DISCLAIMER: The show's been off for a year, but the it's still not mine. Amy-Sherman Palladino's still holding on tight to it (after Jezebel James flopped I think she has second thoughts about letting go), Hofflund-Polone is still there somewhere, and Warner Bros. Television still holds out that slight hope they might come back someday for a reunion movie. However, David Rosenthal may have run the show, but no one cares about him anymore, except the pale M&L clones that played Olivia and Lucy. President's Choice is the generic brand for A&P, with Punk'd a trademark of MTV Productions and Ashton Kutcher. Rentschler Field at the time was really being constructed across the river from Hartford, and is the home of the University of Connecticut's football team. Poland Spring is a trademark of Nestle's bottled water division, the Magic Bullet is owned by Homeland Housewares, and Fox Sports World (currently Fox Soccer Channel) is a News Corporation/Liberty Media network. Don Music is a character on Sesame Street, a product of Sesame Workshop. All other trademarks and services within the story are the property of their owners.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This chapter has been a long time coming, I know. Trust me, I really know (the monthly emails about updates have reminded me of that). I thank you all for your patience as I write this, along with dealing withmy continued fretting about whether I got the tone during a scene right or wrote too little or too much. I have a bunch of 19 and 20 written already and I hope to rev up on those. I had to self-beta this chapter of the story because my beta Danielle had to finish wrapping up (and I know she hates me for saying this and would rather want me to say 'her freshman year'...or kindergarten (cue Toys "R" Us theme)) college altogether. She is a graduate of Albion College with honors, and I am so glad to know her. Without her, this story is half of what it could be, and I think I would have long moved on to something else. I'm so proud of her, and although she may not have had the time to beta this, know that some of the ideas in this story came from her. I'd also like to thank The Raven for all of her input through various email threads with me and conversations in general, along with saving me the embarrassment of reminding me that Paris is a neat freak and would probably feel uncomfortable in a situation that would happen later in this chapter. Thank goodness those I have look over my stories remind me that cleanliness is a good thing. And thank you for RavenDark and Didi for coming back into my lives, even if you aren't currently betaing or in a position to do much more than read. I'd rather have you in any form that I can than not at all. I have been really getting into Callie/Erica on Grey's Anatomy lately. The fandom for them is in its infancy, but the LiveJournal group erica_callie has some pretty great stuff. Of course, you should also read fanfiction involving Miranda/Andy from The Devil Wears Prada if you haven't already; it's been one of the more surprising fandoms I've seen develop in such a short time and the quality level is inspiring. Also, don't forget that July 19th is the International Day of Femslash. I encourage everyone out there who wants to write a Paris/Rory to get one out there and represent our couple. I have something in mind that I want to write for IDF, so please, get it out, read it or write it, do what you must to prove how much of an artform and style of writing that femslash has developed into. I think you ff.net'ers know by now that if you don't like same sex love, you shouldn't be here. Send me criticism and let me know what I can improved and what you loved as always, and please, I beg of you, more than what Jeremy Shane calls 'feedback'.
SPOILERS: Into the dead of December after A Deep Fried Korean Thanksgiving, where absolutely nothing happened on the show. At least I think so. I'll never understand why after S2 The WB couldn't spare us one December-set episode. Also note the dramatic license taken with a scene from Rory's Dance and smaller scenes from seasons one and two in recall form.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Longing With a Cherry Tomato on Top
By Nate

Chapter Eighteen
The Heart is the Guide, The Heart Knows What it Wants, The Heart is True


Rory's POV, 8:00-8:10pm

So, I have to admit, I feel so strange at the end of this week. Not from it first week of December, the limbo between the holidays where Mom and I have taken advantage of a couple of sales to check off our Christmas lists more. Nor is it from the fact that I'm feeling lethargic with each new thing to learn in each new class. So much for the senior slump, because Chilton isn't making it easy for me to forget one thing. A couple of students have gotten a new wind behind Paris and I and are beginning to fight us to get to the top, so I have to keep myself focused, at least in that department.

I guess this week was, odd. Not in the weird kind of way, just in the sense that I expected more to happen on the relationship front with Paris.

Now I'm not talking about what you think, that we've hit a sexual slump. Truth be told, after the rush of emotions and urges we had at the Manor and near that pond, I expected that I wouldn't feel anymore the rest of the week, getting everything out that I wanted to against Paris's hand.

Oh, God, her hands...her fingers...mmm...oh, if I could feel them caressing me right now...

Whoa, whoa! Sorry about that. Seriously, I know how to keep things like that under control, usually. OK, concentrate, focus, tell. I can do this without interference from thinking about her. I know I can.

Good, I'm settled again. Anyways, this week. Yeah. You'd think after a first time you're currently keeping your mouth shut about like it's a state secret I'd feel my inner vixen shy off for a few days, letting me relax and go back into my usual studious guise, and the same with Par. We are normal, studious and sane teenagers. Sex doesn't define us in any way, shape or form.

It doesn't, right?

Then why can't I get my mind off her? Is there something wrong with me that I can't stand that she's a half-hour away from me? When she arrives at Luke's each morning, my eyes immediately wander from my eggs towards her, standing there in her Chilton trenchcoat with her good morning smile and a greeting directed towards Miss Patty's way which is veiled with thanks for her support of us. She sits down elegantly on the stool next to me as she orders her tea and a English muffin with grape jelly. I'm shocked that Lorelai is none the wiser as her right shin brushes against my left leg, her way of starting the morning off with a secret and intimate moment.

Then her looks at me in class, out in the halls, or in the gym playing lacrosse, they've been so intense to me so lately. Those warm brown eyes, staring at me from across a room, the neutral look on her face definitely hidden behind a lustful façade.

I haven't even mentioned her during biology class, what with her right hand 'leaning' against my stool on the side. She's grown to enjoy wandering her fingers along the bottom of my skirt, taking advantage of her non-writing hand to keep perfect notes, yet drive me crazy in nothing more than a three-inch space that has not been noticed by Dr. Eure as she paces the aisles of the classroom. She gives me an occasional glance, just to let me know she's thinking about me, and goes back to regarding her notes as I do mine.

But what really gets me in a twist is her leg-crossing. Where she used to maybe do it perhaps twice in an hour (don't ask how I know this), now it's about eight or nine times where she switches one leg to be on top of another. Paris lifts her leg up a couple more inches more than she had in the past, then settles it down against the other knee. As I stare her down, I can see her skirt sliding up her leg, baring each one of those lovely thighs. And if she does it just right, well...you can just say that my legs get shaky, and I feel myself wanting to do that thing I occasionally do to release stress.

I'm kind of regretting telling her what I did under her influence; it's in her arsenal of teasing material lately.

Beyond that though, there has been an obvious change with how she comes off to Madeline and Louise, where she's less abrasive or ready to jump on them for a mistake of theirs in the newsroom. Really, she's nicer to Mads though, who we both are beginning to sense isn't happy with her friendship with Louise.

Lately, she's not coming in with her into school, and when Paris asked for what happened when we skipped first period on Monday in a text, she didn't dawdle with it, sending an answer back as soon as she could (and also relief to the both of us; it had just been reading, so we didn't miss a pop quiz, which he even joked about with the class after the bell rung about expecting). Around Louise, she's becoming less enthused with jumping into conversations, not into the gossip or the appraisal of the guys. She's actually concerned with us, but more importantly, she's been concerned with her grades. That became clear in a dining hall conversation we had Thursday at lunch. Louise wasn't in school, having an appointment with her dermatologist about lasering off moles, so Madeline was there alone with us, and allowed herself to open up about things.

As we kept ourselves well-behaved beneath the table, she filled the expected silence with a question about where she should go for college. Paris, expecting her to prefer anything on the 'party schools' list, asked where she was specifically looking.

"Preferably in the Seattle area," she responded.

"Seattle?" Needless to say, a specific place where Madeline wanted to attend school was a shock to my girl. "What about fashion design in San Francisco; you were considering Mills across the Bay."

"I was, but I changed my mind." She then explained things. "I could do something easy that could get me a reality show on a Viacom network and fifteen minutes of fame, sure. But you keep telling me, the both of you, I'm in this school, I get good grades, I have all this potential. Why should I let this education go to waste, when I can make a difference to someone beyond telling them pink isn't their color?"

"What are you thinking then?" I question. "Not to be mean, Madeline, but you seem to slide by."

She shrugged, swirling the water around in her bottle. "It isn't mean, really. But do I want to look back and think I didn't do enough? Should I only be known as the 'girl most likely to marry young and rich' and that's it?" She shyly smiles. "I guess that's why I'm thinking that some kind of science is in my future."

I could tell from that exact moment that Paris was knocked over with a feather, and her voice showed it. "Science?" She was so surprised, thinking that she was in a reverse world. "You might get bored with it though. You're flighty, what If you decide it's not the right career track?"

"Paris," Madeline shared candidly, "I'm not just saying this as a probable maybe, that I might lose interest in it. But let's face it; I enjoy the subjects and the sense of discovery, and science is cool! I'm not like an Einstein, but to be able to do something that I naturally enjoy and want to do, I can't let that go. The field is wide open and I can find something I'm sure to love."

"I guess I can understand." Paris looked over her friend carefully, hopeful she was making the decision with her heart, rather because of a phase she might be in. "I've been set on a medical track my whole life, but I'm really enjoying journalism more than I ever expected to. In the medical classes I've taken I just keep thinking that maybe I'm not right to be a doctor. It's expected, part of my bloodline, but I just can't seem to think of myself next to someone, informing them that they're leaving the mortal coil in a few months."

Everything began to come full circle within the conversation, as I was surprised to hear her think she might not pursue being a cancer researcher. I always thought it was her dream, but maybe it was just expected of her. Madeline and her talked a little longer, and I watched as I finally realized why these two girls had been friends for nine years. When I first met them both, I surmised that they were only together through an odd bond and the connections between their mothers. That thought stayed with me for a long time, especially as Madeline dawdled around during community service, Paris keeping her in line.

They couldn't be more apart, but I saw that Paris, no matter the annoyance she might carry for the girl, does treasure her friendship, and has said as such to me. I remember her telling me exactly that once. "She might be a follower now, but I know her, Gilmore: people will see her lead, one day. It's a gut feeling that she's waiting in the wings for her moment to shine, without Louise." At the time, I thought Paris was crazy.

But as she asked for a recommendation of whether to put in an app with Washington or another university in the area, I couldn't help but wonder if the black-haired girl across from us was still that absent-minded girl with three forms of 'Lynn' in her name (yes, her middle name is Linda. Blame her mother's Dynasty addiction of the time for that).

I'm surprised to say that she is changing for the better, however. I don't know exactly what it is yet, but as she described how she might want to get into botany, or otherwise some kind of worthwhile science where she could make a difference, I have to say that Paris's aptness to be short with her may end up paying off. And I have to admit, no matter how 'ditzy' she might come off usually, Madeline is in the top 60 of our class, but she doesn't feel a need to crow about it. She pursues her happiness, and thankfully her father lets her do so. That lunch went so well, and the three of us came out of the conversation feeling much more in tune about each other than before, although we had to hold back the obvious secret we were keeping.

And what a secret it is! Thinking about this week, how much we've flirted in the halls and within the newspaper, to an outside observer they can't see that anything is amiss. Paris has been so secretive about when she wants to touch, and she brings it out at just the right time, when no one notices. For instance, while I was going through pictures on my monitor to crop and put in the paper, she came up behind me, and I didn't even notice until she was right near my ear, lightly flittering her fingertips along my back while she went on with business as usual.

"I would check the next roll," she hinted. "These kind of look like they were taken in a bad light."

I stumbled over my response. "But cross-country isn't known for good lighting, they were taken in the woods."

"Then find one with the runner coming out of the clearing," she suggested, her cheek brushing mine. "You know my policy is that Photoshop is an emergency tool, not a crutch; take a good picture the first time, or trash it."

"Why am I doing this in the first place?" I questioned. "I'm more into writing than photo layout."

"Because Melanie DeVos is more experienced during crunch times with ad layouts and we have the social season coming up, which packs in the paper with ads. I'm actually doing you a favor here, Gilmore."

"Oh, you are." I smiled, coding the flirt carefully within my words. "Didn't you already do so this week?"

Oh, that got her flustered, and she pushed herself closer. "You're just lucky you're so good at what you do, Gilmore."

"Well I am the best at doing it in a parking lot." Now note that six other people surrounded us on each side, and to everyone else is thinking this conversation is so mundane. Except for one thing; newspaper talks don't usually consist of your editor-in-chief sniffing your hair, or making a massage look asexual. "I proved myself, didn't I?"

A wall of hidden sarcasm was put up. "Oh, beyond my wildest dreams." She looked over towards the screen again, looking at my browsing of the files. "Now if you can find the perfect picture for this story, you deserve much more than a gold star." I scrolled through the file menu, looking at the small thumbnails included in the photo files until I found a perfect one with the runner coming up from a small valley.

"How about this one?" I pointed it out and double-clicked it into the photo window. "I may have to do some adjustments, but just to brighten and sharpen." Poking her tongue in her mouth, she looked it over, trying to judge it in her mental layout.

"Um, I'd crop out some of the side stuff, crop to up to the numbers, and just a bit of color adjustment, her shirt seems a bit more dark blue than Chilton blue." She grabbed my mousing hand, guiding the device within, and used the cursor to point out where I should crop. "I think I'd probably just have this inset within the story, rather than below the headline, it works better that way."

Oh, her hand, it's so soft. I couldn't take it, she felt so wonderful behind me. You could say I was enjoying this hands-on editing style very much, the torture...

But if I thought she wasn't the type to invoke sexual thoughts in public under everyone's nose, I was sorely mistaken moments later as she continued to talk while I manipulated the picture.

"I wanted to let you know that I met your new friend at Westfarms last night." Talking as if it was mundane, I felt my throat catch as I reminded myself of how I ended up at her door Sunday evening.

I decided to play dumb, hopeful she'd cool down if I feigned that I didn't know what she was talking about. "I don't know anyone from Farmington."

"Of course not, because she's from Granby; I checked." OK, let it go, let it go, this is so not appropriate paper conversation. "When I went in, she was very friendly, knowledgeable, not like the women in Wallingford.  I mentioned you by description, and she had the other clerks take care of everyone else while she helped me with my problems."

I bit down on my lip, trying to hold back the images of Friday morning when the clerk measured things out and got an idea of what would go with my body type and my personal style. "Truthfully, I never really considered more than their basics and skimmed the catalog, but as she described everything, I was intrigued, and she gave me an idea that I didn't have to think the way I usually do about myself, and that with the right stuff, I could stand out."

Great, just what I needed, to think about her like that! I tried to push the chair back, but she kept her shoes firmly grounded into the floor, disallowing movement. "You helped me out, gave me a basic idea of where to go, and I really appreciate you doing that for me. You'll be glad to know that your friend has a nice holiday bonus check to be drafted to her under my father's secret account in the next week, because when you spend $579, you should really give thanks to whoever helped you out."

She slid her hand across my bra strap beneath my blouse and rose up, leaving me stunned silent. Never had she hurled around those big money numbers, since she always thought as wealth as something to be careful with. But when she threw that figure towards me, I knew then that there wasn't going back anymore. Paris was flirting with me, at the newspaper, and with not even mentioning one word, drove me crazy, and all up the wall.

"Damn you," I whispered under my breath, which she caught. She quirked her eyebrow, and looked me over dead-on.

"Not until Saturday night," she hinted, and she turned and walked away, leaving me to think about her sans the skirt, even more so than I had since the start of the weekend and her first call.

I was left stunned, speechless. I went back to work, the taste of her along my tongue as I thought about her in that shop with my new 'friend', trying on things for three hours straight and giving her that bonus. I know I couldn't do that, but between the both of us, that woman must think we're crazy to ask her advice on what to wear beneath our clothes. Thank God she gets paid to deal with my girlfriend fretting over something that doesn't give her enough cleavage.

