DISCLAIMER: Gilmore Girls is the property of Amy Sherman-Palladino, Dorothy Parker Drank Here Productions, Hofflund-Polone and Warner Bros. Television, despite how much I wanted to start a petition campaign to block David Rosenthal from giving us his version of season seven (how did his Paris scripting end up worse than Daniel's, I ask?). All other trademarks and services are the property of their respective owners. Apologies in advance for any incorrect descriptions of a figure drawing class; I'm going off what I know from other media, and my lack of drawing skills that don't involve maps.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: What is this? An update nearly two weeks after the last update to a fic I wrote? I can hear shrieks of shock. Or is that a groan? Whatever the case, here we are, as I ramp up to having new stuff ready for July 20th, the International Day of Femslash, which may include this story and Longing, and if I can get through it all, Innkeeper's Lover, but no promises. I'm really enjoying writing this one, and I hope you enjoy it too. Thanks to everyone who has reviewed this story (and hopefully to those who will; please do and let me know what you thing). And congratulations to all in California who will be able to marry, and those who can utilize those federal benefits denied by DOMA, it is all so deserved.
SPOILERS: You know what to expect by now; post season six where Lorelai still broke up with Luke and never got with Christopher, while Paris and Doyle broke up on good terms. Olivia and Lucy are here too, but drive Paris up a wall, and in this story, Finn has a much different role than seen in most fics with him.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To nschimpf[at]charter.net

Drawing Attention
By Nate

Chapter Three
Gaining Perspective


Paris couldn't take it much longer. Thursday seemed like a distant year to her, like 2001 seemed like the future when she was seven.

She had been bound and determined to spend her Monday night having a nice and quiet classic cram session in advance of finals in the next few weeks. Even though she had built up a rapport with Janet and Tanna, even they knew the words 'study night' left in response to a text asking if she wanted to do something after class were non-negotiable.

Sadly, Lucy had not received the message, and after Rory had made the error of giving her new friend Paris's number for texting, had spent most of the day trying to pester Paris into going out with them to some event. A polite 'no, thank you' text had been returned with what Paris thought was an awful mangling of the word 'please', multiple exclamation points, and somehow, emoticons. I didn't even know those existed in the SMS standard, Paris thought as she tried to decode Lucy's begging and pleading to go out.

She didn't understand why Olivia and Lucy had an obsession with her at all and felt their behavior towards her was a bit too scary. Eventually she decided to just shut off her phone and bask in the silence...

Only for Rory to call on the hard line and ask why she was being so mean, according to a multitude of reasons.

Paris really wished she didn't have a land line at that moment.

"I can't. This final is not going to do itself, Gilmore."

"But you have two weeks until it. Come on, go out and socialize."

"I'm sorry--"

"You know what? I'm sick of this," Rory said strongly, startling Paris with the sudden acid tinge to her words. "They've been trying to be your friend and they're wonderful, but you keep ignoring them. I don't care if I have to pull you out of there, you're going out tonight."

"Again, I'm studying--"

"For God's sake, you have six months left of college and you've done nothing wild."

By now, Paris's eyes were flaming. "That's because I've been trying to survive college." With a bite to her voice, she decided to make a point. "Not all of us have a parentage that pays their entire way."

Rory ignored it, being used to the blonde's outbursts. "Just be ready at seven."

"But--" Paris found herself hung up on, and Rory winning yet another argument. She slammed the phone down on the desktop in frustration. "For fuck's sake!" With a growl, she knew she'd end up having to show up or be once again teased by everyone in the peer group she was stuck in by force, not choice.

A few hours later she was in a booth in the Pub, nursing a Diet Coke and disgusted by the coziness these random art students shared with her best friend. She had spent most of the night fending off a few male advances, and trying to avoid Alex and Olivia while Rory teased her about how much of a hermit she was being.

Eventually though, things ended up coming to a head. Somehow the subject of freshman Spring Break came up between Alex, Olivia and Rory and while the jukebox was turned up, Paris sipped her soda, with her ear catching on the conversation between her brunette classmate and the tall art student.

"So I ask what she'd suggest I do, and all the sudden...she's kissing me. Like, full on! Freaked me out and for a moment her lips were all over mine. I shove her off and then she's just asking all of these questions about how I kiss, and I can't respond, because girls don't do that."

Girls don't do that? Paris scoffed internally. Louise was openly bisexual, and though Madeline had moved west to pursue her fashion degree she knew both women still had a love for each other that certainly wasn't traditional, but still very deep.

"But was it hot?" Olivia wondered. "Those lips look nice."

"Again, I don't know." Paris gazed down as Rory looked at her. "Truthfully her sex life is nothing I'd care to think about."

Now she felt even more humiliated. She knew Rory was under the assumption she wasn't hearing a word as the music created an artificial bubble effect.

I'm fucking deluded, she thought bitterly, remembering how much she had once loved Rory as more than a friend, but found those feelings dissipating after Logan's corruption, and completely gone after the paper coup.

"Hey, what about the professor?" Lucy asked. "How did you take it?"

Rory's face lit up. "She was weird during that. She took up pipe smoking because it reminded her of him. I didn't understand that, and she wasn't ashamed of it. I'd be."

Paris clenched her fists as the three women teased her love life, moving onto Logan.

And then Colin joined in.

"I once caught them fucking in the paper office. It looked ridiculous," he noted. "I don't understand who would ever have sex with that girl. She's kind of kinky from what I heard and--"

I thought I was gonna have fun tonight, not have my sex life roasted. She slammed her fist against the table. It seemed as the alcohol kept coming, the filters came off.

Well, most of them.

"Bloody hell." Surprisingly while the Cosmos and other frilly drinks flowed freely towards the women and Colin had gotten in four Buds, Finn had slowly let a Jack and Coke marinate all night, sipping it slowly. "So she has an odd sex life. It's no reason for her to be teased about it. From what I've heard, French Birdie has been normal."

"Finn." After forty minutes, Rory had let go all sense of propriety towards her friend. "She claimed her first time ruined Harvard for her." The music had faded out as the album ended, making her voice very clear to Paris. "Who does that? Her interview was like a month before, so no, her decision to have sex didn't ruin Harvard. She did that all on her own."

She laughed and took another sip of her drink. "I mean at least I was in love with Dean when I first did it. She probably had it on some checklist between 'take over the world' and 'oil her gears'."

Finn took a nervous look towards Paris's booth. "Rory, knock it off," he said, pleading with her. "You're being mean."

"Oh, am I? Like she's been to me for years. Listen here, Finn, I took it long enough and now I can stand up to her."

Now she was paying attention. Paris had felt humiliated enough. She understood venting, and comedic exaggeration. But most of what she was telling these two girls, it made Rory seem like someone she wasn't. She took in a couple deep breaths, finishing up her soft drink before setting a ten on the table she dreaded parting with, placing it under the glass.

Rory had moved onto another story as another album kicked in on the jukebox.

"She hates working," she claimed. "When I had my falling out with my mom and I needed her for an event with my Grandma she made it seem like it was hard to be there. Like there was a problem--"

Paris got up from her seat, both hurt and angry from her drunk friend. She didn't even know Rory any longer and hated how Logan had somehow turned her into an entitled society brat who treated her as furniture.

With a huff she came over to the side of the seat where Finn had saw her and knew something ugly was about to happen. Not about to get in Paris's way he hurried out of the way, but ready to intervene.

The blonde's eyes blazed with anger, her heart rushing blood through her as she kicked at a chair.

"So she--"


"Yes, there was a problem," she said through gritted teeth. "The problem was...I had never worked a day in my life until I was forced to when my parents bankrupted me!" The three women turned to face Paris, with Rory daring to speak up first.

"Paris." She quickly went from catty to seemingly back to friendly. "I'm sorry, I thought--"

"You thought I couldn't hear you. That I wasn't cognizant you were making my sex life a fucking joke to be laughed at?" She shook her head, trembling. "That I was out of my mind because I panic easily. I didn't even want to come. I wanted to be studying. But no, you think I'm now your lapdog, that I owe you just because you got me back on the paper after my breakdown."

She sniffled back, knowing if she went further she would probably end up with the cops called. "I can't talk to you now. Stay with these two tonight, I don't care. But don't mock me. Because right now, to me?" She held up her hand. "You're no fucking better than Summer Sheffield." Paris then fled the room quickly as all three women were left behind in a daze, while Colin smirked.

"Man, she should be that assertive more. If she was like that in bed--"

Just then, Finn glared at him. He had a soft spot in his heart for Paris and to hear her demeaned in this way was too much to bear. He had to see how she was doing. Putting his glass down hard on the bar he glared at all four of his friends, disgusted.

"You go have your own fun ya bloody wankers," he seethed out. "Don't ever talk to Barbie like that again!" He quickly fled from the Pub to search for Paris, scared the harsh 'girl talk' would make her do something rash. Rory shook it off and got back to girl talk with Lucy while Colin flirted shamelessly with Olivia, completely oblivious to the hurt she had just caused to her oldest Chilton friend.

After twenty minutes Finn eventually found Paris, her brown hoodie completely up, huddled on a park bench looking right at the Christmas tree set up on the Green in front of the Center Church of the Green across the street, her knees closed together. He approached slowly, sliding off his warm cotton jacket ready to offer it if needed. He sat down gingerly next to her and took in a few breaths.

"Pet had no business saying that garbage about you, Barbie," he said, setting his hand on her back. "I support none of that at all, and those broads seem brainless." Paris looked up, her face wracked with hurt and shock as she found the Australian next to her.

"Why drag me out and 'introduce' me to those two if she was just going to belittle me?" she wondered out loud. "I told her many times I didn't--"

"I know, I know." Without a word he draped his jacket over her, content to be warm in his sweater. "I warned her at lunch to not bother. I know how you've been since the coup, bird. But she's so buried in Logan lately nothing else matters."

"You...you don't have to help. Or care," she said. "I know you could care less about me."

"And what makes you say that?" Finn wondered with a smile. "Come on, you're a smart little bint with a sailor mouth on you and a hellfire both in the classroom and in the sack. Doyle was a lucky bastard."

"Great, you're--"

He held up his hand. "No...no, no mocking here. I might be carrying a high BAC at times but I'm not deluded, you two were cute as could be, perfect. A pity that he had to go." Another assuring brush against her back. "Much better than War of the Roses Rory and Logan. Not that I'd ever tell 'em to their faces."

"You...you mean that?" Paris brought the jacket closer as her cheeks were deep red and she shivered. "You're not saying it to be nice and try to get me back to Rory?"

"You wanna walk home and some company?" Finn offered, taking her hand. "I promise you, Barbie, I have no designs on you. Just wanting to be your mate here, 'cause you won't be with Samantha and Carrie back at the Pub." He held up his hands. "I'm not even buzzed tonight."

"I didn't think you were, you were slow-sipping that drink all night." She got up and offered a small smile. "What about Colin though?"

"Colin...is gonna be in big trouble in the morning with Steph," he surmised. "Meanwhile I'm a man of the wind, and it's taking me nowhere near a lassie tonight. And frankly, you are cute, but I'm sure we'd tear each other to shreds if we slept with each other."

"I think you'd be right. Same; you're a good guy, but I have no need to sleep with you." She brought her arms into the sleeves. "You...you're not going to get into trouble with Logan, are you?"

