will hold her hand under the table and squeeze it to say, You belong here, and they’re going to love you too.

But until then, sleep sounds good.

Chapter Text

“Coming in September to ABC … a special six-part series. You know their names. You saw the paparazzi pictures. Now find out their full story, and the truth behind the lie that rocked a nation. Paris & Rory: Faking A Modern Stars Hollow Family.”

“Well, that’s embarrassing,” says Paris. “Not to mention hyperbolic. Rocked a nation? Really? No wonder this country’s going down the crapper like a kid’s first goldfish.”

Rory is too busy hiding her face behind a throw pillow to reply.

Paris shuts off the TV. They sit for a moment on the sofa in pleasant silence. There are puzzle pieces scattered all over the coffee table, with the box propped up in the corner; they’re supposed to become an illustration of a vintage city street, all flower stands and lovers in apartment windows.

In the Gilmore-Geller household, they’ve been limiting their screen time lately and focusing on more old school activities. It’s the only way to make sure they won’t be bombarded with their own faces. Getting the show into shape after their little Firelight Festival plot twist had been tiring enough. Nigel had been convinced he could make it work, though, and to his credit, it seems like he pulled it off. It had meant weeks of filming extra talking heads where Rory and Paris revealed their scheme step by step, which Nigel insisted he could weave into the original material in order to make the documentary “work on levels, like Inception.” Rory thinks it sounds too complicated (and are Inception references really still a thing humankind is doing?), but Nigel had insisted that that kind of cerebral fare is exactly what you need to set your work apart in this golden age of television.

All in all, it just feels good to have it all over and done with. If there’s one thing Rory has learned from all of this, it’s that while she may want professional greatness, she definitely doesn’t want any more fame. She is the actual most awkward person in the world at modeling for promo pictures. Whenever there’s a camera pointed at her, she can’t seem to hold anything like a human being, and that promo photoshoot had involved a lot of props.

But that’s okay. Luddite life with Paris is pretty great.

They’ve been living together for a few months now, and it’s like stepping right back into their college days (with added bed sharing). Rory wound up moving in with Paris; she wasn’t all that attached to her old place, and it seemed like the sensible choice when Paris has a  perfectly nice townhouse with a giant globe room in it. Rory squeezed her books in there and is trying to rebrand it as the library. It seems way too The Capitol from Hunger Games otherwise. What kind of normal people have a globe room? When they came over for dinner, Richard and Emily couldn’t disguise their awe as Paris showed them around. They seem thrilled that their granddaughter wound up making a “fine match” after all. Hopefully it’s not driving Lorelai too crazy, but Lorelai just seems to be happy that her daughter is happy.

Rory’s stuff is peppered throughout the house now, adding some color to the neutral tones and Parisian wall art that Paris picked out with her decorator. In the first few weeks, she’d waited for Paris to balk at the manatee-shaped tea infuser or the Dreaming of Darcy novelty pillowcase that Lorelai had given her in a hilarious (to Lorelai) birthday gift situation or the six dog-eared copies of different editions of Jane Eyre, but Paris seems to like it all. ‘It’s like a real house,’ she said when she found a kitchen towel of Rory’s covered in little illustrations of coffee cups. ‘Tacky? Sure. But real.’

By now, the house has become theirs. Two lives woven into one place. It’s pretty cool.

Even if Paris refuses to share her toothpaste.

And even if their TV occasionally horrifies them with shots of their own faces.

“Puzzle time?” Rory suggests, tossing a few throw pillows onto the floor and sinking down onto one.

“Sure,” says Paris, following suit. “I need something healthy to channel my rage and frustration into.”

“That’s my girl,” says Rory, patting her shoulder.

She watches as Paris sets to work sorting through the puzzle pieces. There’s an expression of terrifying intensity on her face. It might be the most wonderful thing Rory’s ever seen. And Rory’s seen Pop Tarts.

Paris triumphantly joins six pieces together before she notices what Rory’s done.

“What the hell is this doing here?” Paris picks up the ring and frowns at it.

It makes sense that she’s confused. She hasn’t seen it since she gave it to Rory on the night of the Firelight Festival. Luke was thoughtful enough to retrieve it from the gazebo floor that night, and gave it back to Rory the next day. (‘I thought you might want it, you know, just in case,’ he told her. ‘Sometimes these things have a few proposals in them.’)