I know she was probably thinking about that as she got ready tonight for the Winter Formal. We both didn't want to go and would have preferred to go out on a date someplace special, remembering the embarrassment of the last Formal we attended, when I found out about her 'close date', and of course, Dean and Tristan's cock-measuring contest. We both skipped last year because of calculus exam study. This year we can't get out of it though, since it's organized by student government and we lead it. Both of us had to be in attendance, even if we just sat at the punch table doling out drinks and watched for someone sneaking in to spike the punch.

Thankfully, Paris saw that I wouldn't be happy about that assignment, and when she doled out responsibilities, I had something pretty simple to do, and that was to coordinate the music with the hired DJ so that NWA and Snoop Dogg didn't sneak into the playlist. We all wanted the dance to be a nice calm event, and I also didn't want the DJ to be playing music last loved in 1994. Pretty much all I had to do was check his discs, make sure nothing offensive or lame was in there, and the rest of the night, I can catch up on my reading in the corner. Meanwhile, Par would be at the door, greeting others and welcoming them on behalf of student gov, and then moving on to the mic to announce basic things like Oxfam and United Way donation pleas, along with 'your lights are on' queries. Pretty simple gig, and Paris agreed with me Thursday night, glad to at least have some time with me tonight.

Still, no matter how much I wanted to just come in a t-shirt and jeans, we were required to dress fancy, no matter our duties. I put a bit of effort into it, having Mom alter an off-the-shelf grey dress a bit, add a bit of a slit, adjust the bodice, things I knew would tease Paris, but at the same time show that I didn't want to put much effort into attending the Winter Formal. I looked pretty enough, and as we got within a half-mile of the Armory, Mom gave me some ground rules to follow.

"You'll call me if there's any problem or you have to stay out later than expected. I don't want to have you freezing your ass outside for an hour because you forgot to call."

"Don't worry, I won't." I rolled my eyes up. "Trust me, I'm planning on going with Par's plan to be out by ten, we just need to be there two hours."

"They'll drag you into more, trust me," Mom warned, remembering back to her younger days. "I know you don't think you're dancing, but I know you will."

"I won't," I insisted. "I brought a good book, I'll be buried in it!"

Mom shook her head, denying my theory. "Trust me, kiddo, bribe the DJ into keeping you in the seats. He's going to beg you to dance at least once."

"With who?"

"Oh, I don't know," she teased, then teased my call before Friday night dinner. "Paris kind of wanted you to dance Thursday night when I turned on the music."

"She was not! She was telling you to turn it down."

"What, she doesn't like AC/DC?" Lorelai pouted as she made the last turn towards the venue. "Tough breaks! She knew what the deal was for Thursdays, I can do and play whatever I want when she's there."

"Mom, next time she's over, do not taunt her by putting in the Wizard of Oz disguised as Troop Beverly Hills!" I was annoyed as I went on. "She has nightmares about flying monkeys. Monkeys with wings!"

"But it's the best movie ever!"

"No!" I stuck my finger out. "Never, ever again! You will lose your movie choice if you mock her like you do."

"Your girlfriend is no fun," she whined. "Dean mocked with me."

"Dean would mock Saving Private Ryan." Yes, I totally said that. "Seriously, she's much better than Dean; she even bought the food for us. You loved that, right?"


"And she was on her best behavior," I noted.

"Sure she was," Mom said wryly. "I know you two were having fun before I came home from work, so she got her energy out before then."

I tried to deny her allegation, but well...it didn't work. "Yeah, having fun studying." I said that with a dreamy look on my face.

"Studying the fly on your jeans?" Oh, crap! "Trust me, kiddo, I know all the tricks, you and her were doing things I need not know about that I did with your father once."

"We were not!" I continued to argue for my non-existent innocence. "Maybe we made out a little, but the door was open! We weren't going to do anything too wild, and we followed the rules, Mom."

"Honey, calm down. I'm just teasing you, and whatever you're doing with her, as long as it's not interfering with your education or dangerous, it's fine." Stopping at the last light before the Formal venue, she turned around and attempted to quell my panicking. "It's going to take me awhile to get used to this, but she's a good girl. She knows what she's doing, and with this, she's becoming less intense. Frankly, I'm glad you hooked up, since it gets her off our backs during PTO meetings!"

"Mom!" I was smiling again.

"She was going to make some big presentation about a front lawn LCD sign Tuesday night, but she never appeared. I think Ava and Aubrey drank to that after the meeting and actually had a party!" Oh, if I could tell her what she was presenting that night in reality, which involved the two of us in iChat, misusing the technology of instant messaging after ending discussion on an essay topic...

Finally, we arrived at the front entrance, and I felt so strange not having a date on such a date night. But as long as she was there, I could handle the problems and pressures of having to attend the Formal as a single girl, rather as a newly devirginized lesbian with my lover at the door.

"So, this is it. Your final Formal." Mom smiled at me. "I can tell you right now, Paris is going to have a dry mouth."

"She doesn't drool." I blushed, wondering if I was showing off too much cleavage. "She'll look, shrug, and say I look nice."

"She has blood, right?" Far be it for me to deny that Mom and I share an odd kinship. "Paris will drool."

"I guess." I still doubted myself about my looks as I got out of the car and said goodbye to her, climbing out of the Jeep as gracefully as I could. Gathering my purse and making sure that my book and wallet were secure, I felt around until I found my staff ticket to get in. Looking up at the big doors of the neo-Gothic building, I felt a shudder at going into the huge hall, alone.

Thank God Paris would greet me at the inside door as I went into the hall. Opening the outside door, the decorations were spare, fitting a Chilton-sponsored dance within the corridor. A crowd of other students was in the hall as I went through, trying to find which door Paris was guarding. I prepared myself for the visceral reaction of how she looked. Instead of the green dress of last time though, I pictured her more in the sweater dress she wore to my 16th birthday party at Grandma's, not going for looks, just for comfort.

I wanted her to look conservative, boring, dull, so I could see the way she usually presented herself. I felt so odd, wanting her to dress down, just so that no other person in that hall could eye her up. I was the one making her hot, but I needed her to cool down in public, for my own sake.

Looking towards the inner doors, paired in three sections, I couldn't find her though. That's odd, I thought. Maybe she had changed assignments with someone else. I did see Chip from one of our projects last year at a door instead, along with a couple of other students I didn't know at the other two. Maybe Chip would know something, so I went towards that line to dig out information. I patiently waited in line for my place to give him the ticket, and after five minutes, I was at the head of the queue.

Greeting him, I asked him if he knew where she was.

"She should be in there, I'm not sure where though," he explained. "She called me just before she left home, said I had line duty."

"Did she say why?"

"No idea, I guess she didn't want to do it. But she was in a rush so I couldn't really question it. I think she just came in through the side door."

"OK, thanks."

"Enjoy the evening." He took the ticket, and I was puzzled by what he said. Was she even here? Why would she ditch the true opportunity to make sure everyone knew she was the queen of the school? I know how excited she was about it, texting me all day as I got ready about how she was glad to have line duty. Why would she change her mind so abruptly?

I guess I feel so protective of her, that I'm scared when she goes off-plan, like she did Monday morning with us being late. I have to get used to that. Maybe once I consult with the DJ, things will be much calmer and I'll realize that she's probably at the food table--

Uh, wait a second. Why is she mingling in the middle of the crowd? I see her over towards the middle, and I know she never mingles, ever. She is always on the side, no matter what.

Besides that though, uhh, she certainly hasn't shrugged off dressing up for the dance at all. Her dress is a sort of a lighter green, and has a satiny look to it, it makes her look thinner than she seems. Um, and her breasts are coming out to play tonight, did our friend at the Secret sell her this dress? I mean, wow, she still looks like Paris, really.

But she's standing there in that dress...uh, she has a slit up the right side of her dress. A nice, long, leg-bearing slit.

Oh, damn. For someone who shops petite, she's making me seem so small all the sudden. My heart is palpitating, and I'm undressing her here, in the middle of this room, with my eyes. I want her so bad, and here I am, ready to just...

Ready to just...

Uhh, what in the hell is Jamie doing there, approaching her with some punch? I can recognize him any time, what with his dull Brock Squarejaw preppy look. My fists are clenching; there is no way in hell that Paris invited him here, did she? Or that she's pleased to see him at all...

Oh, maybe she is, since she's smiling at him. Why is she smiling at him?

What the fuck is going on here, is she going to call me out right here and now?

God, I hate Jamie. I hate him so much...damn it, they're getting into a dancing position! She hasn't even seen me yet and I am boiling mad. Why is she with Jamie, why, why, why?

I'm just going to turn away and stew in a fucking corner, and I'm going to get Louise to do all that DJ crap. I can't believe her! After all that she's shared with me, and all that I've shared with her, she's dancing with Jamie Pratt! He came all the way up from Princeton, likely with flowers and candy, and got her to date him, and then fuck me over! Sorry for getting all salty with my language here, but I'm pissed off! Why didn't she tell me at all? What is wrong with me?

She told me I wasn't a phase, that she wanted us to be as close to each other as possible. She promised me, and now...

Paris is looking right towards me, smiling, saying hi, asking how I'm doing.

I turn away from her, coldly. She will not see what she has done, that I'm on the verge of exploding in tears. I should have known I was just the filler before Jamie kissed up to her, and that's it, we're done. To everyone else, it's just another night, another stage in the combative story of the two of us, publicly.

To me though, I feel my heart shattering. I don't need any kind of explanation at all, because no matter what she says, she's holding Jamie's hand. She's got a guy. She doesn't need me anymore.

I feel empty inside, and suddenly, I know how she felt when Tristan told her they weren't right for each other. Dirty and wrong, wanting to lash out.

Suddenly, I feel so used. A month, down the drain, because she's found someone appropriate for her to love. I know she may say she hates Jamie, but when you're surprised, you can't help but fall in love.

If you'll excuse me, I kind of feel like Miss Haversham right now. I need to cope before I end up living the rest of my life in my bedroom wearing this same dress...

Paris's POV, 8:25pm-8:35pm

I've been watching her all night, when I can. From a seat along the sides, she sits on a folding chair, near the corner, reading Madam Bovary. I can't help but notice how beautiful she looks, the way her hair is tied back, how the grey dress she wears accentuates the beautiful paleness of her skin, and falls just above her knee. Tonight, Rory Gilmore isn't a Disney princess at all; she's gone far and above those homely ladies and become a beauty of her own, in my eyes.

But if you look under the façade, you see that her blue eyes, usually so full of life and bright, are instead darkened. Full of rage and betrayal. She's angry, bitter, hiding it all under her usual cherry disposition to anyone else.

Except for me. And I must take full responsibility for ruining her night.

Probably her life if I don't fix things very, very quickly. She hasn't even said a word to me, walking towards Louise to ask her to take DJ duty, then sitting down shortly after, and she hasn't moved from her chair since except for her 'clearing the air' before this moment.

Obviously, I fucked up, horribly. This is all my fault. I had opportunities to make it clear to her that the situation I was in wasn't the culmination of some sick joke where I'd take her virginity and reveal her as a dyke at the end of the night. Mind you I'm saying that in the guise of a Chilton student with the humor of Jimmy Kimmel, And not myself.

Maybe I should say your average member of a Princeton fraternity, also.

I suppose I should tell you how I got hoodwinked into the situation in the first place. Trust me when I say, this night did not need to happen. It should have never happened.

I should not be with Jamie Pratt, who I could barely tolerate when I went out with him in August. I should be joking about slutty girls with my girlfriend and giving her wide-eyed stares and inflaming her with a bit of leg in this hot little number.

But then my mother found out that I had gone out with him, no matter how much I tried to hide it. For the last month, she's been conspiring with this yutz to give me a surprise for Winter Formal. Mind you, I've been telling her 'I am going alone' since the start of October, and any dates would be rejected.

Next time this happens, I will just get ready at Maddy's.

If there is a next time, that is. For all I know, Rory is planning my demise while reading that book, and I'm living my last hours because she's going to stab me in my bed hours from now. Probably with knitting needles.

Maybe a little macabre, but please, get the point. Rory hates me, and she has every reason to do so. But she doesn't know the facts.

After I was finished getting ready, I decided to do my usual duck from my room and through the kitchen stairs, hoping that I could just shout to my mother I was going to leave and dodge out without exchanging more than four words. I thought I had a pretty good chance of it this time, seeing as she had her own night out with Mohegan Man. What they were going to do, I don't really know. All I knew is I didn't want to know, and to get out of there quickly was my main goal. I wouldn't let anything get in my way.

"Mother, I'm leaving!" I shouted from the top of the landing.

"All right!" OK, home free, nothing said, she couldn't stop me as I rushed down the stairs towards the kitchen...

And ended up being met with someone at the bottom of the landing, blocking my way with a dozen blue roses and a gift.

"Hello, Paris," the person said, and as I caught my breath from looking at my feet while I went down the stairs, I looked up towards the speaker.

Who immediately brought me into a very unwanted hug on my end. "I've missed you, how have you been?"

Oh God, oh God, oh God...no, this is not happening! I remembered the voice from its boastful drone during the dinner in Washington as he talked about McCain being his idol and such, and immediately, I felt myself wanting to be sick.

It was Jamie. The freshman from Princeton who was a good debate partner, but I couldn't muster a sexual thought about, which finally brought me out of my delusion that my feelings for Rory were from a lack of any boy I wanted. Mainly because beyond Tristan, I didn't want a guy.

If this was Vance Beardsley, it would be so much easier. But this guy, he likes me. Likes me! He thinks my anger is a turn-on, so I couldn't threaten him and expect him to clear away.

"Ahh, Paris." There was my mother, coming towards the two of us and probably already up to a .11. "I see you're very surprised."

"Um, yes." No, I was shanghaied! Looking him over, nothing got me all hot. He looked just as non-threateningly cute as he did four months before, wearing a dull suit with a silver tie.

I couldn't believe this. How the hell had Jamie got my number, and more importantly, on my mom's side? This was a nightmare. I knew exactly why he was there, so I tried to play dumb to misdirect.

"I'm sorry, I have to go. I'm greeting people at the door of my school's Winter Formal--"

"No you're not!" Sharon cut me off immediately. "Paris, enjoy a night out, I'm really impressed with this boy."

"Mother, I'm the greeter! I'm not going to have time to dance!"

"You will if you call someone to take over. What about that Chip boy, he seems to somewhat enjoy you in student government."

"No, I'm not calling anyone." I brought my focus towards Jamie, hoping to dissuade him with a future pity date. "Look, Jamie, you can call me next week." I tried to walk off towards the garage.

And then, he stopped me.

"I came all this way to see you," he said, smiling. "I really do miss you."

I tried letting him off easy again, doing all I could to get out of the house, but my path continued to be blocked. "Jamie, it was a nice date, but--"

"Paris!!" Mother stomped her foot down on the ground. "Into the dining room, now!" She grabbed me by my arm forcefully, and yanked me towards the other room, definitely angry with me. Locking me in, she unfortunately used the soundproof sliding oak doors to my disadvantage.

"Mother, I--"

Now let's examine why Sharon isn't Mother of the Year with this conversation, shall we? "Shut up, you will not embarrass yourself in front of one of the most eligible bachelors in all of Philadelphia!" She stomped around me, standing straight, her voice weakening my resolves. "Now why you are not going out with this boy, is beyond me. You never told me about him at all, and frankly, young lady, I'm very disappointed in you! How dare you not let anything develop with him, after one date!"

"That's because it was a dull one," I said, meekly. "I didn't have fun."