"What's he care? He's in London and we barely talk," Finn admitted. "I can tell you need the support, any of it, and I feel bad that I never get a moment alone with you. You just see me as the drunken guy and I'd love to have someone not think that before we go our separate ways."

Paris snorted. "I don't think that. You're eccentric, not really drunk. For one thing, you hold it in and burn it off, and you drink for enjoyment, not to feel intoxicated. You don't drive after a bar night, you know when to say when and as far as I've heard you've never binged." A smile. "Really, you have it under control."

Finn felt his stomach float at the compliment as they headed out from the Green confines. He didn't think anybody noted his drinking demeanor. "I'm hoping to make it less so by the end of next semester." He moved close. "Don't tell a soul this. The reason I slowly drink lately..."

Paris nodded, making a zipping motion. "When I eventually take over the family business I just want to be down to drinking for health benefits, not fun. As much as I've enjoyed my endeavors while on the sauce, I don't want it to result later on in a scandal or embarrassment for my family, when I get my own. I'm trying to cut off. I actually had 3/4 of a Coke tonight rather than a half in that drink."

"So...you're trying to better yourself." Finn nodded. "An admirable goal."

"I think an admirable goal would be having your friendship, Barbie, and to think of you as just as strong as Reporter Girl. In fact, you're much more than her lately."

"Well, thank you." She narrowed her eyes. "Do you really have to call me Barbie though?"

"Of course I do. She's done everything, like you have. It's a compliment, mate, and no malice is meant."

Paris blushed. "That's...good then. Just as long as you don't compare me to the one that said 'math is hard'."

"Bloody hell, no!" With a laugh, he walked Paris home, hoping to get an invite up to pick her brain and find out what was going on, while the blonde was surprised to find herself enjoying the company of the Aussie heir.

Paris came out of her bedroom in her Yale sweats, handing back the jacket to Finn, who had his feet on the table while using Paris's laptop with her permission to check some cricket scores back home.

"Your team won?" He put down the computer and shrugged.

"They better get out of this funk or the fans'll lettem have it come Boxing Day. Hell, they need to get better." He looked at her and smiled. "Feel comfy and warm now?"

"A little. Wouldn't usually take the walk home, but...thank you." She was still surprised to find a woman shouting at the building when they came home asking where their cheating boyfriend was and without Finn there, knew that a weapon was on her person ready to be brandished. "You really don't need to be back at the apartment?"

"Not really, if you don't mind me taking the couch for the night."

"Go ahead. I don't expect Rory back tonight." A sigh as she flopped down, and at that moment her stomach chose to grumble. "Although it may have helped. Crud, I forgot to eat."

"You didn't order anything?"

"I couldn't, I only have forty on me to cover me until Friday."

"Friday? I thought you had the position at the library and that pays on the 15th and 1st."

Paris didn't want to tell him anything. "Uhh, I do some tutoring work."

Finn shook his head, not believing her. "You want me to order out something, I don't mind."

"No, I couldn't--"

"Barbie, you're looking a little thin, and I don't mean that in a good way. Working hard shouldn't mean starving hard and you need energy." He took the phone from the table. "I have a craving for Korean-style fried chicken, nice and crisp, spicy. How about it?"


"I'm not asking if you'll pay for it, I'm asking if you want it." He remembered the number from memory and dialed out. "No matter what I'm getting it delivered here."

"Oh, fine, but it better taste as good as you described it. My mouth is watering." Finn smiled back and made the order as Paris thought about how to confide in him.

Should I, though? What if he blabs it out when he's drunk? She knew it was iffy to trust one of Logan's friends, but really compared to how many women Colin and Logan slept with, Finn was more talk than action when it came to his chase for redheads, whose scarcity she teased him about a few times.

"That's why I go after them," he told her. "They're few and far between and a little bit more loving. I just haven't found the right one yet to latch on."

The memory made her feel wistful. He doesn't sleep with an entire party of bridesmaids for one. She settled down as she heard him order a good amount of food and sides, along with cold bottled drinks before getting off the phone.

"I can already taste that delicious chicken. You excited too?"

"Yeah." Both of them settled on the couch as Paris paged around the cable lineup until ending up on CNN as Larry King rambled about some murder case she didn't care about. "Thank you again. I will eventually--"

"You will do none of the sort. Spoll yourself once in awhile." He watched the screen for a moment before finding the question that plagued him. "So why are you getting money on Friday? I only thought you had the one job and the tutoring service is doing bupkus right now."

"No thanks to the Yale bill posting policy," she grumbled, wondering how to bring it up. "I...I really don't want to discuss it."

"As in, if I hear about it I'm an accessory to a crime, or you're embarrassed about it?" Finn grew serious as he could tell Paris's aversion easily. "You really don't have to."

"I really can't say anything about it." She moved her eyes over, meeting his gaze. "I could...but if you told anyone else, I don't know that I could handle it. Janet and Tanna know, but that's it."

"So this would have to be super secret 'not tell anyone even as my fingers are being put in a vice'-type work?" A nod. Finn thought for a moment, looking at the sullen blonde and knowing he had grown to enjoy her sardonic view on life over the years. If Rory, Logan and Colin were realists, he knew Paris and him saw the absurdities in both society and life, though she took things more seriously, while he loved joking about them.

"If you told me then, I would have to hold it back from all of everyone else."

Paris nodded. "You would."

"And if I didn't?" He tempted fate by asking the question, knowing a biting retort was coming.

Paris did not disappoint. "You know what happened to John Wayne Bobbitt, correct?"

The cringe that registered in Finn's eyes told her that there would be no joking around. "I shall do my best to keep my bits then." He opened up his hand. "Scout's Honor this goes no further."

"It better." OK, prepare for laughter and mocking, she thought, girding herself. "Alright, you know the Workshop for the Creative Arts?"

Finn thought for a moment before remembering. "That one place in the old police station."

"Yes." She settled herself down. "So, I'm in a bit of a money crunch, and student loans? This close, forget it. Well, I found an ad a month back in the alt weekly and...now I spend my Thursday nights there."

"As a teacher?" Finn shrugged. "Nothing to be ashamed of."

"God, I wish." She looked around. "I...uh, actually submitted myself as something else."


"No. A model." She wondered if she was about to be laughed at. "On a whim and after reading the compensation they get I decided to go for it. I got selected, and for the next few Thursdays, I'm getting paid for it."

Finn took in Paris's confession and as he listened, he could feel both the hurt and the pride Paris took in how she had not wanted a hand out. He stayed silent for a moment, worrying Paris.

But then she was suddenly surprised as he smiled.

"I'm glad one of us got picked then. Doesn't make me feel bad anymore." A laugh. "Definitely could be a worse secret."

"Huh?" Paris was surprised by the use of 'us'. "What do you mean, us?"

"You have Ms. Sandberg, right?"


"Damned particular lass. Tried to submit this work of art..." He presented himself as a sculpture. "...to her last year for some party money but she said my pecs and manhood were a 'distraction', and instead she chose some beefy looking foreman guy."

"Claude! He's my male partner behind the glass. He's actually pretty cool, though of course, not his real name because of anonymity."

"And stood longer than me. That's probably why I didn't get it, I shifted around too much." Finn was relieved. "Trust me, Par, I haven't told anyone of my tryout at the workshop, but I must offer my congrats for getting in there. Ms. S must've seen something great in you...and you are great." He wagged his eyebrows, earning an eyeroll from the blonde.

"Shut up, you perv." She lightly punched his arm, but smiled. "So she actually rejected you for your genitals?"

"She called me Long John Silver before dismissing me!" Finn said. "I mean I know I fill the boxers well but geeze!"

"I really don't need to think about your cock, Finn. But thank you anyways." She felt a little relieved. "So...telling nobody?"

Finn nodded. "You're being paid for what now? I think the Jack just hit my brain." He took her hand lightly. "Seriously though, bird, nobody will know. Your body, your choice, your life and all that, and I intend to keep confidence for you. It must be hard to do that."

"I just don't want anyone to know," Paris shared. "Especially after tonight."

"I wouldn't blame you after that." He kept his hand wound in hers in friendly intimacy. "That's why I only make fun of your brain when I'm around; even though Marty was a bit of a dolt I never wanted to make fun of him for making less. And the way your parents left you with the doggie bag? It's unacceptable, and I'm glad you found a good, though odd way to get through the rest of your undergrad degree."

"So you won't tell."

Finn shook his head. "They won't know. I only ask one thing of you though?"

"I knew there was a catch." Paris slid her fingers out, awaiting whatever comically impossible demand Finn had. He thought for a moment before coming back with his thought return.

"Not really a catch. More of just a question." A smile. "Be a reference for me if I need some in my work after I graduate?"

"Wait, that's it? A reference?"

"Come on, I'm only getting a New Orleans bartend job if I ask Logan or Colin for a ref. A Paris Gellar reference would be like an AMEX platinum or whatever rare metal they're using for their fanciest card today. I would treasure it, and I promise, I won't disappoint you. Or ask for your ovaries."

"Thank God, still need those things." She extended out her hand. "Fine, you don't blab about my modeling, you go places, be it with your father or in the working world."

Finn grasped it and almost felt a hard grip in his hand. "I think we have a deal, Blondie." The shake was hard and firm. "And I think I need to see the hand doctor in the morning."

"I went light on you, Morgan. Trust me, I could be rougher." With a laugh, the two caught up until eventually Janet decided to call just as the chicken delivery came. Paris picked up the phone and heard worry in her friend's voice.

"You sure you're OK, Gellar? One of my friends was down there waitressing tonight and that they said some pretty mean shit about you and that you walked out."

"I'm calm now, I promise. Finn got me home and he's getting chicken from the deliveryman right now." She whispered into the phone. "I did tell him but he knows if he says a word I will castrate him."

"Par, it's not Finn I'm worried about." Janet took a breath. "Rory's homophobia really bothered me. I know how you felt about the kiss and it must've hurt to hear her talk about it that way. I am pissed."

"Janet..." She clutched the phone lightly. "I know it's a silly thing that's never going to happen. I had hope before, but it was all shot the moment she decided to sleep with Dean. And then her transient act between here and Logan's apartment...I feel like this 'journey' thing Terrance talked to me about is bull now. The only journey I've been down is down the tubes." She sniffed back, snorting back a sob.

"God, don't talk about yourself this way. Please, don't." Paris was surprised by the empathy the girl she battled with freshman year was much deeper than Rory had expressed since the C-SPAN incident. "Paris, you were in love with her. I know it, but then you fell for Asher more and you thought once he passed, Rory would have empathy. But she still thinks of it as some big joke. You wondered why I couldn't must up more than a basic 'old people' joke when you were dating him?"

"Because Dylan--"

"Damn it, stop mentioning that lug of a man!"

"J, you asked for it dating him. Tanna was right, he had scary genitals."

"Maybe...I did. Maybe I was a stupid college freshman. But you weren't, Par. You knew what you wanted. You handled his stuff after his death, you would have been The One for him. I knew that, T knew that...but Rory turned it into this yuk-yuk fest I found offensive. Especially when your wake for him turned into just another party and she let it happen. Frankly, you did have love for her. You told me once you did, that's why you went to Yale."

Janet measured her words carefully. "But you and Rory, I know it would have worked. It should have worked. Ever since that dumbass came into her life though, she hasn't given a damn about you. She's your friend, sure, but she'll joke behind your back at the Pub about you. Hell, I know when I've seen her mom on campus she speaks highly of you, no 'Paris is annoying'."