“I don’t know,” Rory says innocently. “I guess you’ll just have to puzzle that out for yourself. Get it? Puzzle?”

“Why did you keep this?” Paris’s voice is softer now, with that confused hint of sweetness in it that always turns Rory’s insides to lovely mush.

“I thought it might come in handy later. And I know we’re not standing in front of an entire town and a camera crew in the middle of a festival after having just finished a very elaborate dance, so if this was a competition I’d definitely already be losing, but I was thinking maybe …” She shrugs, smiling a little.

Paris inspects the ring. “You got it engraved.”

“That I did.”

“116,” Paris reads, lifting the ring to look at it closer.

“Yep,” says Rory. “I thought about putting ‘Sonnet 116,’ but that just seemed clunky. You know. Let me not to the marriage of true minds—”

Admit impediments,” Paris interrupts. Like, pretty intensely. “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove. Don’t question me. I still know it by heart.”

“I would expect nothing less,” Rory says fondly. “Weirdo.”

“Let me get this straight. You’re proposing right now?”

“I am,” says Rory, “so I hope you don’t get it too straight. There’s some sexual orientation humor for you.”

(Lorelai has been having a field day with the quipping potential that came alongside her daughter’s bisexual epiphany; by now, it’s become pretty contagious.)

Paris stares at her, her expression inscrutable.

“Am I blowing it?” Rory asks, cringing. “I thought maybe it was best to keep things low key, but it’s hitting me just now that ‘hide the ring under some puzzle pieces on the coffee table at home’ might be too low key. If it helps, I got champagne! It’s in the kitchen. I hid it behind the coconut milk in the fridge earlier—”

“Yes,” says Paris.

“Yes to coconut milk?”

“Yes to you, moron,” says Paris.

She takes Rory’s face in her hands and kisses her.

“Wait,” says Rory, “I haven’t even put the ring on for you yet.”

“Patriarchal much?”

“So you don’t want me to?”

Paris caves. “No, it actually sounds pretty nice.”

She sticks out her hand. Rory kisses the tip of her finger, then slides the ring gently onto it.

“It looks perfect,” Rory says admiringly, holding Paris’s hand in hers.

“Apparently Kirk hooked Nigel up with it when I came up with my proposal scheme.”

“So it’s also got a moving backstory.”

“Why does Kirk have so many rings?”

“Long story.”

“Then let’s skip it.”

They get back to kissing. After all, they’ve still got so many years to make up for.

“By the way,” Rory says when they finally come up for air, “did I mention how these past few months have been some of the best months of my life? Really, the best—”

“You didn’t. A competent proposer probably would have instead of talking about the contents of our refrigerator.”

“Yeah, well, you’ve known me since we were sixteen. You’ve had plenty of time to pick up on the fact that where romantic gestures are concerned, I’m sort of a mess.”

“Oh, I know. There are only so many times you can reference that box of cornstarch before it stops being adorable.”

“What cornstarch?” Rory says angelically.

Paris rolls her eyes.

“Oh!” Rory says, the silence of the room hitting her. “Wait. I forgot something.”

“I don’t care what you forgot,” Paris says, trying to steer Rory’s mouth back to hers. “This is good. It’s perfect. The mention of the coconut milk really did it for me—”

Rory grabs the stereo remote off the coffee table and presses play. Immediately, the room fills with the opening strains of a certain familiar tune.

“Really?” Paris says.

“It seemed fitting,” Rory says, beaming. “Our first date was at a Bangles concert, after all.”

Close your eyes, give me your hand, darling

Do you feel my heart beating?

“Touché, Gilmore.”

Do you understand?” Rory croons. “Do you feel the same?”

“Don't quit your day job. You’re such a bad singer,” Paris tells her, laughing.

“Hey!" Rory smacks Paris' shoulder playfully. "That came from the heart!”

“Yeah, well, my heart wants less sing-along time and more making out. Get over here.”

Is this burning … an eternal flaaaaaaame—ooh!”

 

+

 

Paris Geller and Partner Rory Gilmore Wed in Intimate Smalltown Ceremony 

Political pundit and bestselling author Paris Geller and Boston Globe journalist Rory Gilmore, a pair most recently known for last fall’s surprise hit ABC reality television limited series Paris And Rory: Faking A Modern Stars Hollow Family, married today in a small ceremony in Gilmore’s home town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut. No press were allowed at the event. A small group of Revolutionary War reenactors in full costume saw to that.

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