She sneered her mouth, growling at me, her flesh and blood, verbally abusing me. "Oh, fuck fun! For once in your life, think about more than fun. You're not allowed to have fun on a date, you learn about each other and go from there!" I felt myself wanting to cry, but knew if I did, she would slap me in the face. "I don't know what the hell you're thinking in that head of yours, but you are my daughter, and you will do what I say. And tonight, you will be on Jamie's arm and enjoy your night, dancing."

Rory, if you were here now...I felt scared, really, truly scared. I tried to raise my voice. "What if I don't? Let's say I walk out this door without him and go to the dance, what will you do?"

My mother stood still, letting her words speak for any action she might take. "Then I guess I'll have to tell the Pratts that you refused to date him, and they can use their influence to shut down any Harvard contacts you might have, since one of their family members happens to work in the dean's office." My face was pale, and I felt sick as she attacked my future. As I began to look down, she threw more sickening attacks in my direction. "Look up here, you sniveling bitch!" She took her finger and propped up my chin up sharply, her nail digging into the soft skin and almost drawing blood. "Let's get things straight, Paris. I don't care about your future, as long as it's filled with grandchildren and you being a loyal wife to your husband. I'm tired of your idiotic attitude towards being independent, and you will get in line, or else I will ruin your life. I realized I was losing control of you when that bastard spawn of Lorelai Gilmore's visited here overnight last week."

My jaw clenched, and I tried to defend Rory. "Excuse me!" I felt so hostile towards her. "Rory is my best friend and does not deserve your hate! Don't you dare belittle her or Lorelai!"

"I could give a shit about who you keep as a buddy; besides, she'll probably meet the same fate as her mother sooner or later and ruin her life." This was becoming the first time in my life I was willing to go to jail and punch Sharon out. Yet I held back, remembering how long until I no longer had to abide by the shitty ruling of Hartford County's divorce court. "Now you are not going to ruin this for me, or your father. You have a guy who likes you out there, and you will enjoy him, no matter what. I don't expect you home before one, and if I hear anything about you doing your stupid volunteer work, you're going to be sorry you disobeyed me. You understand?"

I nodded silently, hoping the room's oxygen went away.

"I said..." she repeated with a growl, "do you understand, Paris?"

"Yes, Moth--"

She grabbed my hand tightly, like she did when I was younger, in a way that hurt. "You show him a good time, or else!"

"Yes, Mother." I was weak, and quiet as I shirked out of the room after Sharon's rant towards me, feeling like crying, angry at her, angry at Jamie, feeling so violated. I ran for a corner of the hall, away from Jamie, where I called Chip to let him know he had door duty. I knew if I kept my original plans I'd get a whiny Jamie, and Sharon doing much more than screaming at me. The call was quick and to the point, and with that, I moved on to informing Rory. I tried to call, but got her voice mail, so I left a quick message.

"Rory, it's Par. I'm out with Jamie against my will, sorry."

Then, thanks to Madeline's knowledge of speedy text messaging language, I made sure cover myself completely, although the vocabulary portion of my brain was screaming out corrections as I typed swift characters on the tiny cell phone keypad;


911, Sharon forced me on Jamie 4 formal date! dont kill me, sorry :(. b thinking of u all nite.


I had a feeling she would get it, and I'd be well-covered enough. At least I hoped so. Shortly after, I departed with Jamie in the town car, and I could tell Henrico was not pleased at all to be called in by my mother on a day off he planned for months to launch his new indoor soccer league for kids down at the Y in his neighborhood. He actually used the term concha putrefacta to describe her as I apologized to him in Spanish before departing. He wasn't mad at me, but made it clear he would be screening from now on, and that if I needed his services that I would have to call him on my cell personally.

As much as I'd like to say that Jamie and I had a conversation on the ride over to the Armory, I'm not going to run it down for you, mainly because I didn't get to say all that much. Instead, I was able to recall why I never found him attractive beyond the surface, as he boasted about how much he was 'owning' debates (I thought they were owned by the schools, not him), and that he was the best pledge in his fraternity. He let me know how his boring family was, who made Dean and the Forresters seem like the fucking Osbournes in comparison. And then he went into detail about how much he missed me, including spending nights on the phone deciding whether to call me or not.

Yes, I'm serious, he acted like he was in a bad 60's movie when it came to his feelings for me! God, I mean come on, either call me or give up, but don't wait until I've completely forgotten about you to make your move!

But things got worse, and soon it was clear that my absent-mindedness during that luncheon had come back to bite me, hard. He went on and on about how I was the best thing to happen to him that summer, and that he couldn't think about anything else when he was alone at night.

"I even thought of coming up to your school and surprising you last month," he mentioned. "I called them to ask, but unfortunately your headmaster said I couldn't visit without your permission, something about security precautions."

Remind me to send Hanlan and Bitty a card showing their appreciation for rejecting that visit. I couldn't have imagined what he'd do, get down on his knees? Ask for my hand? Who does he I think I am, god damned Scarlett O'Hara?

No matter what, I would have been fucked one way or another, thanks to my mother's tenacity. When I asked him how he got my mother's number, he said that his grandmother was a member of the DCW, and since Sharon leads the Hartford branch, it didn't take long to get a hold of her.

I felt a headache coming on as he prodded me for information for how I was doing within the fifteen minute drive to the Formal venue. I rattled off a basic review of the last three months, filtering out anything to have to do with Rory, and tried to sound just barely interested in recounting to this stranger in my eyes how my life was. Frankly, I was surprised that he wasn't mad at me for not mentioning that by the time I got back to Hartford, I had forgotten all about him.

As much as I'd like to recount the full conversation with him, there was no ice broken between us, and I already knew that this would be our second and last date. He tried to inch closer, but I avoided it by claiming I needed to be next to the window because of being carsick.

And as much as I hate to say this, would it have killed him to offer dinner at the very least? Not that I was starving and would eat something at the hors d'oeuvres table, but it would have been much appreciated.

I did know that I would have to play along all night, lest I look less than enthused to him. As much as I didn't think Jamie dateable, I wasn't going to be completely bitchy and tell him to go find someone else to have fun with. Besides, what can go wrong, I asked myself. I thought I was pretty well-covered and Rory would understand.

Oh, but she didn't. The moment she turned away from me after I greeted her, she didn't see the surprised shock on my face, the anguish. I felt my stomach drop at that exact moment, and I could tell that if not for Jamie, I would have probably turned her on quite a bit. I went on dancing with him, which was a mistake in hindsight. But I was listening to him, because I didn't want trouble with Sharon, and no matter how much I wanted to go talk to Rory, Jamie was stuck to my side, and when I said I wanted to talk to her, he tried to interfere.

"Cool, I want to talk to her too," he said, eager to restore our Junior Leadership bonds. "I'm sure she's also missed me...though not as much as you did." He said the last part with a flirt, and brought himself closer, expecting a kiss.

I pushed him away in a nice manner. "Actually...um, it can wait, honestly. It's something you wouldn't understand." I looked up at him, feeling so strange to be in the arms of a guy who shadowed over me by a foot, rather than the comfortable few inches of Rory. "Maybe later?"

"Um, sure." We continued to dance, and I was thankful not to have anyone like Madeline or Louise come over to examine that I had a guy. Well, Madeline saw us, but didn't say anything, just waving, saying hi and eventually moving out of my line of sight.

I had my fingers crossed that maybe I could try to figure out why Rory wasn't being social and bitter to me, and I kept a vigil towards her seat, hoping to catch her leaving for something like a restroom break. In the meantime, I had to duck Jamie's feet trying to stomp me several times, along with his musical commentary. Let's just say our views on Mariah Carey as the finest songstress of our time are very divergent.

I knew Rory couldn't sit there and stew forever, and finally, forty minutes into the event, she got up from the chair. That was my signal to confront her.

The plan was put into effect quickly. "Uh, Jamie, would you mind if I used the restroom? I drank a little too much water before the Formal." I faked a nervous laugh and looked up at him.

"Sure, why not?" He nodded, letting me go. "I'm just going to wander the room."

"Take your time." With that, I found myself broken off from him, and rushed quickly towards the hallway, hoping that I could catch Rory in time. I just felt this night falling apart with each step, and hoped if I explained it all to her, she would have to understand that I had no intention at all of hurting her.

Did I mention that I cannot run in heels to save my life? I almost fell a couple of times and must have looked like Square Pegs-era Sarah Jessica Parker running down that hall, even if I was in a Sex in the City-era dress.

"Rory!" I called out her name once I was out in the hall. "Hey, Rory!" I raised my hand up as she turned to look at me.

She was immediately bitter towards me, standing up straight and staring me down as if she forgot that I used to really intimidate her. Strutting towards the restroom, she had an acidic venom to her words as I caught up with her. I felt a chill as we entered the room, thankfully alone.

"Rory," I started, "I wanted to explain--" I tried to talk as if nothing was amiss, but she stopped me by slamming the door shut, and turning the lock.

"Wanted to explain what?" Oh, fuck, she was pissed off! "Wanted to explain what you're doing with that idiot?" I felt my heart beat picking up as she stomped her heel down, leaving me to gape at my beautiful girlfriend turning into a Medusa before my very eyes. "Why is he here?"

"I don't know--"

"Wanted to embarrass me later, push me out of the closet, deny we have anything and leave me to the vultures?" OK, this wasn't the Rory Gilmore I knew at all. "You had this planned, didn't you? Get me right to that point, all buttered up, romantic, unpopped, and then BAM! Your ultimate mindfuck where you get the V slot, just like Mom said you were going for. I trusted you, I thought you were true."

I'm losing her. I was in an extreme panic, trying to make a comeback. I could usually keep up with her, word for word, but at that moment, I was failing, looking down at the octagonal tiles below, ashamed. Admittedly to anyone else, I probably had the upper hand. But I just couldn't grasp on.

"I am," I responded solemnly, hoping I could explain things, forgetting other details. "You really think I would be that low? That I'd date a guy who dropped off my radar the moment I came back to the dorm, then spend the last month of my life proving that I want you the way I do?" I wasn't going to be pushed into a fight with her, and if she wanted one, I'd take the punch.

She had spent the last forty-five minutes stewing, angry at me. I was powerless to stop her from using her words to cut me.

"Yeah, like I believe that now. Friend of Louise, whose picture is right next to the definition of one night stand, and daughter of a woman who gets wet from seeing others in pain." I felt her gaze burn into me, hateful and unyielding. "Seriously, you could've done a lot better than Jamie when it came to screwing with me; I know Vance would love to have you."

"Ror, please stop--" I had never felt so defeated before, never so down and out. I was losing my will to fight the accusations as I tried to beg and plead for her to check her messages.

"The name, is Rory. You just lost your right to shorten it." She backed me towards another part of the bathroom. "What you've done is low, you know that, right?"

"I didn't do anything wrong!" I screamed in desperation. "Jamie--"

"Look, just don't bother talking to me for now." She held up her hand. "You've done just about enough tonight, and I don't even want to look at you. I hope you have a nice, fun night out, Paris." I began to cry fully, knowing that my happiness was once again snatched just as I had a supposedly tight grasp on it.

"You really don't understand, I didn't mean to go out with--" Rory quickly left the room before I got my confession out, and when the door shut, I was in tears, not giving a damn about my makeup or anything else. I once again felt all alone in the world as my best friend, the love of my life, left me, without letting me convey how much I hated the current situation.

I eventually retreated into the stall I'm in, not giving a fuck about Jamie at all. I felt my stomach twist and turn, feeling so hurt and angry.

Angry at myself.

Angry, because I didn't push myself out of Jamie's way, make him tumble on his ass and tell Sharon if she liked Jamie so much, she could date him.

Angry, because I can't stand to hurt my girlfriend, and I have. Maybe forever.

Angry, because I did nothing to follow my heart, and complied the moment my mother called me a bitch.

I wish I had just called in sick and didn't do the Formal now, because this would have all never happened. I could be at home working on a project, and Rory would be fine with me, not hating my guts because I happened to have an unwanted escort.

As I sit in this stall, I wonder if things have changed between us. Or worse, she'll out me to everyone and tell them about Monday morning as if it was different, dark, and twisty.

Fuck. Thank God Jamie didn't take me to dinner; I'm beginning to truly feel sick...

Madeline's POV, 9:10pm-9:25pm

I'm trying to think about the exact point things changed for me, and why all the sudden I've gone from having such low expectations for myself, to thinking of myself as scientist material. Three months ago my only concern was about how hot Louise and I should look for Homecoming, and how many guys we should dance with, or in Louise's case, bed.

Not me, it takes a while to get me to sleep with a guy. I may seem like I've slept with a lot of boys on outside appearances, but really, it's more like only three. Everyone else that appears to be a bedpost notch, they've only gotten a handjob. Frankly, it's cleaner and a lot less icky, especially when I could convince the lucky fella to wear a condom.

And yes, a few I've taken into the mouth, but it's very rare. I kiss my daddy with this mouth, and I don't want to share those gross germs with him!

However, that was me three months ago. To tell you the truth, I was beyond bored with sex and relationships in general, sticking with them only after Lou begged me with peer pressure. After Rory and Paris left for the summer, I spent the summer trying to improve myself, spend more time at the country club playing sports, to tone myself up and look for someone interested in me beyond what magic my tongue could do. I managed to keep myself single all through the summer, usually avoiding any dating opportunity Louise presented me with by saying I wasn't all that interested in a hook-up. I felt myself unhappy and bored with going out, and frankly, Louise gravitating towards Duncan and Bowman's old clique was something I tried my best to discourage. Tristan was already stuck at military school, and Louise there? A sequel to Private Benjamin waiting to happen, and not in a good way!

Soon, I was getting really annoyed with Lou as she let her morals slip away. On the phone, she'd call me a 'tight-ass', going on about how I should enjoy my senior year, that I was guaranteed to graduate.

Yeah, my brother Cecil thought the same thing four years ago over at Hillside. Now he's reduced to a pool boy because he didn't put any focus on his grades.

Nothing is guaranteed. My mother was guaranteed four more years by her doctor after her ovarian cancer diagnosis, but February 7th next year, she's been gone for a full decade, only getting three months of that time. You have to do all you can in life, and she did so, even if my only memories of her are vague recollections, photographs, old home movies and memories of her. My goal is to be happy, but to also live life to the fullest. That's what my mom did, and though she was taken from me too soon, she died happy, ready to meet God, her last thoughts being her family above her, watching her close her eyes for the last time, especially the sad eyes of her only daughter.

I wasn't looking for happiness that night at Homecoming, just for a good time. Still, I felt incredibly empty, turning down a middle linebacker's offer for a night of fun, content in my silence, despite Lou's pestering. I didn't even have Rory and Paris to talk to, since they were too busy building out the paper for the Homecoming review edition. So I just smiled, danced with whoever I could, had as much fun as I could without sex getting involved. I wasn't really in the mood to get into a relationship at all.

At least, until I saw him.

Trust me, I sometimes have to pinch myself to remind myself that I am doing what I'm doing. I feel so 'secret agent woman' about it, sneaky and sort of Sydney Bristow. Well, except with a lot less lycra and some more wool-silk blend or something like that...

Wait, wait. Focus, Madeline, lay out the facts, don't get distracted. You're trying to recount something true, not go off on a tangent.

Sorry about that. Anyways, well, let's just say it. Brad was there.

Yes, Brad Langford, a boy on first glance I thought I knew wouldn't have a chance at me. Come on, his mom stuffs dead animals for a living, it was a match made in hell! I love animals, I'm a member of PeTA, I have three dogs, a couple of birds, and a ferret!

And of course the whole 'geek thing' wasn't something attractive to me at all. I had this entire image of him in a Dexter-like laboratory, crowing about his 'newest creation' with maniacal laughter and the like, and that his only brushes with the touch of a woman involve his aunt pinching his cheeks and telling him he looks so cute.