"If I end it with her though..." She began to cry. "She's the only friend I've had since Chilton. The one who was there for me. I know Rory's still there somewhere buried inside, but I just don't know where to find her anymore. Lor doesn't even know either."

Her heart hurt as she voiced out her worst fear. "One day I'm gonna come home and I know I'm going to find Rory's stuff cleared out...along with a note...'off to London, nice knowing you'."

Janet winced, knowing it was probably true. "P, you ever need me or T, call us. I don't care if it's two in the morning and you need to run the waterfront. After tonight I'm really worried for you. You can't keep taking all of this over and over again."

Despite the heartfelt offer Paris hesitated, laying her hand against the edge of the coffee table. "I just am tired of all this. I want June to come so I can move on with my life, whatever I might do. I still don't even know what I'm doing, med or law."

"You can figure it out. But in the meantime? Stop letting Rory get to you. Her life will not be yours, and even if Terrance's journey with Rory never happened, you've taken the high road."

"I guess you're right." A sigh. "Thank you, Janet. Yeah, you have a nice evening too and say hello to Kevin for me. Goodnight. Goodbye." Paris hung up the call to find Finn staring at her holding aromatic Korean fried chicken. She looked up.

"How much did you hear?" she asked. The foreign boy nodded and clenched his jaw.

"Enough to know my best bud is ruining your life." He put the bag on the table, which was filled with plates to put everything on, and flopped on the sofa, feeling deep concern for a girl he found unique, and unforgettable. "You're a good bird, Gellar, and whatever my mate is doing to drive Rory to London, I've hated it, I admit. Colin and Steph might find it just 'young love', but while I can maintain my GP even in my state, Logan has no work ethic. He just wants to party and..."

He looked down. "I really wanted Rory to dump him when the bridesmaid thing happened. It was a dunderheaded error I couldn't even see happening to me. But she took him back so many times, and it's dumb. It's really an idiotic thing. And then she harangues you back into your good graces, sweet talks you...it's a vicious circle and you've been hurting for it so long. I know I don't usually say this, but..."

Paris was frozen as the boy took her hand. "You deserve better, Barbie. By far...you've got the head on straight, the goals ready to check off and whatever field you're in isn't going to be the same when you're done. I wish I knew that fire Rory described you having at your old prep school, 'cause I haven't seen it lately. At least you're proving you're a beaut in that modeling class. Now you just have to be confident."

Nodding, the blonde felt her spirits lift from Finn's rousing speech. "Don't do it for me, but yourself. You came here to kick ass and take names. Do that. Don't let your crummy parents or friends be the ones to stop you. Seriously, you got those lovely lasses Janet and Tanna now, and you got me."

"I...I do?" Paris didn't know how to handle Finn being so nice and chivalrous.

"I'll leave my mobile for you. Whatever you need, you got it. After tonight I can't defend my friends for making fun of you. And I've been shit not doing so earlier."

"I've been hearing that a lot lately," Paris said, weary by that jine of conversation. "Can I ask you a question though?"

"Shoot one off at me." He raised his hand out and grinned.

"Now that we're headed into some kind of odd friendship realm, you're not going to come to class and do a comedic scene, are you? Asking for a new liver or something."

He felt delighted at the question and laughed. "Not unless you ask. Though I already used my one 'stop a class with a monologue' ticket on that one. The next, I'm suspended for a week."

"Then I'm relieved." She gave him a hopeful glance. "Thanks for what you did tonight, Finn. I don't usually get all like this, but I needed that."

"Anytime, mate." He looked at the food. "Now come on, we've got sixteen pieces, some bread and sides. Let's not have it go to waste."

Paris nodded and agreed. "It all looks so good." She grabbed a plate and began to scoop some rice and vegetables onto it before grabbing a few pieces as Finn did the same.

Four pieces in, she was moaning her approval through the light grease and intoxicating scent. "Spicy, garlic-filled and...this is something that's going on my regular takeout menu for sure."

"Told you," Finn proclaimed. "Never been able to enjoy it with the rest because of everyone else overruling me. It just soaks up the alcohol and it's crisp and wonderful."

"I certainly feel better than I did before." She spooned up some more of her mixed rice. "You know your food well, Mr. Morgan."

"See, I thought we could get along. Glad I could help you out tonight, Barbie." The man from down under continued to enjoy his food, the new knowledge he had of the blonde switching around his views that he held for so long.

I should definitely hang out with her more often, he thought to himself, glad to have saved Paris from a night of sadness and turning it around. At least she's got sense, not like Reporter Girl's lost it lately. Maybe I can give her modeling hints.

The man looked at Paris, who noticed him staring out of the corner of her eye. Shaking her head, she knew what his mind was after.

"Hey, Aussie boy, just use your imagination. I stood still well next week, so I don't need any help."

"But you could be more seductive--"

Paris snorted. "I'm looking at myself in mirrored glass. Unless I'm really into touching myself, nobody's going to be seduced."

"Ahh, that's right, I love looking at myself in the mirror. I forgot you're a bit more--" She punched his forearm lightly. "Hey!"

"Always conceded, aren't you? You're lucky I like you." Paris winked at him, and Finn let out a hearty laugh.

"Same here." The cram session Paris planned never happened, but she had found herself another ally in the woodwork she had not had when she answered the Workshop ad. After making up a makeshift bed on the sofa for Finn, she headed to bed, looking up at the ceiling.

"OK, so Janet and Tanna are great friends, and so is Finn. The heck, God?" She put down the book she was reading and slid on her sleep mask, turning off the light. "Next thing you know I'm going to take Lorelai as a lover or something."

She scoffed at the surprising thought. "Let's not go too crazy though." She fell asleep quickly, though wondering if Rory would regret her teasing in the cold light of day.

Lorelai knew she was putting her vanity above normalcy, that she was troubled by how she wanted to come off. Since she had gotten up early Thursday morning, her outfit was planned for a flawless work-to-coffee outing-to-class transition. Pairing a grey knee-length skirt with red peep-toe Candies and a dark blue sleeveless blouse that brought out her eyes paired with the matching jacket for the skirt, her thoughts were fully on seeing Caleb.

Or so she thought. Taking a break in the office she soon realized that she had to button up her blouse as it was too 'come and get it' for Caleb. Though another thought came to her...

Wait...this is something...no, she's behind glass. She wouldn't be able to care even if she wanted to.

Soon she remembered that somehow when she dressed for Paris, that her cleavage had come into play.

She knew it was an unconscious and silly thought; that the blonde didn't care. But somehow even with nearly four years apart from the selling of Grad Night tickets and the small woman's odd want for her to unbutton her top and show off the girls, that she had done it most times since around Paris.

And I know I have, she scolded herself. The first lunch with Paris after Rory's dumping of Yale had her neutrally dressed, but since then over the months, unconsciously she chose a top or a dress which brought her out front and center.

Only when she looked in the mirror in the office afternoon, did she realize her lingerie choice was for more than Caleb's benefit.

"Damn it." She quickly brought up a couple buttons. "I'm not seeing Paris there. I'm seeing Athena. Just another student having fun and paying the bills. Not her." Frustrated she tried to think of something else, anything else.

But she kept checking her sketchbook, three drawings she had done over the week fully completed after Lorelai took some eye and shading tutorials off Ms. Sandberg's website. She still had the de-hoodified picture she had worked on in bed after class, along with one she had made completely off the cuff involving the girl at the breakfast table dealing with her hangover after 'the punch incident', then one more with the girl standing tall in class. Looking for her own flaws, Lorelai wondered if she should submit one of the other two instead of the first sketch.

"Guh, stop it," she scolded herself. "You have Caleb. You've been finding him funny all week in your text chattering. He's a sweetheart from the Windy City. Reminder to yourself; Paris thinks you have low intelligence and are way into fashion and kitsch. Remember the time she insulted the Mork & Mindy t-shirt I bought from a thrift store?"

Hoping voicing it out would cool things down she hoped to think more about Caleb and her coffee date.

Her mind instead chose to remind her of the circumstances which lead to Paris's insult, when she came over to put things in storage in the attic for the summer while she lived with Louise to keep a roof over her head. The day had been spent using a U-Haul Paris had rented to bring everything over. Around the time of the sixth unloading, the blonde questioned the adult's choice in dress.

"What is Mork & Mindy?" she wondered. Lorelai thought she was going to explode right there.

"You...don't know what that show is? Guy from an egg, Robin Williams's career-sparking role? 'Nanoo-Nanoo'? Uhh...Pam Dawber being my pre-adolescent style icon? Rainbow suspenders?"

Paris shook her head, her mind a complete blank. "I've never heard of it." Her eyebrows rose. "Anyways, that shirt is distracting."

"Oh..." Lorelai wondered why. "It looks pretty--"

"No, it..." Paris struggled to state why. "I can see your stomach. You're nearly forty and you're carrying an abdomen a fitness model would kill for."

"Well, thanks."

"It isn't a compliment, not in that shirt." Paris continued to tut-tut Lorelai's clothing choice. "Also, a lacy bra? A woman your age should be wearing a sports bra while she is active." She found Paris focusing on the exposed crème strap of her bra. "This is not work to wear something that's not work-appropriate."

"Uhh...laundry day?" Lorelai returned sheepishly.

"Then we'll do your laundry with mine after we're done," she returned sardonically. "You're wearing an undersized shirt with an inadequate bra, Ms. Gilmore." Paris put down the nightstand she was carrying. "Look, I know this mess with Luke isn't fun. That you feel like you're in a mid-life crisis." The two moved towards the porch swing as the discussion veered away from the original clothing argument. "You're an amazing woman, Lorelai. But that doesn't mean you have to remind yourself of how hot your are to guys by choosing clothes that get unwanted attention."

"Umm..." Lorelai hadn't even thought of it that way. "I'm not trying to date. Or be out there."

"I know, but internally you still have the wiring of a sixteen year-old with an arrested development." She took in a breath and explained her theory. "I know you want to come off as mature and above everything after the breakup. And you were; Luke should've done better."

Suddenly Lorelai felt her hand taken by Paris. "I'm just going to say this though; even though this hideous shirt makes you look like a ZZ Top video reject, you definitely have grace about you. But it doesn't have to come from raw sexuality, but just being who you are; a kindly innkeeper who knows how to take my time period advice for her dinners." Paris looked down with a blush across her cheeks. "And I really thank you for letting me store my stuff here for the summer. I have two months in a house with code-approved wiring at Louise's, and I'm taking advantage of it."

"Hey, one day? You're gonna get that wealth back five times over," Lorelai promised. "And because you're putting in your dues, it's going to be so worth it in the end. I assure you, Par, your living arrangements are crappy now, but they'll get better." She opened up her arms. "Now come on, Dame Hugs-a-Little."

"Thank you." Unlike the past hugs where Paris felt herself uneasy about affection, this time she was glad to hug the innkeeper she was now finding her role model more than anyone else in the world. She settled herself against the taller woman, and Lorelai didn't know at that moment what caught her about the hug being different than most.

Maybe it was Paris's traditional neutral vanilla scent mixed with the sterile alcohol of her anti-perspirant. Or how her breath was soft and settled. Maybe it was the fact that the exposed flesh of her stomach was against that of the student's.