Well, Brad had scored a date for Homecoming; color me surprised. Brenna Chaffee had asked him out, and he accepted the date, happy someone was taking notice in him.

Unfortunately, it turned out too good to be true. The poor guy was immediately ditched when Brenna's friends found a better guy for her, and he spent most of the night in the corner, sad and dopey. My heart just hurt for him, and out of the reach of Louise teasing me about not opening my legs up, I found myself remembering back to the year before, during the projects we had. About how really was a bit interesting, even if Paris was heaping scorn at him for being timid and weak. I spent all of that time next to him on that bench trying to zone out from her yelling, and my mind wandered off to other worlds and tangents, including one involving him kissing me when his leg brushed accidentally against mine.

At the time, that image freaked me the heck out. But still, Louise treated him like crap when he didn't deserve it, so I felt empathy for him all these months later.

Soon, I found myself wanting to talk to him, and after awhile, brought him a cup of punch and sat down next to him, smiling and trying to be a friendly face.

"Brad, I thought you might want something to drink." I showed my teeth, along with my grape sparkly lip gloss towards him. "How are you doing tonight?"

"M-m-Madeline." He was blushing, taking the cup in his shaky hand. "What are you doing here? Don't you have a date?"

"Nah," I responded, making a shoving motion with my hand. "Who needs a date?"

"Well, uh, you." He was surprised. Like 'OMG a girl is talking to me, eep!' surprised. I looked at his tie, a striped red one going with his dark suit and blue shirt. "You like guys, right?"

"Oh dear, Brad, you thinking about me with Louise?" I teased. That got him into a panic as he struggled to correct himself, stumbling over a few words until I could bring him back down to earth.

"Geeze, I kid. Calm down!" I laughed, feeling good, trying to bring him out. "Really, I'm not here to find a date, I just want to have fun."

"M-me too."

I looked at him, sympathetic. "But you aren't, right?" He shook his head, mumbling out a quick no. "I'm sorry Brenna did that to you. She's such a bitch."

Brad attempted to make an excuse for her. "No she isn't. She just found someone better."

"Brad." I tried to calm him. "My first rule of dating; no matter the choice cut in the butcher's case, you stick with what you have, period. Brenna should have stayed. The date may have failed, but if she had rode it out, she may have found a nice friend in you. But now she blew it and she's stuck with some guy with a two week shelf life." I smiled towards him, beginning to feel so much empathy for his situation.

Of course, leave it for my mind to get ahead of me before I could stop it from wreaking havoc. "Look, we can ditch this dance after we finish our punch. How did you get here?"

"I, uh..." He was so embarrassed. "My mother drove me here."

"Great, call her." I got up, giddy.

"Call her?"

I shook my head. "You know, get out your cell phone, dial the number, wait for it to ring, and the other person picks it up and talks to you?" Oh, how he's just so...kind of odd. "Tell her I'm taking you to the IHoP on Route 5, my treat. You can get pancakes with strawberry syrup, and bacon and eggs made into a happy face!"

Looking at me for a moment, he must have thought I went bye-bye. He quirked up his eyebrow and sighed. "I don't know if I should. I...you've never talked to me before."

"Brad, I don't ditch people who are unhappy. Unless they're scary types with icky tattoos and playing screaming metal; you're not gonna get through to them." I shuddered at that image and went on. "I just don't want you to go home remembering your last homecoming dance as crummy and sucky." Trying to hold back that something was building, I tried to keep things easy. "Really, I'd like to get to know you more. We never really got to talk with Lou around, and Paris is far, far away, not about to scare you."

I put his hand in mine, and helped him up. "I promise you, I don't bite." He seemed to brighten up, losing his shaky nerves slowly as he realized I wasn't going to humiliate him.

"Well, if you say so." He brought out a small smile.

"I do." With that, we left the dance, and I didn't let Lou know where we were going. I figured she didn't care, and could get a ride from one of her beaus.

Who would have thought that simple dinner invitation would have turned into so much more? On the drive to the restaurant, Brad didn't say much, and I sense it was because he felt intimidated by my being friendly to him. He thought it was an act, and probably thought Ashton Kutcher was going to pop up from behind the bar and tell him he got punk'd.

Once we got to IHoP though, I slowly made progress with him. At first we went towards the safe topics of school and the sports teams, then let the conversation drift slowly from there.

Eventually, I learned so much about him, such as he's more into acting than science really. I mean really into it. You know that Life With Mikey movie? Yeah, he was like one of those kids, and had been down in New York during his summers and winter breaks since he was six. I was in awe as he described the backstage scenes of a Broadway theater, about how he might be nervous in a regular school or social setting, but on stage, he's focused.

"I even was offered a role in a show this fall," he said, telling me about his possible role in a play called Into the Woods. "I had to turn it down though."

"Why's that?" I wondered. "I would've loved to be in a Broadway cast."

"I would've had to take the fall off from Chilton, and I didn't want to lose any progress. Plus, I hate tutoring, some of my friends down in New York left school to act year-round and regretted it later on."

"That's understandable," I said, thinking about how much progress he might lose. "I admit, I'm not the biggest fan of school, but you should be happy in what you do."

"I am...the teasing's a bit rough, but I'm fine." He smiled, laughing nervously towards me.

After our food came, we learned much more about each other, and the ways we actually related outside of our peer circle began to build up. He told me how much he enjoyed some of my favorite bands, and that he wasn't a fan of Star Trek like everyone thought he was ("I can't even stand science fiction!" he admitted). He said he enjoyed sports like tennis and soccer, and I was surprised, since those were my favorite sports too. We laughed at our similarities, which soon would become closer than I expected.

By the end of the night, I learned that his father did not leave the Langford household as I thought before, but died before his prime, of prostate cancer when Brad was eleven, something he wasn't afraid to talk about with me, surprisingly open about all my questions and telling me how much his bond with his mother is close because of it, and instilled a sense of family for him. To hear him talk like this, and then being able to open up about my mother without feeling morbid for doing so, it was comforting, and talking about being in a home with a widower encouraged me to feel less alone about being with a widower, although his mother hasn't remarried and I have my stepmother.

At the end of the night when I pulled up to his house, I was expecting things to go back to normal, and that I wouldn't think of him again after her got out of my SUV.

But then, he did something, that looking back, changed me so much.

He complimented me on my intelligence.

At first, I thought he was joking with me, but he was truly serious. "I know you don't think you are, but it's the truth. You retain information about almost every student, your grades in science classes are wonderful without much effort, even if you just shrug them off. You also get along with almost everybody, no matter what. You really know how to listen to people, and you didn't have to do what we did tonight; you could have just brushed aside and let me go."

Moving closer to me, I felt myself flush as he finished his compliment. "Madeline, I...I..." He was shaky as he tried to construct his words. "I know you usually speak your mind, even if your opinion may be brushed aside, and that you listen." He took in a breath, and I smiled, warm and anticipating.

I saw the look in his eyes...the one I've seen before with Tristan when he was moony over Rory. I felt my usual self fighting with that one who was finding Brad so endearing and cute, and wonderful company. All the sudden, I just felt so enamored, and away from the girls, I felt my own heart taking over control, making me see Brad as more than a pesky nerd boy.

He was a good guy, with a nice heart, and from what I could tell, was a boy who was a diamond in the rough. I was surprised that a guy like him hadn't found anyone to date in New York.

Within moments, I found myself drawing towards him. "Brad..." I whispered softly. "No one has ever said that."

"I know." He touched my hand. "You're more than a pretty face to me."

Oh my God. I was getting serious chills, knowing this was him speaking from his heart. "Brad...uh, what are you saying?" I could hear our breathing coming together, my throat drying in anticipation.

"I...I like you." He said the confession in less than a whisper. "I have a crush, I think you're...you're beautiful." I felt his hand shaking in mine. "I know that probably, I'd be back of the line, or nowhere near. I'm just a guy with not much to offer, and before we went our separate ways in June, I wanted you to know that." He began to pull back. "Do with my crush what you want to do, but I had to say something. My therapist said I should be truthful, and I know we barely know each other, so--"

I suddenly squeezed his hand tightly, my blood rushing through my body, overwhelmed from his confession. My heart, unknowing of these feelings only moments before, was drawing me towards him, consequences and future popularity be damned. "Brad?" I smiled, and closed my eyes, his concentration on a sudden escape broken.

"Um, yes?" He gulped.

"Shut up." Before he could say another word, I brought him into a soft, caring kiss that showed that I was heartened by his words, and his feelings for me. The crush was very cute, but the way he spoke about my intelligence is what drew me in. Before I knew it or could stop the ball from rolling, I was falling for Brad, and hard. I tugged at his tie, and the both of us escalated the kiss, finding ourselves attached by an outside attraction. Suffice it to say, it was the best kiss I've ever had in my life until that point.

I've had many more best kisses since then. Since around the beginning of October, we've been seeing each other on the sly, and the both of us have decided on a sane relationship pace, after an afternoon conversation while I gave him a ride home, where I admitted that I'd rather be wooed. He has gone with my wishes, and everything has been awesome, despite having to hide everything from everyone else beyond my father and stepmother, and his mother. Thankfully with my position within the gossip circle, if anyone finds out, I can misdirect.

We have made out though, don't get me wrong. I find that he loves me running my fingers through his red hair, while his hands...oh my God. You know what they say about a guy with big hands! If I thought I needed implants, he has proven me wrong so much, since he enjoys touching and fondling my breasts, and after some sessions, he'll lay down on my chest as we just talk about little things.

And well, I'll just say right now that he wears boxers. And he fills them out very well. I've stroked him through his shorts when we really get hot and heavy up in his bedroom, and feeling him against me as we grind with nothing but our underwear on? It's just so divine how wet he gets me. The best part of being with him is that he allows me to take my time, and I can talk dirty to him for as long as I want to.

But really, there's much more to our relationship than sex. He's encouraged me to push myself, to look at my life outside of Louise. He analyzed what I was doing wrong as far as studying, helped me with the tough stuff, and told me that I should really apply to more schools than those close to home. Before, I felt so ashamed that I was planning to pursue fashion design for my first year, then 'lose interest' and spring my true calling on everyone else, because I feel myself better at something scientific than I ever will at floral prints. I found what I wanted, and I've decided to apply at some Western schools. I do admit that some of them are those Brad's trying to attend (basing his choice on the acting role availability in the Northwest and Vancouver, while some family for me is still out there), but trust me, I'm not planning a Felicity. He pursues his thing, I'm free to get my lab coat thing on, and truly, I'm happy with him.

That, and I feel like that finally, I'm finding my voice, especially with Louise. Before this year, I was like a Buddy Bear from Garfield's cartoon show (I own all five seasons, awesome show! Definitely recommended. Damn, tangent again...), agreeing with Louise, no matter what. I can tell she's starting to take things personally, and with my more frequent absences from girls night outs and not having my cell on while I study, she's getting pissed.

Frankly, I don't care. I'm having fun with Brad, and soon, I'll make that clear. I just want to see Louise try to argue against me in seeing him, because I feel ready to shoot down her problems with Brad. So he's not popular? That's not a problem! At least with him I won't have to see my gynecologist triennially for an STD test.

Sorry, a little cold towards her?

Eh, frankly I like knowing that Brad is a fresh slate, and loves to explore with me.

Alright, so, yeah, with Brad now, no one knows yet except for our parents.

Well, Paris does now.

And now I know something else involving her and Rory, which a year ago I would have spread through the school like wildfire.

Instead, I feel sobered, and I just want to shake some freakin' sense into Ms. Stars Hollow Pie Queen, seriously!

I hated having to not be able to dance with Brad tonight, but I still managed to have a little fun here at the Formal, occasionally sending him a naughty text or feeling him up slyly when I went past him. In the meantime I helped out with chairs and such, along with making sure the refreshments were refreshed. I was having a pretty calm and quiet night, just basking in the fact that Louise got saddled with DJ duty.

Around nine though, I was tapped on the shoulder by some guy while I poured water into the hot chocolate maker. When I turned around, I was confronted with someone I had never seen in the school at all. A pretty dull guy, with a close-cut haircut and very unfamiliar to me.

"Hey, do you know where Paris went off to?" he asked.

"Um, no." I was friendly, despite his stranger status. "How do you know her?"

"She's my date for tonight. I'm Jamie Pratt, from Princeton."

"Ahh, I heard something about you, hello." I shook his hand, and recalled the first day of school when Paris told Louise and I at the dining hall table about her date with him, which was in a word, 'boring'.

Looking at him, I could see why. You know those genero-hunks you see on Disney Channel shows? Well, this guy was President's Choice Creamed Spinach, which is usually put at the back of the shelf and never used except if a Category 6 hurricane hits the state (and yes, I realize there is no such thing as a Category 6 storm. See, I do have a brain!).

"Can you find her? I'm sort of worried where she went."

Then why aren't you looking for her? Usually that would be the first thing I would do if on a date. There had to be some reason for her to not come back, and usually she was watching the room, ready to strike if someone got out mini-bottles of liquor to pour into the punch. I half-smiled, trying to think of where she was.

"I'm not Kreskin," I said sarcastically, noting that he didn't even ask my name. "But I'll try."

"Thanks a lot." He walked away from me, and I was left confused.

"Um, alright." I headed out of the hall, grabbing my hot chocolate to let my cold hands warm up as I went down the hallway, deciding to check the coat room first.

Peeking in, there was no sign of her, nor within the refreshments pantry. Since the National Guard kept most of the facility locked beyond the needed rooms, that left just one she could possibly in, and that was the small restroom near the front of the building, which wasn't used often because of the cramped quarters.

Opening the door when I came in, I didn't see her on sight, and a check under the stalls for shoes didn't come up anyone.

"I think I'll have to call her." I took out my phone and scrolled down to Par's cell entry, dialing out and thinking she was nowhere to be found.

What an odd coincidence then that a ringtone sounded towards the east side of the room. Very, very weird timing. Surely it couldn't have been her.

I stood still, letting the phone ring a second time. There was the same ring, again. But thrown in for good measure, some odd hesitation.

I thought everything was just an abnormal coincidence until...

"Madeline." The voice sighed, defeated and worn out. "What do you want?"

Usually, I'd hear her voice muffled and scratchy because of the cell phone network, but this time I had an odd stereo echo effect going. I was sure she was in the room, but just to make sure...

"Where are you? Your date is looking for you."

Moments later, I could confirm that we were clearly wasting our phone minutes. "Why would he care?" I walked towards the far side of the room, towards the stall I thought she was in. "How does he even know you're my friend?"

"Um, lucky guess?" I licked my lips. "Look, I know you're in that stall."

"Madeline, don't worry about me, just tell him I'll be out...out eventually...(sniff)..."

Was that a sob? What was going on? Paris was never this depressed, not even after her Nanna died and she had to mourn during school. Also, not to get into the area of TMI, but she never usually stays in a public restroom for more than five minutes; she does her business, washes her hands and leaves.

I clasped my phone shut and pocketed it, and got in front of the stall, knocking on the door, getting a bit worried.

"Par, what's going on?"

"Nothing," she said, trying to avoid me. "Look, I'm--I'm fine."

"Something's going on; if this was a debate, that stumble would've been followed by a curse word." I didn't know exactly what I was getting into, but I was her friend, and I had to know. "Look, I'm not going to leave."

"Mind your own business!" She kicked at the side partition. "I will be out shortly."

"Hon, I know he's a bad date, but certainly he's not that bad." Usually an opinionated statement by me would get a rise from her. "Paris, come on."

"No." She sounded even more defeated than before, and her voice, usually so even, was wavering and cracking. "You would never understand what's happening."

"Actually, I do." I made a guess based on her reaction. "You have absolutely no interest in him."

Her temper was short as she finally got up from the toilet, and I could see her feet. "Gee, what gave you that clue, Einstein?"

Usually, I don't get mad at Paris, because I get scared when she's angry. This time though, her quip got me riled up, and I moved closer to the door as I got out a coin from a side pocket in my dress. "That's it, I'm coming in!"

"The door is locked!" She reminded me, but having to get Louise out of stupid jams quite often, I knew the trick to getting many doors opened, including the 'coin in the stall slider' one. I put the dime in, turned it counter-clockwise, and in moments, I pushed the door open.

"Not anymore--" My anger at her immediately subsided when I was face to face to her. "Holy crap, Par."

The strong girl I knew since she protected me from little Summer Sheffield trying to shake the lunch money from me the day I arrived at Country Day from Brighton in Seattle was gone. In her place, a devastated young woman. The spare application of mascara I saw when she came in was streaked down her face, she held herself in a protective hold across her chest, and her eyes, usually an authoritative and fierce brown, were dark and lost. Her hands shook as if a disease took her over, and she somehow seemed smaller than five feet.

I knew something was very amiss when I tried to bring her into a hug, and instead of her usual stubborn resolve not to give appreciative affection, she immediately let me bring her into it. Never had I known her to be touchy-feely.

There was something very wrong with her. I sighed as she mumbled against my shoulder, buffeted with only a thick satin blue strap, as she cried again. My heart broke for her, so much, whatever it was. Her voice became unintelligible, and I could only theorize what happened to her.

"Did--did Jamie try something with you?" I didn't say 'the word', scared to say it myself. "And you said no?"

"Uh-uh," she mumbled. "I can't tell you."

"Paris, I'm here, tell me." I rocked her back and forth, trying to settle her down. "Nothing you say leaves this room."

"It can't leave my lips," she said hastily. "Please, just know whatever it is, I have to deal with it on my own."

"You're hurt," I said. "I don't like enjoy seeing you like this."

A minute of silence passed as she attempted to calm down and settle her frazzled nerves. She just looked very devastated and hurt, and if this was Jamie's fault, there would be no limit to the hurt I could cause him. It took a few minutes, along with a lock of the door to assure her that what happened in the bathroom stayed there, before she was relatively composed again. She didn't say anything, just apologizing for my walking into her being like that. I, of course, wasn't going to accept her apology; a breakdown was needed now and then.

Soon, I had her out of the cramped stall, sitting on the window sill as I leaned against the wall, and she kept her face down, staring at the floor tiles, while her right hand was occupied with the marble finish of the sill, scraping her nails against it. I bit down on my lip, absolutely feeling my heart break for her.

"Paris," I pleaded, "please talk to me." She stayed silent, and I had to keep prodding her to confess. "It won't get out."

"What if it does?" Paris asked, panicked. "What if I tell you what happened, and you think I'm incredibly stupid?"

"For what?" I shook my head. "Stupid?"

"Yes, I'm stupid," she spat out. "Everyone else, I'm either just a bit needy for attention or just a pain in the ass. But when it comes to falling in love..." She stopped, nervously twisting her hair around her finger. "Look, it's over, whatever it was. I can't go on thinking that what I did was right."

"With Jamie?" I was a bit confused, since I just met the guy and figured they didn't have much going on. "I mean, yeah, he's nice, but I wouldn't date him."

"I didn't want to. My mom..." Another pause, and time for me to think about the words unsaid, which from my past experience with Sharon Gellar, were pretty easy to figure out.

"She called him, didn't she?" Paris nodded her head, sighing.

"I tried to stop her, but she wouldn't let me say no."

"Oh, Par." I offered her my hand to take. "You really do have to stop listening to her."

"I can't though, she's my mother."

Forget mincing words or giving her some benefit of the doubt, because I was very angry at Sharon. "I can't stand what she did to you, springing some date you don't want. At least Jacob was tolerable, even if he was related to you. This guy is dead weight, and you shouldn't have to date him."

"That's why I'm hiding, I can't stand him," she admitted. "He's a horrible dancer, and the date in Washington, he made me feel inferior to him." I rubbed the inside of her palm to keep her on an even keel. "But there's another reason I absolutely cannot be dating anyone right now."

"I know; Harvard, right?" I smiled, thinking that she was fully focused on her 'prize', no matter what.

"It's more complicated than that, something I can't tell you, especially now that it's over." Sulking in her seat, she looked so lost and out of it.

"What's over?" I had no clues to go on, and couldn't understand what she was talking about. "Hon, are you..." I felt my mind coming to life with a realization. "Jamie didn't do this at all, did he?"

"He sort of did."

That's when it came to me; I remembered talking to Rory about ten minutes before, sulking in the corner with her book, there just because of the VP requirement of attending the Formal.

"Hey, um...did you...did you have another fight with Rory?" I knew the circle of tension they were in, but they had been very, very calm as of late, and I hadn't seen them fighting all that much the last few weeks.

She sheepishly nodded her head. "I think it's really over this time, our friendship." Lowering her hands down to her lap, Paris seemed so defeated, and down.

"Your friendship? Wait, does she like Jamie too?" I was confused as to why anyone would like such a dull guy and they would form a love triangle revolving around him.

"No, she doesn't." She spoke slowly, trying to build herself up. "Look, I can't say why she hates me, but what I did, maybe it's better this way. Just to get some space and, I really can't do it. I went too far."

"Rory doesn't hate you," I assured. "She'll get over it, because she doesn't hold grudges."

"Madeline, she hates me." She spelled it out slowly. "We're over, capital 'O'. I'm not going to bother, since it's me, and really, who would want to be my girlfriend?"

I was about to say that I still thought Rory was a good friend, when I processed what she just happened to spill. I went over the sentence in her voice twice more in a think-process-focus manner, breaking it apart.

Then it came to me, the final word, and one she obviously didn't mean to say.


Oh my God. I admit I call Lou that word, but just in the totally friendly sense. Again though, Par has never dropped the g-word in casual convos, not at all. We were her friends, period. No other synonyms, just the one word.

Add one syllable though, and it all changes.

She realized her error at just that moment, and from there, I knew exactly what happened without any kind of summary.


OK, let me just clear the air about something before I go on here. I have known Paris for nine years, and we're both completely different, in mannerisms and personalities. While she's more reserved and keeps everything close, I'm an open book. Seeing her mature firsthand after Sharon pulled her out of dance, I knew it changed her opinion on things, and slowly, she went from outgoing to holding everything in, afraid that domineering bitch would take any new thing she got interested in away from her.

But I'll admit something I haven't told anyone before. When Tristan kissed her on that dare back in the junior high years, it wasn't just a simple peck or a three second thing. Tristan actually liked her then, and I saw the kiss. It was deep, a dream kiss that every girl imagines when they're young. To me, it looked like her knees should have given out and she should have lost her bearings fully, a life-changer that would have gotten her all aflutter and off-focused.

However, when I asked her what it was like?

"It was nice."

That's it, nice. Not life-changing or amazing or anything like that. Just nice. Unknowingly that lukewarm reaction from her is what brought him into being the suave Don Juan he would be after that, because he figured her reaction would be a bit more animated. Most likely that's why the date Rory arranged never really got off the ground, because the kiss brought up that past baggage they never talked about from the dare.

I had my suspicions in the past about how she wanted to be loved, and I thought it was odd for her not to be seeking out a new crush after Tristan got kicked out of Hartford by his father. I expected her to move on to someone else she liked, but she remained a blank slate, burying herself in her studies. So I dropped the topic and moved on internally.

However, there were a couple of incidents last month that I recall with clarity. Something I'm sure she didn't know anything about at all, because I didn't say anything about them.

But, now it was all coming together. The newly found harmony, the need to be close to each other, her strangely upbeat mood at lunch Monday afternoon, along with her asking for notes in Advanced Ec because she inexplicably never appeared. Nor did Rory.

There was one more thing though...

A blush streaked my cheeks as I felt myself onto Paris revealing something she meant to hold close.

"So, I should probably assume that those brushes against my ankle at the lunch table were meant for Rory?"

It was meant to get her attention, and it began to all come together as she was shocked.

"What--what did I say?"

I then saw another sign along the tip of her shoulder that there was much more she had to reveal. I tried to keep myself even, dealing with the sudden shock of what she was saying.

"Par, that's not something you got bumping against a door, was it?" I brought my hand towards her shoulder, the familiarity of the bruise so familiar to me.

"Madeline..." She lowered her voice, petrified that she just let it slip. "It's nothing, honest."

"Hey, hey...come on, hey." I slid my hands down to her back, trying to reassure her. "Don't clench, come on, I'm not going to fight you."

"But I'm...Rory's gone, she hates me, and now I don't know what to do. And you probably hate me for lying to you."

"Hon, I don't," I assured her. "Why would you ever think that?"

"B-b-because you...you keep trying to set me up with guys, and I keep rejecting you."

Sighing, I made her see things my way. "Well, I know why now." I brought her out of the hug, and explained that even with the shock, we'd still be friends. "Look at me, Par." I handed her some TP from the roll in the stall she was in so she could dry her eyes. "If you're a lesbian, and Rory is too, and you like each other, I can't stop that. And I won't, because that's not how I was raised. I'm a tolerant person and you know me, I can't stand hate in the world."

"I'm...I'm scared though." She bit her nails, freaking out since she was out to me now. "You have the item of the year though, what about--"

Quickly I silenced her with a voice like a schoolmarm's. "I won't say a word." I admitted a secret I kept as the gossip girl of the school. "I actually know that there are 33 other guys and girls in Chilton who are gay or bi out of sight, either from rumors or confirmations. That's the kind of crap I refuse to say a word about, because who you love doesn't matter, as long as you're a good person. I refuse to be responsible for ruining someone's life by outing them, or to give fire to the haters who want me to do so. I actually got a stinger once because someone was pissed I wouldn't out their mortal enemy."

"Well, it doesn't matter anymore," she said, looking downtrodden. "Rory and I are over, all because I'm stupid." I looked at her, and this wasn't the Paris I knew. She was weakened and willing to let her go, all because her mother fucked up everything.

"Then tell me how you got to this point. Everything you can in five minutes." I reminded her of her long-repeated studying advice. "Think, process, and focus."

"So, you don't hate me?" She batted some hair from her eyes, while moving towards the sink to wash her face. "I've...I've been lying to you about Rory, how I feel about her, what we've done, and I'm sorry."

I held a finger to my lips. "Shush, you had a reason to do so, and I'd be the same way." I kept my hand on her shoulder as we moved to a sink. She splashed her face with the running water and wiped off the mascara, and I could tell that she was thankful for once to have me there with her, calming her down.

From there, she told me about Rory's pursuit of her, and how she wanted Rory for at least months before the trip to Washington, along with their conflicts throughout, and the day after that dance marathon back in Stars Hollow when they realized they wanted to be together. I could tell she was holding back a few things, but those were mostly of the relationship details, of which I could fill in the blanks to quite easily. The way she talked about who she used to call 'Farm Girl' in our private conversations, there was definitely more than met the eye. And I saw it all in retrospect, describing to her my notices of them over the last two months, including snuck glances from her and Rory, the occasional hinting in the newsroom, along with the total disinterest in going to the Homecoming dance because they cared more for the paper than their popularity.

Really though, I could see it farther back than when Rory came to Chilton. With Tristan, that she had a crush on him, but not a deep crush at all where she had his picture hidden in a locket. There were also cues from when she came over to my house for girls nights and such, where it was clear that she was a hopeless romantic, more into the heroines of a story than the hunk. She wouldn't read the profiles in my teen magazines, but was the type to actually think about the quizzes and other editorial content within them. There were even a few instances where she outright criticized Cosmo for not accommodating those women who weren't all atwitter for abs and 'making him scream'.

And then came the clincher moment, when she told me she left a text and voicemail on Rory's cell to pre-warn her she had been hoodwinked into seeing Jamie. My face lit up immediately, knowing the situation from back in November.

"Brad and I had the same thing come up last month!"

Uhh, yeah, I paused and watched Paris's eyes widen in shock as I had revealed to her who had been distracting me.

"You and Brad?" Surprisingly, she wasn't angry with me. "Are you two...you two? Really? You're not punk-rocking me, right?"

Oh, Par, you and your boycott of MTV. Sometimes I love you for that. I laughed at her as she shook her head. "Yup, we've been going out for two months."

"What about Louise?"

I made my feelings immediately clear. "Who cares? She doesn't like him, but I do, he's funny and brilliant."

Wiping off her face, she smiled. "I knew there was a reason for your grades going up, but I thought it was just panic cramming."

"I'm calm, honest. And happy, very happy." She threw out the towel, as I felt free enough to joke with her again. "Oh, and you can tell your rabbi he did a great job on Brad's circum--"

"Madeline, no!" She closed her eyes. "I know your mind is filled with it, but I will not think about...that!"

"Of course not, 'cause you're thinking about Rory and her magical vag--"

"Madeline!" OK, pushed a biiit too far there, as she went back to her demanding growl. "Look, I don't know what to do to explain this. I mean I can try tonight, but Jamie's here, so it makes it hard."

Little did she know, all through the convo, I had figured out a Plan B to get the lovebirds back together, and push Mr. Boring back to Jersey listening to angsty Bon Jovi songs.

"You're not going to give up now," I stated firmly, stomping down my foot and getting her attention. Before she could say another word, I interrupted her. "Now yes, the Formal, it's fucked, it's doomed, blah-blah-blah, Jamie is the Beezlebub ruining your Lesbian Heaven. We're going to be stuck with him at least for the next half-hour." Oh, I felt so smart, watching the smart be guided by me, the usual ditz.

Not anymore, baby. Madeline the Genius is coming out.

"But the ride home, we can change that." I went into her purse and grabbed her cell. "So you and Lorelai, you get along, right?"

"As well as a woman who caught me flashing her on top of her daughter can, yes." Thank God her sarcasm pulse was back.

"Then you take this, you call her, and tell her to check if Rory's phone is still in the house." I looked at her straight. "Remember, you have the most hated mom in Hartford society now. She has Emily Gilmore, the most hated mom in 1984. Which means you have her sympathy almost immediately." I then went on, describing that if she could convince Lorelai to have an emergency and not come to pick her up, she'd have Rory stuck in the car for a half-hour, at least. "So you give her a ride home...and by that, I mean dump Jamie back at his hotel, and then you...well you ride home--"

She held up her hand, stopping my clumsy explanation towards the end. "Madeline, trust me, I get it." She paused for a bit. "Just one thing."

"Your mother, right?" She nodded, telling me she had to be home by one. "Well, stay out with her until one and make up a story about the time you had to spend with Mr. Funsucker. Say the date was a dud, and you're home free."

"She's going to ask though."

"Paris, you've snuck a relationship under my attentive nose for a month or so. Trust me, you know how to do the perfect snowjob. Just say he tried getting fresh." I also made an observation based on his leering stare as he approached me. "Barring that, I know men like him. He's going to do something to screw things up, somehow. I say if he does, you magnify that problem, and there goes his thoughts of you as his future trophy wife."

She pursed her lips together, her confidence starting to come back slowly. "So what you're suggesting I do with Rory is entrap her against her will, ending the date of doom with Jamie, and then?" She left the last statement open for my interpretation with a smirk.

Oh my God, that's how I smile just before I get frisky! Obviously, the Mouse (my nickname for her when she was younger) has learned how to game things in the bedroom in such a short time.

"Paris, you horndog!" I shrieked. "Yeah, I would hope the night doesn't end on a boring note."

"I can't help it, Mads," she shared, being honest with me. "She is really that good for me, and you're right. I'd hate to lose it over something as silly as her leaving her cell at home."

"And I'd hate for her to be you." Shouldn't have said that, as she slugged me in the arm with her fist. "What? She's acting like you tonight when you get all mad."

Paris saw things in another light. "No, she isn't." She looked down at herself, smoothing out her dress. "That's her bitterness from Dean coming out. I never did like him."