Whatever the case, Lorelai didn't take the 'insult' Paris issued against her Mork & Mindy shirt and bra so hard.

She knew it when she caught Paris staring as she stacked the girl's books in a tote later on, which exposed the bottom of her bra and showed off her slender spine.

When Paris knew she had seen her glance, she went from lovesick to suddenly firm and...herself.

"I'm getting you a better and longer shirt after this," she grumped as she turned around, even as her cheeks flared up with embarrassment.

"Hey, Lorelai. Earth to my best friend. Hello? Hello?"

When Sookie touched her shoulder, Lorelai popped up suddenly.

"OH JESUS!" She turned around quickly to find her friend jarred out of her daydream. "Don't do that!"

"Uhhh..." Sookie shook her head. "I've tried to knock at your door for two minutes. Kelly from G&K is here to drop off the uniforms and floor mats, she needs your signature."

"Ohhh...oh yeah." Lorelai forgot her Thursday routine for a moment. "I'll head out and give it. Sorry...lost...in though. Heh-heh."

"More like lost in Caleb's eyes," Sookie teased, grinning. "Still have a couple more hours."

"Caleb?" Lorelai forgot for a moment, still thinking about Paris. "Oh...oh yeah, date. Coffee date. Before class. Right, yup, I'll all distracted, haha!" She quickly headed out of her office as her chef followed behind, shaking her head.

"This class is going to turn out to be a workplace hazard," she grumbled under breath, hoping that Lorelai's date went well so that the daydreams would no longer distract her friend.

As she signed the printout for the uniform/mat order, Lorelai tried to empty her mind of anything Paris.

Come on, cute guy, hot coffee, that's right in your wheelhouse, she warned herself. Athena is just another woman doing her work.

Lorelai wished her could believe her own thoughts, but didn't know if she could.

After parking her car in a good parking garage, Lorelai got to Dormand's on the Green by 5:59, just in time. She had just got in line, glad to get in before Caleb did. She looked to the front of the line to see the older gent she liked the most to make her coffee, Alphonse ready to serve up 16 ounces of goodness for her.

She wished it was that easy to find another good cup of coffee in Stars Hollow since the breakup. It was still acrimonious and her and Luke had barely been able to look at each other since it happened. Weston's had proven to be a bust with all the gossipers there, and inexperienced employees having no idea how to work a coffeemaker. Even post-Thanksgiving she continued to experiment, and had found a small doughnut shop off Waterford Road which was close to Luke's, down to the beans from his usual supplier.

It just wasn't perfect though. Soon I am going to have to breakdown and get a coffeemaker, she surmised, though she knew buying bulk beans from a restaurant supplier for home use would be a little absurd.

She was cued up and approached Alphonse with her order, the kind Sicilian greeting her like he knew her for years. "Lorelai, the one with the poetic name. You're early...and the younger one isn't here."

"I know," she said. "I'm taking a class at the workshop, and seeing a classmate beforehand."

"Ahh, wonderful. Getting a social life, I see. What do you need?"

"Black with two shots, medium, and...ooh, what is that that luscious thing under that glass?" She nearly drooled staring at a fluffy cream cheese and raspberry Danish under the serving tray. "I think I want that."

"Then you shall have it." He pointed at a younger employee to plate it for her as he poured her coffee in a cardboard cup. "What kind of class?"

"Introductory figure drawing, or as I like to think of it, 'lots of nude drawing'." She grinned.

"Well, don't let anyone distract 'ya," he came back. "And there you go, poetic." She handed over her debit card and slid out a five for the tip jar.

"Sure you can't open a Stars Hollow branch?" Lorelai asked. "All of you here are awesome."

"I'd have to talk to Mr. Dormand, but you know him...elusive. I'll see Howie Schultz before I see him." The small coffee chain was known for having an absentee owner who ran his mini-empire from Utah. "Hope you have a good night."

"Oh, I think I will." Just then the door chimed and Lorelai turned to see Caleb in a grey suit and brown tie which seemed to have striping with the same orange color as the Bears. "Ooh, my partner's here," she whispered to Alphonse. "Treat him well."

"Got you, poetic." He winked as Caleb approached her.

"Well, aren't you tall today," he teased. "And bright. Wow, how high do you go in your shoes?"

"I can go five in my sleep," Lorelai boasted. "These are three inch heels." She puckered her lips and took in Caleb's suit and tie. "Really? Bears orange in New Haven? You're lucky Alphonse is a Eagles fan."

"I thought you didn't know sports," Caleb said, wondering how she got the subtle color reference to his favorite team.

"I know enough to know you don't wear Miami teal, Jets green or a Cowboys star in New Haven; we're in Pats and GIants territory, buddy." He approached Alphonse and put in his order, Lorelai running her fingers lazily through her curls as she was excited to kick off the date well. Hello Lorelai, enjoy the show, she told herself internally before they sat down in a booth by the window.

Lorelai took a deep sip of her hot cup of coffee and savored it for a minute, smiling in contentment and letting out what Caleb thought was a moan resembling an orgasm.

"I guess you were right about loving a good cup of coffee." He shook his head, laughing as Lorelai opened her eyes. "I'm sorry I ever said the S-word."

"Trust me, you find a good cup of coffee, and you shall seek it no matter how far you go. And this is by far the best in fair New Haven." She placed down her cup. "So the texting you did the last few days, are you sure you're not a teenage girl? You just carry a thread there for a long time."

"Helps to have an interesting woman to chat to. I didn't know when I gave you my number I was going to get a blog about 'the life of an innkeeper'. Especially yesterday with the toilet flood in 248."

Lorelai scoffed. "Really? We're in a coffee shop and you're going to lead off with the flood?" She smiled and slapped her hand on the table. "Not my fault that little Pauly was dared by his sister to flush an entire roll down. For the record, I now know that's impossible, thankfully."

"But the question was is it a double or a triple-ply roll?"

A groan. "I don't even want to know the mess with a triple roll. Geeze, it's like these guests take it as a challenge to find out how to screw with us as the owners."

"Oh, you want to hear a story? We set up this company with the best product we could offer at the time. Centrex, T1 and the works, fast internet. Five months later they haven't paid us a dime and given the account department a sob story. A month later? Their office is cleared and I find out in the news that they were the biggest boiler room operation in Illinois that year." Caleb shook his head. "Wounded my pride for a year or two that I made this big sale and they ran away with millions off my pitch."

"See, don't have to struggle with that in the hotel business. The worst that happens is a towel gets ran off with or the card was stolen. But no matter what, we have ways of getting our money."

"Except when the details are faked. Or you're dealing with this generation's Dillinger."

"Yes, because a mass bank robber is going to consider my inn a perfect hideout from the cops. Mm-hmm." Her nose wrinkled as she got to the meat of the matter. "I'm not going to show you my work, but how did you do on the memory challenge?"

"I..." Caleb shrugged. "Well, I think I did fine. I just hope Ms. Sandberg isn't too tough on me. Thank goodness we don't have to draw in color because I forgot what color Athena's eyes were."

"Deep brown." Lorelai knew she couldn't forget. "I'm sure everything went well."

"Yeah, but it got busy at the office, and then I got tickets to a UConn men's game in Storrs. Is college basketball supposed to be that boring?"

"They won by a lot, didn't they?"

"Too many points. We were gone to beat traffic with ten minutes to go. But all to impress the client."

Lorelai nodded and the two had their coffee, enjoying their conversation together, though Lorelai was completely lost to much of the technology Caleb went on and on about. She looked at the bag she had bought earlier in the week to hold her drawing supplies, hoping Eleanor would be impressed by it.

She knew she could grow to love Caleb outside of class, but they definitely needed to see each other in a less professional manner. Eventually, the topic came up of their parents.

"Mine are in the northern suburbs," he said. "A newer suburb, Round Lake Beach. Been together for about thirty years. I also have a sister, Della. She works promotions for Delta in Salt Lake City."

"Della at Delta?"

"Trust me, she knows the name rhymes. But when the job pays north of $150,000 a year she doesn't mind being 'Della at Delta'."

"Well, I'm an only child, and my parents have been together for thirty-five years. Had some tough times with them. Even more now." She sighed. "I have to eat with them every Friday night as a debt for getting my daughter through private school, and since I broke up with my ex, it's been a struggle to keep it from turning into Hook-Up Theater every week with a new guy. I'm sure yours are just as tough."

He nodded in the affirmative. "33 and still single? Helps being an eligible bachelor, but with the parents, makes you seem like they should call up ABC and get me into Mike Fleiss's clutches."

"Trust me, not a reality show fan. I love my drama fake and rehearsed any day of the week. But I assume you have had relationships, have you?"

"About seven of them. But since I kept pushing at it at work, they usually broke up. I just came off the best shot I had with a woman named Susan who worked at a supply center in Wheaton. But then I got promoted to Connecticut and she ended it before I could." He grimaced at the recall of it. "I wasn't happy that she did it, but I knew the long distance relationship wouldn't really work out."

Lorelai nodded, not knowing how to comfort him. "It's never easy."

"Never is." He stared at Lorelai across the table. "Maybe being East is a good start for me again. At least the stress is a little lighter than it was back home."

"You can't know until you try." She felt good being able to be Caleb's soundboard. "If it helps, you've been an impressive guy so far."

He let off an easy smile and crossed his arms over his chest. "Yeah, you say that now. I'm sure you won't feel that way after Ms. S. grades my work."

"We'll see," Lorelai said, and the rest of the time was spent talking more about their lives. Lorelai knew she could see this man as a possible future, though the dread of seeing Paris/Athena all over again made her feel unsure.

Janet and Tanna exited the Workshop after getting Paris in hoping to bump into Lorelai, but they were about a few minutes earlier than expected.

It had been a rough week for the two girls and Paris since the Monday incident. The blonde had not seen Rory except for an awkward dining hall meeting on Tuesday afternoon, where the brunette had only given her a terse 'hello' before sitting with Colin, Olivia and Lucy at a table at the far end of the building. Not even an apology, Paris wondered if her outburst had been a bridge too far which finally ended their friendship in a way other incidents had not.

She had expected Finn to leave after his one night on the couch on Monday, but instead the man stayed with her both Tuesday and Wednesday as he felt unease about leaving her alone. She welcomed the company, especially as he insisted on ordering out and paying for it, which helped her immensely. She was surprised by the Australian's kindness to her and how many friends were now coming out of the woodwork.

Paris also felt a boost of confidence with Janet's help as the girl was able to finagle her privileges to get Paris her own pass for the gym she was at. Lunch at Wednesday had been spent with Janet and Kevin on the treadmill as she was able to get in a good 5k run before heading back to class. Despite the ebb of Monday night, Paris had been able to rise above it enough to come into the evening class in a cheerful mood.

Janet and Tanna were getting into the car just as Lorelai and Caleb crossed in front of them in the crosswalk.

"J!" Tanna pointed the two out to the runner, the red heels catching her eye right away. "Dang it!"

"What?" Janet looked at both of them. "Uh, I assume that's her classmate. Look at the distance they have between each other."

"But he's a guy, and he's going to be in the way!" The smaller prodigy felt wounded. "Crap, I haven't felt this low since I botched that experiment a month back."

Janet turned to her friend. "You're giving up now?"