"Louise still likes him," I shared. "Of course, she likes anything with a washboard set of abs and eight inches, but I digress." I shook my head. "Anyways, you need to call Lorelai and spring your trap. Somehow, I can see it work dividends for you already." I walked over to the bathroom door, and unlocked it.

"Why's that?"

I looked her up and down, and smiled. "Brad gets all nice and riled up when he rants about the wrestling team picking on him." With a wink, I swung open the door and left my dear friend to work out the rest of her night, hoping that Rory saw her through current anger and realized she screwed up, and badly. To see Paris the way I did, hopeless and sad that she may have lost her without listening to anything that she said, that hurts. It hurts me personally, and I only want what's best for the both of them.

Now, let's just hope the next time I talk to Par, she's lost her breath because of something mind-blowing. Speaking of which, I want to give Brad some time on the dance floor. Maybe he'll let me dance really close tonight. After all, I think I look damned hot tonight, in my humble opinion...

Lorelai's POV, 9:35pm

My daughter is becoming a woman.

That's what I have to keep reminding myself every time I think about her and Paris together. That Rory is an eighteen year-old woman, and no longer can she run to me to fix things. She has to begin to deal with everything on her own, and I just have to hold back and hope for the best, and that she learns from the consequences.

After Paris's phone call a few minutes ago, I just have to hope that some kind of lesson is learned tonight. One I really wish I had taught her before Dean came into the picture.

I look at her cell phone, sitting on the front table just outside the foyer, and think if she hadn't rushed out the door and I caught my eye on it, she'd be having a good time with her girlfriend right about now.

Whatever happens, I do know one thing: I'll be talking to her when she gets home about the importance of communication in a relationship. I just hope she hasn't truly blown it with Paris.

I just have to admit, a month ago, if you told me my daughter would be batting for the Pink Ladies instead of for guys, I would've directed a look towards them, followed by a 'whatchu talkin' 'bout?' I never thought of Rory as gay, really, and there were no warning signs for it, beyond the loss of scorn for Paris and commands for me to be tolerable to her for now on and that she didn't deserve any of my mocking.

Really, I should have seen it more. The not dating until sixteen part should have screamed obvious, along with her keeping occupied with books rather than the hunk of the month. She didn't care, and Dean has been her only male crush, beyond a silly 'I want to marry Luke' thing when she was ten.

Oh, and a small, itty-bitty thing for Kirk ten years ago when he worked at the toy store. I kind of try to never mention that, since I could be sentenced to four days in the town square pillory by Rory for saying something about it. Damn it, I've said too much!

In all honesty though, I have begun to warm up to Paris, despite my first thoughts of her being too cruel and unbalanced for her to be with Rory, along with a fear she was rushing into things. I don't want to see her unhappy, and Paris knows this all too well.

I just didn't expect to see that the reverse had happened. Or that my daughter would ever act like my mother when another woman flirts with Dad. Seriously, she's scary when she gets even an inkling my dad may cheat! Who cares if it's a nun or someone with a chastity pledge, she doesn't discriminate about telling someone who would take her guy to back off!

But to have Rory act that way, it was disconcerting. I certainly taught her to speak her mind, but before she did, hear the other person out. I think of what Paris said as she called me, the fear and uncertainty in her voice.

"I wouldn't normally call you and ask you not to pick up Rory, but I need to convince her that I didn't mean this."

"Paris, I understand." I was surprised by her call, along with how she felt responsible for an error that wasn't made at all. "I'm sorry she didn't grab her cell, and that you had to go in there blind."

"I just wish she would have heard me out. This was easily preventable, but now it's going to be hard to convince her."

"I support you," I said, truthfully. "I have the phone in my hand, and I'm reading your panicked text message. You did not want this. Hell, I didn't want this. I haven't seen Jamie, but from the description of your date, it makes a Bigfoot/Truckasaurus twin bill look like so much more fun."

"Add a root canal and you have the full effect." I heard her sigh into the microphone. "Are you sure you're fine with this, Ms. Gilmore? I know you're not exactly a cheerleader for us, but I don't want her to break up with me because my mother forced me into this."

"You're fine, Paris," I said honestly, no longer giving any thought to her being dangerous for my daughter. "You behaved when you were over on Thursday, and I'm glad that you're seeing that you don't have to be so stuck in the rules. I am lenient with you, and I know you don't mean to hurt Rory anymore."

"I just hope she understands that."

"She better," I warned. "I'd hate to see her end a great thing because of misplaced jealousy."

"Me either." I could tell she was hoping for a good ending to the evening, eventually. We talked a little bit more, until she had to go, just about things like what we'd be doing on Thursday night as far as our movie night.

As I sat back down on the couch to go over some supplier's contracts for the Inn, I hoped that my daughter would find enough sense to forgive Paris. I remember that I did the same thing once with Christopher when I heard a woman's voice in the background during a phone call, and hung up on him in anger.

That woman turned out to be his aunt, who was just tipping a few too many back, and eventually, the two of us laughed about it.

I really am growing to like Paris, especially as we chat more about the war stories of being an uninterested heiress in Hartford. What her mother did was very low, and even Emily would consider it bad form to foist a surprise date on someone the last minute. All my 'surprise dates' before sixteen were guys I had known before, or we had been supervised by each of our parents.

That Sharon Gellar would trust a guy from Philadelphia around her daughter that she didn't know outside of the controlled situation of that conference, it was a bit disconcerting. I mean I'm sure he's nice and all, but what if he had a record she didn't know about? Or even worse, he was a mobster?

A little hyperbolic? See, I watch too much General Hospital; damn you Sonny!

But really, she felt no chemistry with Jamie, period. Sharon should have taken that into mind. And now because that woman can't get the point that over is over, Paris is stuck having to dig her way back into my daughter's heart when she did nothing wrong. I really want them to push and just be each other's Sonny and Cher...

Captain and Tenille?

Uh, Laurel and Hardy?

Electra Woman and Dyna Girl? Damn, there aren't that many power girl/girl couples out there, that sucks! Oh wait, Xena and Gabrielle!! Yeah...

Or no. Gah, now they have me onto this subject I must brush up on! Looks like I have a 'research problem' to Google, because I need a silly nickname to call them when they get home. Yes, that is my goal! Well, after I approve Local 192 for our electrical needs...

Rory's POV, 10:00pm-10:30pm

Now I can understand how it must have felt for Tristan to have to watch me dance with my boyfriend. I can understand it very clearly, more than I ever expected to. See, when you're stuck in a seat for forty-five minutes having to watch the girl you love have fun with someone she barely knows, it makes your blood boil, and you just want to tear that person off from them, because they clearly don't deserve them. They've proved they've been awful in the past, and they aren't changing.

Basically, I couldn't wait until ten, when I could get out of there with Mom and wallow in Saved by the Bell reruns, convinced I would never get to touch Paris again in any kind of way. I stewed, angry with her more minute by minute. I felt myself seethe, and that I lost that special bond with her. There she was, dancing with him, occasionally giving me a look, as if she was sorry.

Yeah right, I thought to myself, and lowered my eyes back down to the book, as if to say that she no longer existed in my world. Once Jamie had her, it was all over. I knew she'd be going to his hotel room somehow, and that I'd be left in the dark. The vicious circle would begin to spin again, and we'd back to being enemies.

Of course, that's what I thought would happen as the long minutes ticked away, until the clock struck ten, and the announcement over the loudspeaker by Mrs. Hollinger that student staff could go home. I was glad, telling Mom hours earlier that she had to be there on the dot, not a minute more, not a minute less, something I was glad to do in hindsight. I was sick of looking at Paris and Jamie together, and the faster I could forget her, the better. I felt weighted down, annoyed that the night didn't go as planned in any way. I saw the two of them head out the door together, talking, and I just held back on purpose so I wouldn't have an awkward meeting with them, getting up a minute after they left the hall. I filed out, silent and cold, ready for the long death march of our relationship to come.

The one thing I didn't expect, however, was for Madeline to stop me. She held up a hand like a stop sign, and for some reason she seemed a bit mad. I assumed it was from something else, and greeted her without any bitterness.

But I was surprised when she didn't return my greeting in a friendly way.

"You're so dense, Rory."

Instead, her hazel eyes started me down, and she shook her head, turned away from me, and walked away.

I didn't really know at all what that was about; had I done something to offend her? I thought for a moment, and thought that maybe she just had a bad night. Hoping it was just that, I took my coat from the check room, put it on, and prepared to meet Mom in the front.

When I got out there though, there was a long line of cars, and the familiar tan Jeep didn't seem to be one of them. I looked back towards the road, and couldn't find any headed up from the north and into the front driveway. She must be late, is what I thought, thinking she got a late jump on the evening.

I waited a couple more minutes, the chill of the evening seeming to be in line with how my soul felt. The sky took on a pinkish glow, the pre-warning that it possibly might end up snowing soon enough. There hasn't been even a flurry so far, and I felt depressed, waiting out there, having lost Paris to that idiot who had no business coming back here.

I reserved much of my anger with her, though, offended that she hadn't told me about going out with him at all. I didn't think she would be that cold or callous, to drop me like that. I could understand her breaking down in the bathroom, but my first thought as I told her what I thought was that she was being manipulative, and lying about having any interest in him.

This, even as my conscience was telling me I was being cruel to her. It kept nagging me that I should listen to her and let her tell her side of the story.

I had my pride though. I broke up with her, on my terms, and cleanly.

At least that's what I thought. Having to look at her all night in that beautiful dress, her hair upswept and dancing gracefully with Jamie...OK, as graceful as she could be with a dumbass who danced like Frankenstein, it really did so much to me.

I also noted her long absence after I left her in the bathroom. But I couldn't think that she would ever cry. Why would she? She'll get over it.

I stood out there for three more minutes, wrapping my legs tightly around my dress, wondering where the heck my mom was. "What happened, geeze! It's freakin' cold!" I rubbed my hands together, the thin fabric of my dress drawing the cold air right where it decided to flirt with certain other parts that I didn't need.

Eventually, a car pulled up in front of me as I looked down at the ground, burrowing my neck into my jacket. Assuming it was meant for someone else, I began to walk away so whoever was getting the ride could get in.

As I turned away though, I heard the power window slide down. I continued to ignore it, until...


No...uh-uh. Thank God I have an excuse. I was ready to walk away from her again.

"Don't worry about me," I said, not looking at Paris. "My mom is coming by."

"She isn't," Paris responded, seeming to have gotten over her alleged sadness. "Come on, hop in."

"No, I know she is."

"Ror, she called me." I thought I told her to use my full name. "There was an emergency situation at the Inn, so she can't pick you up."

"I didn't hear anything." We volleyed back and forth, and I noticed Jamie was in the car with her. "Look, if she's not coming, I'll just get a cab."

"On this night?" She rolled her eyes. "You're going to end up stuck with some drunk tank regulars bar-hopping for an hour before the cab gets to the Hollow."

"I'll take that chance."

"So you want me to call her and tell her you're calling a cab?" Her voice took on a desperate tone.

I reached into my bag to pull out my phone in order to make the call. "Look, I promise you, I'll make it home fine--"

As I reached in though, I was surprised to find I didn't have my phone in the bag. Huh? I reached deeper in the small bag, convinced I buried it within it.

No dice. And no phone.

And suddenly, I saw that Paris was...she was smiling at me? I had to take pause, as it was the same smug grin she directs towards a competitor as a 'take that' taunt whenever they were beat with a point.

At first, I continued to dig in the bag, convinced that I would find it sooner or later.

But then I learned that while I was able to get Paris down in that bathroom, eventually, she will bounce back, with a hidden vengeance that you don't even realize you've ired until it's too late.

"I'm guessing you didn't get my text from earlier then."

Text? What was she talking about? I didn't know about any message sent to me this evening at all. I looked at her, not only confused, but lost. Like the bracelet from Dean until we broke up, I needed my phone with me 24/7. It never left my side, ever, and...

"What text? Um, I think I forgot my phone."

If I was pissed off at her before, what she said next threw cold water on my 'hate her always' plan.

"I also sent you a voicemail. You know, about unexpected extra work on the paper? I got an email from Ms. Walthorne, and it was a surprise. We're going to have to work tomorrow on it through IM."

OK, now if you take that full sentence on its words, you're not going to see anything amiss at all. Reading that, you think we have extra Franklin work, and that Ms. Walthorne assigned it.

Except, this week, bored watching the weekly paper run on Wednesday afternoon, we both came up with a rebus-like code language that we could explain girlfriendy things in public to discuss our relationship without arousing attention.

I was paling from more than the cold at that exact moment.

Holy fuck. The 'extra work' was 'some guy Sharon makes me go out with'. Ms. Walthorne, meanwhile, is the only teacher beyond Mr. Mercurio she's ever hated, as the matriarchal home ec teacher who gave her the only failing class she had, in the seventh grade for burning some food, while using her as the spokesgirl for 'don't let this happen to you future June Cleavers'.

Pretty much, she was a humiliating bitch. Like Sharon.

Then to end everything, the final code was the newspaper work for tomorrow, even through IM. A definite 'I still like you, and I'm sorry. Don't hate me, please!'

I suddenly felt so embarrassed with my behavior. Not only had I ruined her night, but I almost ruined our entire relationship, just because I didn't pause for thirty seconds to hear her out. I didn't know what she really had to say in detail, but I knew for sure that she was 'enjoying' Jamie just as a façade, and behind it, she wanted me with her.

She kept looking at me, unsure, even a bit scared that I was going to walk away from her. I would not have blamed her at all, because the way I behaved towards her made Dean seem like a cultured gentleman.

What were you thinking?! My inner vixen screamed. Instead of telling her how she looked in that dress, you demeaned her because of something her mother did to her. You should have thought more about how to confront her. Now you'll be lucky to get a ride from her in the future.

I was pretty much preparing myself for the break-up to be sealed, as she stared at me, in the car, starting to freeze a little.

"We have to go," she said, and I couldn't really read her words as either biting or mothering.

"I...I guess I don't really have a choice." Shrugging nervously, I opened the door, and was thankful that Jamie was on the left side of the car, with Paris in the middle, so I would get the seat on the right side. I felt my heart lurch as I sat down, sad that I may have just ruined the best thing in my life. I thought that for sure, some kind of argument between us was coming.

I turned to look at Jamie, and he seemed sort of impatient, like my ride was cutting into his time up here. He was expecting to spend the whole night with Paris, and I was probably annoying him because of my need for a ride home. I slid the shoulder belt across my chest, and clicked the lap seatbelt into place, reclining against the door.

"Did you have fun?" She asked me. Again, her tone was neutral. "I mean your book, I should borrow it one day."

"It was good enough," I said, trying to create some semblance of a conversation. "I just didn't feel good tonight."

"I could tell, your face is all red." Surprisingly, she brought the back of her fingers against my cheek, and brushed them across. "Is the flu going around early?"

"I just--I didn't feel hungry tonight," I said. I shuddered, her touching such a calming sedative. "I didn't mean to push DJ monitor off to Louise."

"Hey, gives her something to do." OK, this was good, no anger. She seemed not ready to kill me...yet. "I know how much you really didn't want to be here tonight."

Holding back that I knew she didn't want to be there herself, I went on with the conversation. "I get to dress up at least. I like that."

"Me too." She did a scan of me, and both of us seemed to be putting Jamie into the background. "Your mother really knows how to hack a dress."

"Hack?" I didn't even know what that means. "Isn't that bad?"

"Oh, uh, no. Actually, it's a new term for 'mod' Madeline learned from her shows on that computer channel, actually. Mod, as in modification. Only they use it in the sense to change around a computer. She says that some of their hosts are women, and pretty inspiring." She laughed. "I guess the lady on HGTV wouldn't use it in her vernacular."

"Probably not." OK, I was getting comfortable again, as we pulled onto the main road towards the expressway. "How is Madeline? When I saw her, she was a bit mad. I've never saw her like that."

As Paris was about to answer though, Jamie interrupted her suddenly.

"She seemed fine to me," he said, butting in where he didn't belong. "Maybe she's grumpy because of...that time of the month."

Cue the both of us directing very annoyed stares towards his direction, along with him reeling back because he definitely said something stupid. What was he thinking, saying that?

"No, she couldn't do something she really wanted to do," Paris answered, seething at his callousness. "One of her friends also didn't understand that she was mad at them for something they did this evening."

As she said that, I found her right hand cup my knee, and she jabbed a finger hard against my kneecap. Internally, I knew that was her way of telling me that she now knew about us.

Yeah, you know that song in the South Park movie where Cartman called Kyle's mom the b-word, but took it to outlandish extremes? That music was running through my head with my name replacing the song's subject, because it was definitely describing how I came off.

I felt so horrible, and it was obvious that now, Madeline knew that we were together. Something I would have wanted to keep from her until I was ready, but frankly, I deserved it. I looked out the window, ashamed to look at Paris, scared that she was being friendly now, but on Monday morning I'd be a leper.

We got on an expressway towards the downtown area, and that's when I felt myself in a panic. Instead of going home right away, Paris was going to have Henrico drive me home, alone.

Then there was another thought that she was going back to his hotel. Oh no, no! Great, now she was going to have to spend the night with him, and I would be powerless to stop it. I would get my ride home, but also a reminder that she was going to rub this in my face.

I tightened my grip on the armrest, feeling incredibly depressed that I ruined anything we might do that night. I blew it, I thought to myself. Getting ready for the long ride home, I took off my coat, lifting myself up to work it off, and preparing for the future nightmares of the both of us coming to blows at the Formal.

I was about to knock on the partition so that Henrico could throw it on the front seat, when Paris grabbed at my hand. I was startled, and wondering why she did so. She turned to speak...

"My legs are cold," she smiled. "Do you mind if I use it as a temporary blanket?"

"Paris, I can rub them for you--"

"No thanks," she responded to Jamie's offer tersely. "I'll be fine."

"I suppose," I said, feeling a bit shaky, especially since she had to remind me how much leg she was showing off in her Formal gown. Her right leg, bared next to mine in that close slit up to mid-thigh. She draped the jacket across her lap, and expressed immediate relief at warming up again, visibly relaxed. I was happy to see her calming down from the crap I put her through this evening, and hoped the last five minutes we spent in the car together would be drama-free. At that moment, all I could hope for was that we'd be OK, eventually, remembering she held in hate for me for five months after I 'took' Tristan.

What happened after, however, showed she was much more than OK about me.

Within moments of covering herself, I found her hand, which had stayed on my leg after her jab at her hidden words about Maddie, wandering up my thigh. At first, I thought it just a nervous tic, weirded out by Jamie. I thought nothing of it at first.

At least, until I felt the lower material of my dress being slid up in a serpentine fashion behind my legs. What is--what's she doing? I was trying to convince myself that she was angry at me, not wanting me anywhere near her.

But if she was really pissed, she wouldn't be talking to me at all. And if she was really interested in Jamie, I'd be sitting in the front seat, a third wheel. Paris should have been closer to him, not only two inches away from sharing her skin against the material of my dress.

I closed my eyes, trying to distract myself with the answers I needed for my paper in Life Sciences on Monday. Surely I was just feeling things, and the girl next to me hadn't forgiven me so quickly. My view out the window was of the towns on the east side of the Connecticut River, various Christmas lights twinkling in the distance on the bluff homes overlooking Hartford to the south of the city, and the construction site of Rentschler Field to the north, the lit-up cranes just visible enough. It was a beautiful sight, to be sure.

But then, I kept feeling those fingers, sliding the back of my dress up, as the jacket fell down more across our legs. I felt the hem in the back rise up above my inner knees, and her hand tracing the curve of my left leg. I was trying to figure out what she was doing, and I couldn't understand her intentions at all. Was this the female equivalent of blue balls, her kind of revenge? What was it, exactly?

As long as I was in that car though, I couldn't say a word. I was helpless to her, and she was taking advantage of it. Going on with Jamie about a debate topic she was feigning interest in, Paris's fingers dipped below the hem of my dress, and against my warming skin. I involuntarily tightened myself up, hoping that I could stop her from getting too high. Meanwhile, her foot touched against mine, her black pump heels kicked off, my ankle being rubbed against by her large toe. Which I may add, surprisingly was painted in an indigo blue, along with her nails. Again, hidden by the jacket, and only visible to me.

I wanted to push her off and cool her down, but I couldn't. She wasn't even paying attention to me, listening to Jamie as she brought her hand higher within my dress...and closer to the inner portion of my anatomy than the outer.

Now my eyes were shut not from trying to think of things other than her anger, but because of what she was doing. I could tell her to stop, but I wasn't going to reveal anything to anyone else. I refused to have Jamie be the third to know, ever. I didn't want him to know, period!

I scooted up on the seat as far as I could, hopeful that gripping my thighs against the edge of the seat would discourage her from venturing any further up. I was getting so turned on, but I didn't want her to know that. I felt as if she was just teasing me until they were dropped off. I was thankful when she retracted her hand from me, and I thought she was done and calming herself down.

A minute passed, and she was no longer teasing me further. I began to relax and was ready to push the back of my dress back down...

Little did I know, she was planning another route of attack. As the 'Downtown 1 Mile' sign passed, Paris gauged that she had just enough room to squirm her hand between the back of my thigh, and the blue leather seat. She grabbed the hem, pushed it back just that much further, and slid her hand in.

I immediately widened my eyes as that tingly barbish feeling went through me, while her fingers danced across the rear of my inner thigh.

No way...she is totally not doing this, with Jamie here! I was in such shock that she was getting this gutsy with me. She should be angry and ready to throw me out of the car, not getting me hot. I was getting all wound up and in a sexual panic. Just what on earth was she doing? What exactly was she thinking?

Apparently, pushing her hand higher and higher. I wanted her to stop; did she not remember what I did to her backseat on Monday morning?! I twisted around, trying to convince her this wasn't the place, at least rationally. But otherwise, I was totally open to this. I relaxed against the seat, her finger making circles along the bottom of my thigh. I was beginning to think it was meant as sort of a calming move, her equivalent to my massages. I wanted to lift up, but I was watching Jamie out of the corner of my eye and didn't want him to see that there was anything amiss.

The sign noting that the Trumball Street exit into downtown was 1/4 mile away passed over us, and I felt myself begin to prepare to say my goodbyes to Par for the night. I knew she was going to leave me hanging, so I wanted to get as much out of the time I had with her as possible. I scooted up, encouraging her on, as she kept talking...

Then I moved back, remembering there was something else besides my cell phone that was forgotten at home. No, no, not the time! I decided to quickly pull back...

But I was too late. I relaxed against the door, and opened myself to her, which I was quickly regretting. Her circles moved northward along my thigh, smaller and smaller, confined, but she knew the effect she was having on me. She began to look straight ahead as Henrico took the exit ramp around the north side of downtown, clearing her throat, getting so close. My breathing came out in soft gasps, my clit was pounding between my legs, and my feet felt like they never wanted to move again. I was paralyzed and locked in.

She's not...come on. Let off! I hoped she would retract soon, but as the 'keep slow' sign passed, she was only getting closer and closer. I felt myself begin to slicken with anticipation. What I would have given to have this be a two-seater car, so she couldn't do this. Jamie went on and on with his conversation, but to my ears it came out in the hornspeak of the adults in Charlie Brown's world. I darted a hard state at Paris, which was quickly muted. I instead became intoxicated upon seeing her bare lip gloss shine from the yellow mercury street lights streaming from the sunroof, highlighting the perfect pink sheen of those kissable lips.

Closer, closer with her hands...Oh my God! Literally, she was only inches from my center, and I expected her to brush against my clit with her index finger. Getting so damned wet, and hot...

Instead, she went south, barely brushing my lips, and I could sense a somewhat cocky smirk from her as she realized I was without underwear, like she had a feeling I was going to.

I saw the stoplight in the near distance, and tried to push into her, feeling so needy, but she instead went towards the bottom of my weeping lips.

And then lower than that.

Finally, her hand arrived at its destination, and with a broad sweep of her index finger, hidden by only a jacket, I felt her do what I had never expected her to do. She made a slanted stroke of her finger on the right side towards my thigh, and then did the same to the left side. Finally, she made a side stroke with her finger, straight across the space between my opening, right in the middle.

If I thought she was done...she was far from it. With one last movement, her index finger circled the heated flesh that was my clit in a broad stroke.

Not just once, but twice. Clockwise, and counter-clockwise.

Before I could push against her, she yanked her hand away from me, and as my face was heated, left me so wanting of more, while reminding me that I wasn't dealing with a plain woman, but a force of nature.

I was stunned in place as she wiped her hand against my thigh, and pulled completely back, and she reminded me that I could top her in bitchiness, but she was the Queen of bitches. She would not be outdone, and she used all twenty minutes to remind me that.

To finish off this ride with what she did. To draw a landmark in her namesake city along my slit to show that she was not about to want to lose me...

She just drew the Eiffel Tower between your legs! My inner vixen, putting everything in perspective. Now do you really think she has any interest in Jamie? I was literally gasping for breath, so overwhelmed. The Tower is her shorthand signature, so familiar to me from her notes on the paper and proposals that didn't need her full hallmark. You would have never thought she'd have adopted it, as she was so serious about things, but it was a familiar sight to me during proofing sessions and reading over debate transcripts.

But moments before we pulled into the garage of the hotel, she drew it across...across me. The tower in the middle, and the 'flag' as my clit.

I was seriously ready to collapse, and even more, was angry at myself for not listening to her.

She still wanted me. I blew into her, and still, she brushed it off. My heart swelled, and I felt so stupid for what I did.

But she still liked me. The stroke of the symbol was clearly meant to tell me 'I still want you, Ror'. My heart hammered in my chest, and I think from now on, when I thought of her, slant-slant-line-plant will be my personal Pavlov reaction to the thought of her, even if she's anywhere close. I felt so overwhelmed, hot, beyond dazed. I didn't know what to do as we pulled up to the parking garage entrance.

As a matter of fact, I was so out of it, that when my thoughts returned to present time, it wasn't with Paris crawling out of the car and saying goodbye.

It was instead, my girlfriend reasserting control over her sexuality as Jamie tried to pull her into a kiss. I turned around, just in time to see her pull away.

"No, Jamie." She pushed him back.

"Paris, I like you. You had fun, right?" He tried to go back for another kiss, but was again denied as she turned her head away.

"I think some signals were crossed," she began to explain. "I was not expecting to go out with you."

"But your mother said you couldn't think about anyone except me."

Uh, what? Obviously, Sharon must be talking about BizzaroParis, who talks in clichés, has the worst Chilton grades ever, and no morals to be found.

"I know you missed me." Again he went back, and again, he was stopped.

"I did not! Jamie, you were lied to. I enjoyed our date in Washington, but I have no interest in anything right now except my grades." She pushed herself closer to me, hopeful I'd jump in to defend.

As he tried to make hay of the situation, he felt himself struggling to figure out what was happening. "But, she really did say that, you were looking forward to tonight."

"I was?" Paris was in shock. "I don't know what she told you, but I didn't even know you were my date until I met you downstairs. I had no dating plans, I was going stag." I was beginning to feel like I wasn't the only one being played with.

He began to stumble over his words. "But what about your letters? You sent me one every three weeks, I...I have them back at the dorm. You said you missed me." Paris was shaking her head, completely confused and bewildered.

"Letters?" Her eyebrows quirked up in surprise. "Were they...were they typed, or handwritten?"

"Typed up." Where was she going with this question? I wondered.

"What font was used to write them?"

Jamie couldn't understand exactly why he was being asked, but answered to assuage her. "I think it was Times New Roman."

"Are you kidding?" I should probably tell you that Paris is a font geek; she's so typeface-obsessed that she will click out of a webpage if it has one letter in Comic Sans, and certain horrible fonts (in her eyes; to tell you the truth, mine too) are banned from Franklin ads. "That's the font of the lazy! I type up documents in Myriad unless the instructor forces me to write in that godforsaken dull print, and everything I do is on a Mac." Oh, was Paris about to blow a gasket. "That, and I always write letters and correspondence in longhand; it's a lost art. But I'm afraid I didn't send you any notes; I don't even know which dorm you live at." She felt sad for him. "I'm sorry."

He looked down at his hands, beginning to feel played by Mrs. Gellar. He sighed, shaking his head, feeling sad. "So you didn't want you...and I...here tonight? To...you know?"

I paled at the thought of him lead to believe that Paris was going to have sex with him tonight, based on her mother's lies.

Un. Fucking. Believable.

Paris felt herself lurching, a mix of sadness and anger overtaking her. I began to feel so sorry for the guy, played with from a distance like a puppet by Sharon.

Her jaw was clenched as she answered. "That is definitely not my dating modus at all. If my mother told me I was going to sleep with you, she is sorely mistaken. Nothing against you, but personally, I see us only as friends." She also cleared up further things that should have clued him in that he was played. "If I had wanted to start something, I would have given you my cell number. I never conduct anything but what is required over a landline at home, on the off chance she may listen in. I don't like taking that chance."

She was firm, but kind, trying let him down as kindly as she could. "Finally, my mother does not speak for me, Jamie. I speak for myself, and I am terribly sorry if you were misled by her into thinking I harbored feelings for you. I would have thought she would have said something to me, but obviously she's going behind my back."

As Paris tried to soothe him, Jamie was beyond devastated. His heart was crushed, and he vacantly stared down at the floormat below. I wanted him to leave Paris and I alone, but certainly, this was not how I wanted it to be.

The both of us shared in his frustration as he clenched his fists. "So basically, the last four months, I've been penning love notes to her? And she's been writing back as you?" This was cold, this was low, and even more so when Jamie admitted he spurned a girl he was growing attracted to because of Sharon's plan for Paris. "I...I just don't know what to think. I feel horrible for you, Paris, that you got dragged into this arranged thing without your permission. I should have sensed it all night, but I couldn't say anything."

"So, you saw it too?" Paris felt relieved that he was making the observation first. "I thought it was just me, honest!"

"I could tell there wasn't anything between us," he admitted. "When you prepared for a debate this summer, you were iron-willed and determined. Tonight, you just looked fully lost." I was still in shock from everything, feeling horrible for both of them. "Then when you ran out of the ballroom to be alone for that long time, I knew something was up. I looked for you all over, and I thought you were hiding from me."

I began to feel so guilty, for not only hating Jamie, but putting Paris through a living hell that should have never happened. I could just see her, crying in that bathroom, unhappy from the double whammy she had. She frowned, trying to come up with a spin on something.

"It was me, I just felt uncomfortable," she shared, hopefully misdirecting him. "I am really, truly sorry that you came up here and wasted your time, and I hope you can forgive me."

"Paris, there's no need," he assured her, rubbing his hands on top of hers. "You truthfully didn't know, and I feel bad for you. No wonder you didn't want me to come up here and meet her." She laughed a little.

"I did enjoy our date, I won't deny that. But we can't be together. You're Princeton, I'm Harvard, and we're in different cities and circles. Right now, I just don't see myself defined by a guy, and if I would have found out before, I would have gladly saved you the grief."

"I'm just glad that I didn't do something you would certainly regret. I could have never forgiven myself for making love to you when there was nothing there." Jamie was sincere, and I could not begrudge him for wanting to leave us on a high note.  "But now, I can get back on track."

"Eyeing someone up?" Her eyes twinkled with mischief.