"Who said I was giving up?" Tanna gave the man a firm stare as he opened up the door for Lorelai. "Paris needs Lorelai. She can't get her if he's with a guy. A nice-looking GQ'ed up guy, but--"

"You know we're not doing anything, right?" Tanna nodded. "Plus, Lorelai is a grown adult and can date whoever she wants. Wait until she gets out of class; maybe things will work out differently."

"I hope so." Tanna was deeply worried about the kink that developed. "Are you really sure Par and Finn can't couple up?"

The blonde smiled. "It's a miracle she's letting Finn stay at the apartment lately. There's no romance there. Not after the freak-out she told me about this morning over toenails in the bathtub."

"You can never take the 'bro' out of the 'brother'," Tanna surmised. "I'm really curious about this though."

"We all are. I know Paris is going up to the Hollow on Sunday for a lunch. We'll know more then." Janet started the engine, with both girls hoping either woman would open up more to each other as winter and the Christmas season moved ever closer.

"Mr. Brandt...acceptable work. Your interpretation of Athena in a Buffy poster stance is appreciative, but it could have been more original." Ms. Sandberg held up his drawing as an example. "Also, I really prefer my models to be shown as pacifists rather than aggressive. But otherwise, you are improving."

Caleb felt relief, glad that he wasn't taken down too badly as Eleanor went through everyone's homework. The first twenty minutes of the class were spent on going through it, with most of the submissions seeming to not meet Ms. Sandberg's standards.

Lorelai grew nervous as her work had not been graded yet. She turned to Caleb.

"I knew I should have turned in my other work. I went with the one I sketched on Thursday of P--Athena looking out a window before bed; I didn't know if that was too soon."

"She's particular. I didn't even know I was drawing a Buffy pose. Or adding a stake."

"Just came naturally?"

"What can I say? I had a bit of time where Channel 9 was the only thing that came in on my TV. I developed a dangerous One Tree Hill habit."

Lorelai snorted. "One of the kids in that show looked like a classmate my daughter had once. I just don't see it frankly."

"I think I went out with a woman because she resembled Hilarie Burton once. She certainly didn't have that girl's intelligence or pop culture knowledge though."

"If it was up to me, I would've been married to Ricky Schroeder for 20 years already. Thank goodness I was early on my crushes; Kirk Cameron is a loonball."

The couple continued to talk until Eleanor's voice rang out sharply.

"Ms. Gilmore?" Her head popped up quickly.

"Yes, Ms. Sandberg?" Oh, here it goes. It's gonna be dreadful...

She held up the sketch. "I have to say..." A pause. Lorelai wondered if the next words to be said were to be a dismissal from the class for terrible drawing.

A rare smile appeared on Eleanor's face.
"You have clearly rendered Athena in the way I expected to." She pointed out the sketch. "You only had a neutral look to deal with last week, but the way you drew her in this way, I'm definitely impressed. You've worked out your eye issues very well, and I think this is the best memory retention I've seen in a few years in any of my classes."

A nod. "Uhh, that's...great." She looked over her sketch. "Uhh, what about the shading?"

"I would have to know the interpretation of where you pictured Athena in doing this sketch."

"Well...next to a window with spare lighting, at night. I saw as contemplating herself before going to bed after getting home from a long night."

"I see." Eleanor let off a small glance towards Lorelai's direction. "Whatever the case, the shading is fine. However, the next work I will be laying out for all of you won't be as simple as this challenge I had for you, or last week's sketch." She moved towards the desk and an easel she had set up in front of the window.

"I think this class for most of you is going well. But you might be a little cocky right now, thinking, 'yeah, I can do this. It's handled'. Well...you think that now, but tonight you will be challenged."

She pulled out the blank piece of paper in front of the easel. "Tonight's class will deal with multiple poses, about fifteen minutes per pose, which means we will have seven drawings for the evening. For this class, we are going to focus on how muscular definition plays into the perfect drawing. Instead of the basics of shape and form, you will be instructed on how to add more definition and features to the sketch you are drawing."

Lorelai wondered what positions she would have to draw out and made sure all of her materials were ready. "The curtain will open, but there will be no introduction. Your model will immediately be ready in their first pose. For this class and others from here on, you may feel free to take any time you need to wander along the window and get your proportions before putting pencil to paper. This is a challenge because we are not in an open in the round setting, but I think most of you can make it work."

Won't need it, Lorelai thought, thinking she had memorized as much of Paris as possible. Eleanor called for the curtain to be opened and the drapery slid open quickly, to reveal the three models in the requested pose.

"For this first, I want you to concentrate on the back of the shoulder blades and sternum. Take in the definition of this part of the body and transfer it to paper." She pointed to Claude, who had a tattoo rendered with what looked like the Detroit Red Wings logo on the left side of his back. "The tattoos must also be rendered as well as possible, though I'm not looking for perfection."

Lorelai was relieved; outside of the ink on her ankle, Paris never felt the need for any other tattoo besides that one, though the challenge remained on drawing her marks and scars. She was free to approach the window and take the one she had to know as Athena in further without complications.

Her and Caleb approached the window, Lorelai feeling nervous as she took in the model sitting in a lift chair backwards, the bottom sill of the large window lined up with the small of her back to preserve her modesty.

Her mouth was dry as she was able to examine the model up close without any notice whatsoever. If Paris as Athena heard anything through the window, it was only a vague mumble once it cut through the two layers of glass outside, the reflective and protective layers, then the two layers inside of the room itself.

"I guess my gymnast theory is a little off," Caleb said. "Though it's odd, wasn't she a bit..."

"Yeah." Lorelai noticed the slight extra bit of tone, even more curious as Paris's skin tone seemed to glow again for the first time in at least a couple of years. "Someone may have gotten a secret psyche-up from week one to look good." She traced every slight muscle she could, unnoticed during the summer but becoming apparent.

Distracted, Lorelai tried to will certain thoughts out of her mind, the shock of getting as close to the girl as only three other men had in her life. Her hair was fully loose, mixed between her back and front to provide volume to both sides. Lorelai's skin tingled as she drew back, her memory content to have a good picture of the young woman as Ms. Sandberg called everyone back to their places after admonishing a couple of the students for both knocking at the glass and gaping at Dora, sending them to the farthest position in their portion of the class so they would not have a prime sketch.

Caleb turned his attention to Lorelai one last time. "You think you have this?"

"Question is, do you?" Lorelai asked right back. "Us ladies...we know the anatomy straight off."

"I think I can handle it," he responded, though a pause in his voice suggested he might not.

"Class!" Ms. Sandberg brought them to attention. "We shall now begin, pencils in hand. If you don't all need to pop some fucking Aleve and get a carpal tunnel sleeve at the night, I haven't done my job right." All thoughts of Paris were evaporated as Lorelai brought herself into Athena mode for the next near hour.

"We shall start with the shoulders," she intoned as Lorelai got in the outline of her sketch. "As you can see, their definition..."

Lorelai had to admit as she finished off the last drawing of the night that she may have gotten ahead of her own drawing abilities. Going slow and making sure she had the definition she required for all the drawings turned out to be harder than she thought.

The marks and scars had gotten to her, become the hardest part about drawing Paris. Her form was fine, but getting in every small pock in her skin would be impossible. When she drew a front arm along with the underarm and her side, she was surprised that it wasn't all the way smooth, but with a little bit of skin that stuck out. She knew Paris didn't care about flesh that she had been mocked for having only a smidge by guests behind her back, but it was hard to get it perfect.

But when Eleanor commanded the class to draw their subject's neck, and only their neck, it seemed like it should have been a breeze.

Lorelai found it as hard a challenge as not wanting to flee if Taylor offered to model for her. There was creased skin to deal with, little bits of hair along the nape of her neck that were hard to replicate. Her mark proved to be the easiest part.

If Lorelai thought she knew Paris Gellar well enough to know all of her secrets, she was sorely mistaken.

"Now onto the back of the neck," Eleanor bellowed, calling on the intercom. "Models, please turn and place your hair up in the bands provided."

Claude, with his shaved head proved to be the easiest, but with their long manes, both Dora and Athena had to take their time. As they had rehearsed in class both women quickly up their hair in bands, Paris's hair knowledge proving to be amazing as Lorelai knew the girl had a wicked way with a headband or a pigtail. She still felt ashamed for making fun of the Topsy Tail when an ad for it came on television during a sleepover, when the blonde surprised her.

"Use it all the time," she admitted. "I have no shame in saying so. Best $14.95 plus processing I ever spent on a hair product. In fact, I used it before I came over this evening." She turned her head around to show Lorelai, who turned white.

"Oh damn," the older woman admitted. "Okay, consider me shocked that you buy infomercial products." She had caught Rory rolling her eyes, but since then knew Paris could do amazing things with her hair.

With her hair done all up, Paris turned, her back facing the class. Lorelai began to work out the basic details in her head before looking back up when Ms. Sandberg issued the command to continue.

Her blue eyes wandered up from the drawing desk...

...where her pupils landed on an unexpected sight.

Lorelai's breath caught in her throat as another aspect of the hidden life Paris shielded from everyone else came out of hiding.

My God. She knew her drawing had become just that more challenging.

Resting just at the top of the nape of her neck, the smallest of words appeared upon in, in what looked to be simple print. Hardly flowing or calligraphic, it seemed to be either in the girl's own tall script, or in a supposition based on the language used in the word, the woman who she loved the most, her nanny Francisca.

The one simple word stood out and Lorelai's skin prickled taking it in.


Lorelai had no knowledge of Portuguese in any way outside of some cities of the country, but going from lessons retained by her foreign language teachers in the past, she remembered that the root word often meant something else.

It's either force...but that's unlikely. Probably actually 'strength'. That would make more sense, though it could always have a double meaning with several different things. Paris would be like that, putting so many things into one word.

She was so distracted for a moment that when Ms. Sandberg got in front of her it was a surprise.

"Ms. Gilmore," she barked softly. "Is there a reason you're not drawing?" She held her hand to her chest.

"Oh geeze, sorry!" Lorelai put her pencil right to the paper. "Sorry, the...um, tattoo. It caught me by surprise."

"It did to me too," Eleanor easily admitted. "Didn't know she had it until the rehearsal earlier. But anyways, time is a wasting." A glare sent her way convinced Lorelai she couldn't linger any longer.

"Got it." Lorelai got right back to drawing, still stuck on the black ink that had taken her out of her element. She wanted to be able to distill Athena out of Paris and be able to draw that figure instead, but knew it wouldn't be possible.

The distraction proved to be a challenge, along with Caleb's usual asides.

"You think she's happy?" he wondered in a whisper as she finished up on the bottom of her drawing. "She looks like she holds in some things."

"I wouldn't presume to know. She just seems focused."

"But you think she does?"

"Not sure. I hold in some things myself," Lorelai admitted. "Doesn't mean I need to reveal it all." She hoped to replicate the text as best she could, but knew as a rightie it was likely impossible to get it just so, especially the right slant of the left-handed script. Even though it was one of the beginner units, she still strived for need to perfect everything about her drawing.

A few more minutes were spent getting it right until Eleanor called time and she dropped her pencil, the last stroke finessing the strayest of hairs along the column of Paris's elegant neck.

"Alright, class." A smile from Eleanor as she collected the drawings from the night. "I have your email addresses, so I shall grade your drawings and give you feedback privately through that channel over the weekend, as this is a more complicated unit for me to look at than normal." She looked towards the window and called for the curtains to be drawn.

As the curtain was about to go over, Lorelai glanced up for her last look at Paris, just in time to catch her in what seemed to be a direct glance at her direction. Full brown eyes seemed to regard her through the glass with warmth and respect. Her heart rate rose for a moment at the glance as the drapery then blocked over Paris, leaving Lorelai stunned.

I...I need to stop this. Just...stop. Again, just a student. Half my age. Probably not in the best mood at all.

The last ten minutes while the models left were to go over next week's homework, for the students to draw their models with two profiles so their face work could easily be judged. Lorelai listened quietly, her mind still humming around Paris's second tattoo, along with the piercing she found out about the week before.

She has had a quiet rebellion over the last year. One Rory doesn't know about. Nobody probably knows about it. There is something there with her that I'm just starting to find out through these classes. But I know I can't approach her...

Caleb tapped her shoulder.

"Lorelai, you've been quiet for the last five minutes. You nervous about heading out?" She turned quickly.

"Heading out?" Lorelai didn't know what he was saying.

"If I remember you parked in the middle of the third level at the Temple Garage. Good walk from Dormand's, not so much from here a few blocks away."

"Oh...yeah." A laugh. "Where are you parked?"

"Fourth level, so I guess I'm coming with you?" He smiled back at her, placing his book in a folder to put in his drawing satchel.

"Lead the way." Lorelai felt easy about going with him, and the two left the building, headed the few blocks back to the garage just near the edge of downtown, catching up a little more on their lives as Lorelai discussed her life with Rory. He listened intently; curious as to how a woman of near his same age had raised a child to just about her college graduation.

"Trial and error. Although Parents magazine was a great resource when I needed it to be, I pretty much had to wing it. I hope I did right when I eventually pass on, but I got her to 21."

"Scot free?"

"Well, not quite." She cringed having to admit she wasn't golden. "We had a couple years of acrimony. She stole a yacht as an act out and got community service from it. Frankly I disagree with how she's been doing some things lately, but she's an adult. She has to screw up sometimes, and I can't go in and fight her battles any longer."

"You seem like a good parent. Kind of cool too," Caleb said. "You seem to be sane."

"Mmm, definitely, though my parents would suggest otherwise."

Eventually they ended up in the elevator of the garage, nearly close to each other as Lorelai had a good minute to consider how she was with Caleb in the slow elevator.

She knew it was still too soon to make anything but a friendly move, but his clean-shaven face was a contrast from Luke's scruff. He was bright and open, a complete difference from him, and he seemed to allow her the tangents she loved to go on.

He then moved a glance towards her, and she stared at him, eyes trained on his lips, while her eyes kept him drawn in.

There seemed to be an unexpected moment between them. Lorelai's mouth dried as her thoughts wandered to actually taking that next step, even if she shouldn't. They were moving in a bit closer, the floor for two dinging as Lorelai adjusted her heel in place.

A thought crossed her mind.

I want to kiss this man.

She was bound to hold to it. Experiment. Feel free and bold in her post-engagement life. She perched on her toes just enough that Caleb didn't notice, moving closer...

A scent memory of sterile alcohol suddenly hit her mind in that moment.

Then even more unexpected...

Don't forget, you have Paris coming over on Sunday.

Her eyes widened as she remembered the last time she talked to Paris, two weeks before for a lunch. Only this time, at her home.

Instead of romance, she felt panic.

Then, realization of where she was.

"I..." She stopped, pulling back. "I...this is too soon," she said nervously, brushing her fingers along her skirt. "We had a coffee thing."

He nodded. "We did." But he was also chivalrous. "But you also just broke up with a guy before getting married."

"Right." A wavering laugh. "I mean...it was months ago, but this is a little fast. Two weeks." The floor indicator dinged. "We need to know more."

"Much more. We just got off our long-term ones. Don't jump right in."

"Yeah, I agree." She blushed. "I--"

"I'm sorry," he completed with Lorelai at the same time. "It wouldn't even work. I'm still waiting for my permanent furniture to get delivered. I have a rented couch for God's sake."


"I have a TV hooked up to a hangar. Comcast is taking forever with their conne--"

Lorelai opened her mouth wide. "Hold on! The AT&T guy is using..." she faked a shocked shriek, a hand to her chest. "Cable internet? And you haven't been demoted to the northern New Mexico missile sands division?!"

"They don't look at my bills. Seriously, I had to keep with Comcast; I have an email address dating back years with them before I got hired by Ma Bell, when they were MediaOne. You don't give that up."

"A worthy reason to be a traitor," she joked. "Um, anyways...yeah. Too soon."

"Yeah. A few more weeks." Lorelai smiled as she was relieved it hadn't been awkward. "Let's plan another after work coffee outing next Thursday. If that goes well, maybe week four I can actually come to town?"

"Hmm, maybe." Lorelai let the words slowly creak out with a smirk. "OK, so more texting and talking and we meet at Dormand's again next week?"

Caleb nodded. "Absolutely, sounds like it worked well this week, should do the same next week." He walked her to the Jeep, opening the door for her and seeing her off.

"I will talk to you on Saturday then," she promised, before closing the door and waving goodbye to him as she pulled out of her space and towards the exit. She still didn't know how to feel about pursuing anything more with Caleb, but knew at the very least she could enjoy spending time with him.

However as she made her drive home, the reminder thought of Paris coming to the Hollow on Sunday plagued her like no other. She had honestly forgot in a blur and now had to make sure she would give off no signs she knew about her as Athena.

"Maybe I could call and cancel," she told herself, wondering if that was the right response to her quandary.

But she knew immediately that it would either involve panic on Paris's end.

"No...can't do that. I do want her there. She's great and it's a venting opportunity for her. No matter what's going on, I can't deny that."

But she knew that now her image of the young woman would be forever changed. Just reading those letters hidden on her neck, she knew despite how she felt now, Paris would eventually be strong again.

"I know I'm helping her out with that, even if she doesn't know it. But now until Sunday, she's off of my mind. I cannot think of her and..."

Then she remembered her assignment from the Workshop. "Well, most of the time." She shook off her thoughts, hoping a call with Sookie later on would provide her additional clarity.

Paris wondered if her luck was changing.

The post-class drive back home with Janet and Tanna had instead turned into a surprise outing at Denny's, a girl's night out just outside of town as she found two girls giving her what had been her fourth consecutive night of a good meal.

"I don't get it." Paris snorted derisively at her Grand Slam of French toast, four eggs, hash browns and turkey bacon. "You want me to firm up, yet you allow me to order this?" She bit into a slice of the bacon. "What's your deal, Billings?"

"I know it's a little odd, but this is more about socialization than the food." The tall athlete felt light as her friend dug in, beginning to enjoy the girl's snark. "Besides, it's T we should be scared of."

"What?" The smaller girl gave them both a dirty look. "I'm a pancake addict."

"Seven pancakes should involve an 'anonymous' meeting," Paris said. "And don't take all the syrup, Schrick. I know you chug it like Pepsi."

Despite her mouth nearly full, Tanna continued to talk. "Syrup...was sinful back home. I love it. It's like, I'm in college, I'm pouring the syrup on!"

"I shudder to see you on an energy drink."

"Imagine no more," Janet said. "I left out a Monster once. What a stupid thing to do. It took her until midnight to finally settle down, from a chugged drink at ten in the morning!"

"Well you try not having caffeine since your life started. See how you'd react." Tanna and Paris both laughed while Janet let out a heavy grunt of annoyance. She pouted and went back to her food as she wondered how Paris was feeling towards the end of the week.

"So how's Finn?" she asked. "He's over there again tonight."

"Yeah, I can't seem to get rid of him. But he's insistent on staying and who am I to throw him out? He did his part by getting me dinner the last three nights." She cut into toast, dipping it into a pool of syrup and making sure it soaked it all up. "Colin didn't even apologize to him about his aside about me, so something happened."

"You really don't see getting together with him? Honestly?"

Paris shook her head furiously. "We talked last night and he did admit to sex dreams of me, but he said he'd never go beyond that. I truly believe him. He even obeys my 'clothes on in the living room at all times' rule; Logan is a constant violator."

"Par...are you not telling us something?" Tanna said. "If not for my guy I'd be happy to try something with Finn."

"Well..." She looked around the room. "You remember the discussion about Rory's reaction to my kiss when she talked about it?" Both women nodded as Paris prepared herself for what she was about to say, something Doyle knew, and to a smaller extent Asher had also.

"I...I am kind of in this area of sexuality where I can love a man. I did love both Asher and Doyle. But on the other hand..." She slid her arms onto the table, bringing herself closer.

"I have an attraction to women." It felt like lead coming from her throat. "I think after dating Tristan that one time, and then Jamie, I realized I had more feelings for Rory than I ever did either of them. That one day I would act on them. I can admit I was deluded though. Rory is heteronormative as can be, and her little dig at Spring Break confirmed that. I'm glad I didn't get my heart broken there."

"OK." Janet's voice was calm, and Paris knew there was hardly any reaction to her words. "But is there anyone else?"

"Of course there is. But...I'm not going to say because I'm not deluded enough to believe my own dreams."

"What are your dreams of?"

Paris scoffed, rolling her eyes. "We're in Denny's. I doubt anyone wants to hear me talk about sex in here."

In response, Tanna held up her fork between bites. "A quarter of the people here are either intoxicated or experiencing either what is known as the munchies or feeling high off smoking something. They won't even remember much in the morning."

"But I can't tell you two."

"Why not?"

"Because..." She sighed. "Because I'd like to hold some secrets. And the dreams I have of this person, they're very important to me. They help me out, even though I don't believe they'll happen in reality." She was pensive, looking at her orange juice and spinning around the glass. "I tell you and somehow I get false hope. It makes it real when I'd rather keep what I have to myself."

"But you're at least confirming it's of a female, right?" Janet looked to her friend for the information she craved.

"Yes...at least that." Paris remained firm in her belief saying something would earn her more scrutiny than she wanted. "It is not Rory. But--"

"Paris." Tanna decided to be firm with her. "If you feel an inclination towards women and think it bothers us? Honestly, it doesn't. You were my first crush--"

"I know." She closed her eyes. "You do know I'd be introducing myself to the neighborhood and 500 feet away from day cares and schools if I acted on that. Not that I felt that way." Tanna laughed and brushed off the quip.

"But I never cared about your sexuality. Honestly, you have an open heart to me. You loved an average guy, an old guy, and a total oddball, and found love in all of them. Your thing with Rory you knew wouldn't happen, but you still think of it as an important guidepoint in your life." She looked for more details as she knew Paris was in a sharing mood. "What about those girls who come over occasionally from your high school, Madeline and Louise?"

"They're friends," Paris insisted, though uneasily. "Though yes, Louise and I had our adventures together in bed."

"Adventures?" Janet was deeply interested. "As in?"

"As in, if I'm talking in reality, we were each other's first, before boys came in the picture, and I haven't really forgotten." She held back further with a secretive smirk. "However, a lady does not kiss or tell, so that's all you ladies are getting."

Pleased, Tanna squealed unnaturally high at the revelation. "Oooh, that's the blonde one, right?"

The look Janet and Paris gave her at her excitement gave her the shivers.

"I...was just wondering." She rambled further without any prompting. "I just get those two mixed up, you know. There's the funny looking brunette and then her with her porcelain skin and pink lips and her seductive voice and..."

"You're sure her and Marcus had sex earlier, right?" Paris whispered, unnerved. Janet nodded.

"I swore they were. When they go at it, you don't want to be there. They go at it heavier than I ever did with Dylan, and Kevin couldn't keep up their pace."

Tanna didn't stop as she continued to describe Louise a little more until she noticed both women giving her a stunned stare.

"Should I be telling Lou you're going to jump her when she comes home around Christmas?" she wondered. "I'm a little worried."

"Oh...oh! No." The small girl seemed to go back to her freshman year for a little bit. "Just, your friend, she's stunning."

"She's also a casual dater." Paris came back to her food. "I think I've had enough sex talk for the night though."

"Me too," Janet agreed. "I just want to go home to Kevin and fall asleep before we work off all this in the morning."

"Don't remind me. I'm dreading the 6:00am wakeup, but I'll do it." Paris sighed as she went back to her food, leaving both Janet and Tanna wondering who Paris held a false hope of falling in love with.

Hope it's a certain woman drawing her in that class. Janet knew things were about to get interesting, and Paris's outing to Stars Hollow on Sunday was going to prove some things to her, she just knew it.

When Paris came home just after 10:30 she found Finn still dependently on the couch, watching Fox 61 for their forecast.

"Hey bird, you think that weathergirl on this station would take well to dating me?" he wondered aloud, leering at the television. The blonde averted her want to throw a pillow at the Aussie.

"I think with her two kids and husband, probably not." She took a quick look at the screen, wondering how the weather would be for her drive up to the Hollow.

"Looking at a cool down on Sunday with a good chance of snow, low 30's with a shot at the upper 20's if all looks good," the meteorologist predicted. Paris shook off the snow prediction and headed for the kitchen for her bedtime glass of pure warm cocoa with soy milk. "Finn, if you're going to live here--"

"Already taken care of, Barbie. $150 next to the door, ready for the rent envelope." Paris quickly turned around, the mention of money taking her by surprise.

"Finn, I don't need money. This isn't a weekly tenement hotel, I've let you stay because I just couldn't bear you having to face Colin."

"I know, but you provided hospitality and a good couch. I must render payment for services provided." She went back into the kitchen, wondering how to tell him to keep the cash.

"No services were provided, I just--" A pause. "You know..."

She quickly wandered off at the sight before her, taking a minute to wonder if what had materialized was not a dream.

"Findlay Rothschild Morgan, get in here, now!" she barked. The man took no time to get into the kitchen, where he found the surprised student regarding him with a mix of both awe and some shock.

"Is there something wrong?" he asked, to the response of Paris shaking her head.

"Don't you dare play dumb with me." She pointed her finger sharply. "I left here with a certain amount of things in the refrigerator. I come home and..." She opened the door of the fridge, then the freezer to reveal perishables, including several quarts of her beloved soy milk, filling an icebox that hours before only was residence to take-out leftovers and several notes from Rory on plastic tubs reading 'don't touch'. "Finn--"

"Love, J and T told me you needed good food and I decided to deliver--"

"But I can buy that myself," she said, trying to justify her need to go it alone. "You didn't have to buy it for me."

"I didn't, but I did. While you were gone I had a trip to the Shop Rite and the warehouse club to stock the shelves and everything for you. Took a bit off my pop's 'emergency' platinum MasterCard, but it was worth it." She explored further, finding her favorite cereals filling the cupboards and three Costco-packs of her beloved Kraft dinner, adding up to 30 boxes, along with various canned goods and baking supplies. "No beer, no alcohol. The bloody clerk almost sent out a code blue wondering why I didn't have a six pack or a bottle of whiskey on the belt. All for you."

Paris continued to shake her head, though the gesture was causing her to build up tears. "You got me 8th Continent. In both chocolate and vanilla. You know how much I love my soy milk. And..." She shrieked. "Are those two boxes of grape popsicles in the freezer?" She looked down. "Crystal Geyser water?"

"Three 24 packs, under your bed."

She wandered around the cramped cupboards, finding her favorite natural peanut butter and boil-in-bag rice she spiced up with other ingredients for her dinners. She saw several boxes of her favorite mints on the kitchen table.

"You...you cleared out the store here, you idiot."

"I was wondering why there wasn't a lot of food here. I found out that you usually do the food shopping but Rory just uses daddy's money to feed herself and us on takeout while you budget yourself worse than Sandra Lee. I felt pain in the pit of my stomach for not realizing that and this is me making it up to you."

She was welling with emotions. This was just a man she considered the oddball of the LDB showing how deeply he actually did care for her.

"This is something you really didn't have to do." Her voice raised as the tears threatened to fall. "Finn, I'm fine, the Workshop is helping with the tuition so I can use my other jobs to pay my bills, I'm at break-even."

"Barbie, my father told me one thing when I was younger; if you see a friend struggling, lend 'em a hand. Logan couldn't even be bothered off his arse to do that, and Colin? Forget it." The tall Australian gestured towards the blonde. "This isn't something I wanted to do, but I had to do. Rory gets to flee to the apartment when you're in anguish, but you have nowhere to go but her mum's or the gals at this point. I'm doing my hardest to see how I can get you out of this lease and to Janet's. There's gotta be a loophole. I just can't stand you wasting away on me though."

Paris looked up to see Finn being completely honest. She could see from the shaking of his hand that he had not touched any alcohol since the last drink on Monday. She didn't imagine Finn had any ulterior motives at all, nor could she see them occurring. He brushed her cheek and hoped to cheer her up.

"Come on, this is good. If I wanted to bribe you I'd pull you on some ridiculous trip home to Sydney or Melbourne after finals, but you've got your mates, and now you've got food to keep you until finals, the better to lean you out so the last weeks of the sketch class you're gonna leave a lot of people with sore parts."

Paris snorted derisively at the aside. "If anything I just need to eat a little better. But this will all help, all of it." She felt light on her feet. "I guess I won't look at this as bad; a little more for the tuition bucket, right?"

"Should help." He brought her into a hug, which she slid into. "Seriously though, take good care of yourself. If you need me out for the weekend I can be, but I was back over there after class still asking Reporter Girl for an explanation of what she did Monday night. Something about you overreacting, so I yelled at them and left."

Paris nodded. "Look, I mean I still only have the couch, but it'll do, right?"

"I sleep well on it. If there was a good thing about the evasion you still kept your furniture from it happening before. Smart move keeping some of your stuff in the storage." The hug broke and the girl felt in much better spirits. "You good, Barbie?"

Paris nodded. "Not all the way there, not by any means. But being fully stocked on groceries, having a gym pass and full of Denny's after class tonight? Helps a bunch."

"Speaking of which, I need some details." He seemed like he was chomping at the bit. "Tell me, how did it go?"

"You're getting the PG version, Morgan," she warned as she walked towards the couch, still in too much shock to make her cocoa.

"Oh, you can't go PG-13?"

"I went PG-13 once and it turned into a discussion of my breast size! Besides, it's not like I'm spending class leering at my fellow models!"

"Sod it, Gellar, you know you look at yourself and are like 'I'm a goddess'."

"I'm not that conceded." She scoffed and narrowed her eyes as she sat down. "I mean, yeah, I look good naked, but--"

"Ha, you admit it!" He pointed at her. "Come on, spill the beans."

"For the love of..." Eventually she did, going on and on as the two spent the next half-hour talking about their lives, completely ignoring the outside world and proving that men and women can make good friends after all.

Tell me this isn't going to be normal.

Lorelai stood in her bathroom at 2:42am in the morning, face damp from water splashed on her face after being jarred out from yet another dream after a night of trying to perfect her drawing.

On the way home she had made a stop at an office supply store to pick up the WACOM tablet, spending an hour after she got home setting it up on the sewing room computer before opening up the software program Ms. Sandberg had promised her.

She had scoffed at first, seeing the many tools in the program and thinking it would be harder to figure out than Excel, which she had still not mastered after fourteen years.

But then she played with the program and the corded pen. Applying light then hard pressure, playing with the various styles of pencils and pens within the program.

She thought not having a place to 'see' where the pen was as she drew would be a handicap, but within an hour she had indeed picked up the WACOM and became used to it quickly, just like when she used Mario Paint on the Independence's rented out SNES in boredom a few times when a kid didn't request it for the room TV.

Lorelai spent two hours after class ignoring Sookie's calls, getting right into a test drawing of Paris with the wind in her hair, the mention by her daughter of how scared she was of Paris driving.

She had seen nothing unusual in Paris's driving habits. Sure, she was a little fast, but no more than most people, and she was stuck hard to the traffic laws she knew she had to obey. Somehow she could see her father and Paris touring America in a convertible rather easy...

Which is what she did, drawing a rough outline of the top of a car door and rolled down window to show Paris with the wind in her hair, looking out the window at some kind of vague scenery Lorelai imagined as some scene in Middle America. She played with the drawing until she felt tired, thankful for saving to the computer helping her keep at the drawing until it was just perfect. She then made a few random sketches on a new page to get the hang of her pen until her hand cramped from overuse and she had to settle it down.

It was after eleven before she talked to her friend, who was still up trying some dishes out for the holiday season. She had expected to be gushing in joy about the coffee date with Caleb and how wonderful she felt.

By the end of the conversation though, Sookie had come to another conclusion as she put a sheet of macaroons into the oven.

"You like Caleb, that's not in doubt."

"Of course, that's--"

"But then again you just spent twenty minutes of this half-hour conversation talking about drawing, and in turn, this Athena guise that is the model Paris has."

"Well, the class consists of drawing her. Of course that would be the focus of the conversation," she argued back. But Sookie saw it another way.

"Hon, you really sure you want to see Paris on Sunday?"

"Of course." Lorelai was surprised by the change of topic. "She needs a day to come to town, relax and vent."

"But you just told me about these things, how Paris has a bit more tone, has a good bone structure, and that you find her enchanting. But Caleb, someone you had coffee with, who you talked to tonight, you went on about him vaguely like the guy who fished."

"What guy?" She thought for a moment. "Ohh...that one, what's his name?"

"Yeah." Her partner knew in Lorelai's voice that something more met the eye. "I know she's alone, you're alone. But you can't be putting your eggs in one basket here and worrying so deeply about Paris. She's doing what she needs to do--"

"Something she shouldn't have had to do in the first place!" Lorelai suddenly let off steam she didn't know she had. "I can't help but worry about her. I've known her since she was a sophomore and was high and mighty, Emily's mini-me. Unlike Rory though, I don't revel in her fall. I would rather be sketching out some unknown person, but those are the circumstances we're under. I have to live with it."

"I know, but you should look forward to Caleb next week. It seems you're working out there."

Lorelai let out a slow and frustrated breath. "I...I do want it to work. But my worry senses are strong here. I know I need to let it go, but I have to see if it works out with her."

"I know. You just have this need where when you're out of a relationship, you have to have something to do. I hope this works well, but if Paris gets wind of it, you have to know the consequences."

"Sookie, trust me. She won't find out. I've only told you, and I have no plans to tell anyone else. Nobody else can know."

"If you really think you can handle this, you're a grown adult. I just hope you know what you're doing."

Internally, Lorelai had her own doubts. Me too, she thought to herself.

Instead, she voiced out hope. "I do."

The conversation closed out with work related items, and by midnight, Lorelai was in bed, wondering how she ended up with all of this in her lap.

She wondered if disinviting Paris on Sunday would be something unforgivable, if the student would hate her for it.

But that was only for a moment. The lonely echoes of the house, the renovations done by Luke adding space that would go unutilized. Rory's room, recalling a time when the heirs of newspaper barons had no influence to her, only the books on the shelves that now lay fallow, done in by long chatting online. The television, formerly on most of the day, now cold in the living room with the TiVo filling up on shows on some new network Lorelai had no interest or care in watching, especially after one she watched on Tuesday nights imploded from bad writing and obnoxious advertising for some clothing chain she had no interest in patronizing after the 'real talk' of the actors proved stilted.

The silence was getting to her. For the first time in her life she ran a fan, just to have noise as she slept. Her bed felt too large, and she was really hoping that Caleb was the one, her future, the one she could see working in the long run. She closed her eyes, thinking of him and how happy he made her during the coffee date. Falling asleep unsettled, her thoughts ran that way.

Her dreams felt otherwise. Out of nowhere, unprompted, she felt her mind wrenched away from the recall of the coffee date...

"You know what you need to do?" She saw Paris in front of her on her sofa, munching on her gluten-free crackers.

"I actually don't." She found herself making a costume up for Martha to wear for her Christmas play at her preschool as the blonde regarded her with a look she had never noticed before from the intelligent woman.

"Look, I know we're both having this pity party because we're down. Nobody understands us and our exes are being awkward. We should just admit out; our track records with men are bad."

Lorelai raised her eyebrow up from the small-sized snowflake outfit. "Umm, that's a subjective opinion."

"When was the last time you had coffee at Luke's?"

Lorelai wanted to recall, but only fished out a vague date. "I think the second week of May."

"Alright." A pause. "Ask me what happened the last time I thought about Oklahoma."

"What happened the last time you thought of Oklahoma?"

"I felt down. I can't hate Doyle. He hustles in Norman like he's a local following the Sooners around. But it still feels sad, because I have this image that doesn't include a transfer to OU for my senior year. We moved on at a good point."

"I didn't though, there's no comparison."

Paris groaned. "You let him go though. And you can't stand the thought of Christopher any longer."

"Hold on, how do you know that?"

"Because of how he tried to bend the will of the court his way with his money. That he turned Sherrie's PPD into a big joke. You don't date a guy like that, no matter the history."

"Or one who comes onto me while I'm still with someone." She remembered how she never wanted to see him again after the vow renewal. "Maybe you're right. This doesn't work for me anymore."

Paris slid off the couch to meet Lorelai at her eye level on the floor. "It just doesn't seem like you. The feelings are gone, replaced with something I haven't known with you." She slowly moved closer to the innkeeper. "I never thought I'd see defeat within you."

Lorelai's eyes widened. "Defeat?"

"Like you're beat down. Content to know eventually Rory is going to be with Logan, no matter what we say."

"But it's no business of mine--"

"I think it is. You don't want Rory to be uppity and snobby. She might be, and it's getting to you."

"I just wish I could forget for awhile," she admitted. "About that, about Luke, my stupid wedding dress filling up a stupid fourth of my stupid closet. I...I've been manipulated, and the only place I feel in control is work."

Paris nodded. "So what of your love life?"

Lorelai blinked a couple of times. "I'm old. Hardly anybody wants me any longer."

"Oh come on!" Paris's voice took on an indignant tone. "Nobody wants you? Are you serious? You pull off 21 better than I could right now."

"I don't believe you."

"The first time I saw you at Chilton I thought you were Rory's sister, come on!"

"Not true."

"Very true." Her eyes suddenly focused on Lorelai's. "You're undeniably attractive. Any man or woman would want you."

"And now you're just playing with me."

"I don't lie, you're very attractive." Paris smiled at her. "Very...very attractive."

Her voice took on a sudden deepness that jarred Lorelai. "In fact, if you were any more attractive I'd be in the same room with an actual goddess. That's how beautiful you are." She pushed closer, and somehow Lorelai's gaze had softened as the girl approached her further. "At least you care about things. You patched things up with Rory even though she's been nothing but unappreciative of her second chance."

"Paris..." Lorelai wandered off. "Not really thinking of her right now." Her own thought processes considered how hot Paris laid out everything matter-of-factly, as if it had been planted in her mind.

"I'm not either." She approached closer, both their breaths unsteady. She took Lorelai's hand, filled with a few healing pokes from her sewing. "You know what I think?"

"Hmm?" She felt Paris was right in her private space, but not enough that it was uncomfortable.

"That I'm attracted to you," she husked, her lips so close to Lorelai she could sense the younger woman's minted breath. "Maybe we could be happy together?"

Lorelai couldn't feel the muscles stretching that caused her head to shake, just staying still. "Make me happy?" A nod. "Paris, I barely know you."

"You know what pisses me off, you think I'm a lovely young woman, educated and even through the Asher stuff, you didn't mock it as much as Rory did."

"That's not--" She found her eyes distracted by the vee of Paris's sweater, showing off her cleavage. "Par, this is a bad idea."

"If you think so, why are you looking lost?" She found Lorelai glazed over. "Besides, you know how I am. If I kiss you, it's going to be dammmmn satisfying." She brushed her fingers over Lorelai's cheek. "You want this."

Lorelai found it useless to argue, staying silent as Paris closed in the last few centimeters.

She expected Paris's lips to feel still, uncomfortable. That her kissing would be clumsy.

In reality however, it was smooth. Her lips flexed against Lorelai's with her fingers nested at the bottom of the brunette's curls. Lorelai felt the urge to break away, but only for a moment.

She was lost in this kiss. Unlike her first with each man she ever had, it was hardly strong, or domineering. The buss had a sense of Paris allowing her to pull back if she was uncomfortable. Both were silent, the tension tighter than a rubber belt.

Lorelai was lost in those deep dark eyes that kept sentry over her since that first day at Chilton. Her understanding of why Paris found her 'journey' incomplete had now come to fruition;

That the journey with Rory had failed. But to fall for her had just begun to succeed.

The kiss instigated further, Paris resting above her as they both went to the floor laying down. She felt Paris between her legs, ignoring the building pounding between her legs.

Lorelai knew where this was going. So did Paris. But until another ten minutes of torrid kissing had passed and she found fingers against the zip of her sweater dress, she didn't know exactly where.

Paris's hand was on her back. She craved to feel air and hot fingers against her spinal column. To go with this, to feel everything.

"Fuck me," she hissed out. "Please, ravish me, Par."

Paris looked at her with a hot look of lust built into love and had her lay at her side, beginning to unzip the dress...



Lorelai quickly bounced up in her bed, shuddering and letting out small gasps as reality splashed her in the face. A bark from downstairs had emanated at the exact same time the unzipping reached the small of her back, where undoubtedly the girl would see the cleft of her rear thanks to her need to wear underwear slightly smaller than advised.

"BARK! BARK!" Paul Anka seemed to want to catch Lorelai's attention and she slid out of bed...

And into what seemed to be an unexpected bit of dampness, along with a probable public exposure charge with her tight grey nightie was above her navel, showing her lack of underwear.

She yelped and pushed it down before throwing on a robe and heading downstairs, her heart beating real fast as she headed into the living room to see Paul Anka barking at the window overlooking the porch. She readied herself for self-defense as she looked out the blind...

...only to find a taunting chipmunk atop the porch swing. Nothing outside except that.

"Oh come on, I ran down for this?" she complained, groaning as she shooed Paul Anka from the window and then banged on it to scare the small winterizing creature back to their tree.

"You're not going to find any nuts here," she shouted, knowing her wording would be dirty in several y circumstances. She looked down at her guilty dog and rolled her eyes.

"How many times have I told you that squirrels and chipmunks aren't what you protect me from? It's burglars." She called him upstairs to lie at the foot of her bed before rushing to the bathroom to look herself over. After splashing her face, she realized in her haste to get downstairs something she had missed as she realized her nipples were very visible through her sleepwear.

"I...that didn't just happen, did it?" She brushed her forehead as she pulled her nightie down, already finding it above the curve of her ass. "Really, dreams? I just had a nice night with a good guy and my first sex dream in a year is with Paris?"

She blew a frustrated breath up between her nose, rustling her hair. "And it wasn't even a sex dream. It was getting there and yet I'm wet as can be? Am I really this frustrated?"

Lorelai knew that her dog had to think his owner was crazy, talking about her lack of a sex life. She shook her head and decided right then and there it was time for this to stop.

"OK, let's do something else on Sunday. Anything else. I can't be around her..." She headed into her bathroom to grab her phone, to tell Paris something came up.

Instead, her phone taunted her with a '2 new messages' prompt. She flipped it open, hoping it was Caleb and a good night.

Ready to see you Sunday. Been missing seeing my favorite woman, have a few things to tell you.

And then below that, a follow up;

Please wear something appropriate. That does not mean a too-tight 'Greatest American Hero' tee and skinny jeans.

She wanted her finger to linger over 'reply' and tell her she was too sick for the weekend. To get Paris out of her brain, out of her mind.

Instead, she remembered another lingering look from that October visit when the blonde seemed to hang around a couple hours later than expected discussing her life, which seemed specifically built to have more time to look at Lorelai in her highly-charged choice of wardrobe.

Instead of a reply, she closed the phone, knowing that Paris sending two texts meant she could not cancel under any circumstances. If I call in sick, Lorelai thought to herself, she'll just come over and nurse me back to health.

The innkeeper flopped back into her bed, both frustrated by Paul Anka's chipmunk intrusion, and her mind filled with the images of her and the woman half her age flirting her way into a near sex dream where she still ended up fulfilled.

Lorelai began to wonder if her mom did drink a little when she was pregnant. It was the only way she could explain having a nice guy in Caleb suddenly be second to an intense blonde woman who lived to torment others for their low intelligence.

"Maybe...this is my mid-life crisis," she told herself. "But instead of buying a fast car or blowing through my department store...I want to seduce a girl half my age who I've sketched out six times in just two weeks."

She tried to deny her feelings. "There is no way...I've never had feelings for a girl. The only time it got to me, Lucy and Renee were on their show just being damned blatant about it in those outfits and..."

She flopped on the pillow. "I don't want her. I can't want her. It would break the confidence of model and artist for one. And the other is Rory. I can't possibly do that, just because of her." With that, she clicked her alarm and sighed. "There, it's settled. No more Paris as sexy. Rory would kill me. So there. It's done. Sunday she's here as Rory's annoying friend, and by the end of that class I'll be with Caleb. So there."

With that, Lorelai closed her eyes, hoping that it would be the end of it. That voicing her frustrations would end this odd way she felt about Paris.

Four and a half hours later, Lorelai Gilmore woke up in her bed to the sound of a lamb baaing for her to wake up. It had been a very restful sleep.

It had also featured a string of three dreams featuring Paris Gellar seducing her, including one where both women had drank Miss Patty's punch and ended up caught in bed going at it by Lane walking in on them.

Her hair was a mess as she got up, along with her nightie. After her strong denial for how she felt for her model, Lorelai's first words to start the last day of the week were enough to express how she felt going into Sunday.

"I hope she's in rant mode all day," Lorelai told herself. "Damn it, I need her to stop being so cute and beautiful!"

Somehow she came to the conclusion that the chances of Paris looking ghastly in two days were odds nobody in Vegas would ever take.

To Be Continued

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