"Eh, you could say that." He went on to describe a nice girl from Baltimore he was really wanting to pursue who he had met a couple days after the dud date and had an Internet friendship with. "I'm sure she's taken, but...well, I'm not trying to take anything away from you, but she's pretty."

"Then go for it. You don't know what you have until it's gone."

"And she's not a 48 year-old woman disguised as a teenager," I teased, earning death glares from the both of them. I shook my head towards them. "Hey, just pointing out the obvious here, folks."

"I guess you're both right." We both got out of the car to see him to the door. "I just know that I probably did something to ruin your night, because I noticed you sulking in the corner, Rory."

"We had set jobs, and Sharon's plans ruined them," I explained. "I wasn't expecting to have to watch my friend here dance with you."

He smiled at me, and I was glad to see the jealousy I felt for him quickly dissipate. "You could have said something though. I would have gladly taken any excuse not to dance, because I know I suck."

"Me too. Why didn't you say anything, Gilmore?"

"Because I don't break up dates," I said weakly. "I didn't want to curse you."

"Well, it's all right. Now you two are free to have fun for the rest of the night." He brought Paris into one last friendly hug, to say goodbye to her for the last time, but this time I wasn't going to stop them. "I'm sorry your mother ruined your last Formal for you. I do wish you well though, and I know you'll find someone special one of these days."

"I hope so for you too, Jamie. It didn't work, but we tried. That's the most important thing." She looked up at him, serious. "I do ask one thing though; don't tell her what happened."

"Are you kidding me?! I'm not even telling anyone at Princeton what happened, because they'd have a field day." He shook his head, groaning. "I still can't believe it!"

Paris was curiously self-depreciating. "Well, it's something to tell the grandkids; 'Daddy almost got seduced by a Hartford MILF.'" Of course, she blanched at the very thought of her mother that way. "Seriously, I hope you have a safe drive home tomorrow, and if you ever do want to write a letter to me, the real me, go ahead."

I jumped in myself. "Me too, I welcome them."

"Thank you girls." After a few more goodbyes, the both of us watched him walk into the Capital Hilton, and I felt Paris lean against me once he pushed through the revolving doors, visibly relieved that her horrible date with Jamie was over.

Instead of continuing the sexual flirting behind the jacket further, we both had something else we had to deal with. I was still in shock as I climbed back into the car, and Paris slid against me on my left side, having to keep good humor up wearing her down quickly as she digested the details.

"I can't fucking believe her." She seethed quietly against me, so riled up. "I just can't. What possessed her to lie to him about me?"

"I'm not sure--"

"I have a reputation to uphold, a family name, a bloodline, and I will do so. But for her to create this bullshit where I want a guy I wanted to be only friends with, under my name. What the fuck is she thinking?" She was about to cry again, this time from anger rather from hurt. "Is it too much for her to actually, you know...talk to me? To know my needs and understand just how much I don't care about men? She stole my good name and almost got us into a very dangerous situation, all three of us!" I ran my fingers through her hair as Henrico decided to circle downtown, waiting for us to tell him where to go next. "I actually have to pay my accountant $20,000 a year to keep a constant eye on my credit report, because I'm afraid Sharon's going to try to defraud me. I have to hide my accounts, I can't even keep a checkbook, and I have a Canadian bank account in Nova Scotia so I can draw funds without her questions. What if she hadn't been trolling for a date for me, but something else?" I hated seeing her like this, freaking out, her stomach in twists. "Trust me when I say I did not want this at all. I didn't even know she was planning this."

"I know, I know." I massaged her back, running my hand across the smooth skin as I tried to calm her down. "Paris, I just want to say--"

"Rory, you can save it. There is nothing you have to apologize for, because we were manipulated."

Still, I had to say something. I didn't want to leave a festering wound in our relationship. "But I was a bitch, jealous of you and Jamie, and that you were going to dump me for him. I acted like a shrew, not even letting you get in an explanation. I felt so guilty all through the ride here, and I was sure that you don't want anything to do with me again." I began to ramble further. "There was absolutely no excuse for me to be so mean to you, ever. You couldn't help it, and I should have just trusted you. But I didn't, and I can't help but blame myself for this night going from bad to worse.

"I don't know how I can make this up to you. I wouldn't blame you if you denied me affection for the next week or so, your sneaks notwithstanding. I don't think I deserve you because I acted so much like...like..." I just couldn't say the name, clamming up, my throat drying at even the urge to utter the name.

Paris jumped in. "No." She was calming down. She brought herself close, eschewing the seatbelt just to be close to me.

"You can't deny I was--"

"Let's clear something up here; you will never be like Dean to me, ever. No matter how angry you might get, or the jealousy that might take you over, you will never take all of his traits." Explaining further, she reminded me of how he discouraged me to shoot higher academically, made me feel idiotic for having my own views when it came to women's rights, even my choice in television shows. "Just because you became irrational at the sight of a guy with me, that's visceral and expected. If we were vice versa, you with the guy and I was misinformed, I would have probably done the same thing." I felt her press up against me, close and intimate, the conversation echoing through the divided interior of the towncar. She continued to describe how she usually thought of me as being angry

"Now I know how you are, Gilmore. I remember when you came into the school and beat yourself up over that D you got in Medina's class. But you fought back, clawed tooth and nail to prove him wrong. You got in my face and told me I was stupid for making fun of you because you were five minutes late, but still ready for the test. You didn't back down, and despite all of the Byzantine regulations of Chilton, you got to retake it. Three days later, you stopped by locker with a smile on your face, with the test paper in hand, marked with a 97."

I still remember that moment, where for the first time I showed I was staying, and she would not be the one to force me out Chilton. "You gave it to me, and right in front of Madeline and Louise, reminded me that I only scored a 95. As I looked in shock at the paper..."

"I said 'Meet your living hell, Gellar', and smirked, to show you could demean me all you wanted, but I wouldn't let you get to me." I felt so powerful, and smiled at the memory. "The look on your face as you gave back the paper and just silently walked away, that was priceless!" She pushed closer to me, rolling her eyes at how confident I was.

"I was stewing for a week after." She smiled, and I felt her hands slide against my arms. "But I couldn't tonight. I was hurt after you said that, but after talking to Madeline, I realized we weren't in a drama situation, just a comedy of errors."

I felt that description was accurate. "It wasn't very funny though." I asked her how Madeline reacted to us being a couple.

"She seems fine with it, we make a good couple and all of that. Apparently, she also has a secret thing going on herself."

"With who?" She said Maddy and Brad were together, and I laughed at being proved right. "I told you they were seeing each other!"

"You did, but I couldn't believe you."

"Yeah, but two months ago, you couldn't see us together," I reminded her. "Now look at us, we've already had our first fight, but it turned out to be so silly."

"Actually, I don't think it was silly."

Suddenly, she pushed the seatbelt button and helped to retract the belt from across my dress back into the reel. I felt rather confused, and a bit scared from how she was looking at me. Not to mention I felt rather dangerous without a seatbelt on.

"Um, Par? What are you doing?" I bit my lip as she pushed against me, encouraging me to slide my left leg onto the seat. "Uh, you do realize we're in a moving car, right?"

"I've just digested this whole night through my mind," she said, her voice in that dangerously sultry tone of hers. "I had such wonderful things in store for us before Sharon blew everything that I had planned." I shuddered beneath her, a bit apprehensive about what she was going to say.

"I had plans of sneaking touches and glances at you all night long...of meeting you at the punch bowl and bending down, so you could finally be able to eye me up in public." I had tried to avoid staring at her deep cleavage all night through my rage, but with her front and center, I just had to stare. She went for the same effect she had from the sophomore Formal, a deep line down each breast. There was a difference this time though, in that she had her breasts a bit more pushed up, and the material over them was at least 1/4 less. Her tan from Ormond Beach helped amplify the effect of how beautiful she looked, the dark skin seeming to go perfect with the light green. I brought my hands across the smooth material along her abdomen, enjoying the feel of it within my hands. She watched me closely, deliberating her flirting.

"I was going to tell you our friend at the Secret recommended a dress shop in Windsor Locks after I told her I had the Formal, and she cursed me out for thinking dowdy was best. She wanted me to stand out, and pre-warned the owner of that shop with my measurements and body frame. When I arrived there after dropping you off at the grandparents last night I thought I was going to be stuck trying on dress after dress, but she had this one picked out for me already." My breath caught as her hand slipped across my legs. "I tried it on, and immediately, it was love at first fit. I've never had that with a dress before, beyond the one from the dance marathon. The dress shop owner suggested one other thing to go with it, as a lure."

"Your perfume?" She nodded, as I inhaled the aroma from her décolletage. It had a mix of a floral and sweet fragrances mixed together, such a heady mix, perfect on her body. "It was getting to me, I just didn't say anything."

"Of course, I had on makeup, but it was kind of ruined." She felt a bit apprehensive about having to clean it off because of her crying. "I hope it didn't dim the effect." My gaze scraped northward, and really, I couldn't tell at all she had been crying. I also only saw her makeup from a distance only before our argument, so I didn't really notice.

"Par, you're beautiful as you are. Makeup is just an accentuation for you, not a definition." My fingers wandered along her sides as she placed her left hand against my knee, while running her fingers through my hair.

"All night, I wanted to be alone with you, to do something. I was actually under the impression your bathroom trip was a hint to be intimate, but obviously that was wrong." I found her sliding her hand closer to the inner portion of my thigh as she pushed above my knee. "After Madeline convinced me to go back into the hall, I was stuck with just Jamie, and my thoughts, stewing as I watched you." I couldn't say a word as she wove the scene. "I wanted you pressed against me, dancing in time with the music, my hand starting innocently above your waist, but sliding down with each revolution. I tightened up, thinking about you with me, your anger at me guiding me on.  I should not be thinking of possession as a turn-on, but it was." She fluttered her eyes, sucking her stomach in. "I kept watching towards that corner, waiting for the moment where you'd yank me off to the coat room and show that I was yours."

I couldn't stand what she was doing to me, using my tantrum as fantasy fuel. I could feel myself tightening, lust beginning to overtake me as I felt myself aroused from her ability to construct the night into something else entirely. "I wanted those hands against my hips, your chin against my shoulder." She pushed me down further, hitching my dress up along my thigh. "To press yourself against me, in such a public situation. Something that would get the rumor mill going, but just as a tease. Nothing to push the suspisions."

I began to realize what she was doing, her teasing more cavalier as she pushed deeper into her naughty talk. "I imagine you, dreaming of yourself as the innocent girl of your community, when it's clear you're not. You think about me, every moment of every day, in very interesting situations." I didn't understand where she was going, beyond up my thigh with her hand, which I was powerless to stop. "Your mind Is just filled with so many naughty situations, isn't it?"

"If only you knew," I uttered in a breathy whisper. "I've even thought of you and me against the lockers, schooling Summer on the lost art of making out."

"I couldn't do that," Paris admitted. "I have no need to rub it in to anyone. I enjoy you as I do, privately."

"You're a romantic." I hmm'ed, giving her a seductive look. "So there's no way I could push you against anything and get you to stand on one foot?"

"Well, you have to find the appropriate buttons," she demurred. "But we have plenty of time for that." I felt the air rushing up through my dress, the article being slid up me, while her other hand was at my side, near the zipper holding me within the dress. "But for now, I have the upper hand."

I felt I did owe her for earlier, and allowed her the control. "You do." I expected her to push in for a kiss eventually...

But I was surprised as just as she was about to caress my mound, she pulled away from me, retracting both of her hands, and backing up towards the left side of the car quickly, retreating. She left me stunned, and I wondered her intentions as she kept her eyes upon me.

The sudden shift in her mood was unexpected, as her voice went from soft, to terse within moments. But really, I couldn't blame her, because of the reason she had to pull away.

Namely, her stomach was empty, and it was growling. And uh, loudly. Let it be known that for once, her hunger wasn't sexual, and she blushed in embarrassment at her predicament. She broke apart from me, putting her hands in her lap as she tried to recover, nervously going back to her Tristan-era sexual self.

"Umm..." Her facial expression took on a frown/smile mix, as she felt herself odd to want to satisfy her craving for something. "As you can tell, Jamie didn't take me out to eat."

I shook my head, smiling at her. "Have you had anything since lunch?"

"Not really." She sighed towards me, and got out her phone. "But thankfully, I have something in mind. How about fish and chips?"

"Anywhere fancy?" I wondered, immediately thinking about something on par with a Red Lobster.

"Actually, this nice place in Berlin my father frequents, the Berlin Fish Market. They double batter their fish and serve those thick fries I just enjoy. Trust me Gilmore, it's to die for." She began to dial out as I laughed at her new wonderment at the foods she used to call 'silent killers'.

"I never thought you one to enjoy fried fish."

She darted a look at me as she waited for an answer from the phone. "There are plenty of other things I enjoy." She followed up with her secret smile, then a scan with her eyes down my body. It looked like the tension was beginning to melt away, as she darted a look at the cleavage peering out from my dress. She kept her stare still after the fish market picked up. "Yes, it's for Gellar. Mm-hmm, I'm Harold's daughter..." She went on to order a three-piece perch meal for both of us, along with sodas, and a cod dinner for Henrico, talking with the order taker happily like the person on the other end was an old friend.

I couldn't help but stare at her lips as she talked, being a mere spectator to her and enjoying the drone of her voice, along with how she used her mouth to make her point. Of course, that brought me back to how she teased me Monday morning in the Jag backseat, and I rolled my eyes back. I felt myself going back to that moment, skirt wrapped around my waist, thankful that I had taken that shower Friday night to trim after the fitting, where I realized my previous pattern wasn't enough to go with my newly-acquired items.

I thought about her tongue...that talented thing. Oh man, I have such a mouth fixation with her, down to her perfect teeth, nipping against my lips while she suckled the flesh surrounding them. Of her voice, also. I think of how she spilled over when I hummed against her clit atop of her desk and got wet at the thought.

Comparing my voice to hers though is like comparing star fruit to a pear. I haven't had the diction classes she's had over the years, and I know her voice has been well trained to be commanding and fair, even and firm, filled with the class she imparts in everything that she does. I hear shades of Katherine Hepburn of it, of Old Money, distinction, independence. Her voice is stronger than even my grandmother's, and she speaks intelligently, evenly, and never missing one beat in her words.

Fuck, imagine that throat rattling her tongue against me as she speaks. If my voice vibrates, Paris's quakes and registers like Loma Prieta. I'll even admit that I've taped her during Franklin and student gov meetings with my micro-cassette recorder under the impression of recording the minutes, and turned up the volume, placed it against my body, and stroked myself while trying to 'feel' her voice. I think it was the voice that did it to me to begin with, as after Tristan left, I listened to her more and fell in love with her speaking voice. From there, I saw the woman in front of me, and everything else began to fall into place.

Alone, her saying my name, she's the best at it, be it Lorelai, Rory, or Ror. Even in the bathroom as she begged for forgiveness, the stab I felt when she said my name in desperation before I coldly ended the conversation still threw that familiar sting of desire through me. She's perfected speaking to me down to an art, and she knows how it gets me. It always gets my attention, no matter the tone or emotion behind it.

I don't know why I'm putting so much into this thought. I mean, it's just her voice, not something like her breasts. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy every single part of her, but just her talking reminds me that the girl behind that voice isn't just some future heiress, but a woman with her own destiny in mind, to make herself the sixth generation in Harvard, past Jewish quotas be damned. Her family has already proven themselves over the years, and I have a stake in the next girl to create a nice, long and powerful branch on her family tree which with almost 99% certainty goes back to the Sephardis who came to New York a mere thirty years after the first of  the Hayden lineage landed at Plymouth (allegedly; I think it's a tall tale actually).


Her voice is breathless, yet domineering. I don't even know what to say to her at all, and I just want to hear it forever.


Yeah, so hot, keep talking to me, baby. I love it when you speak my name...and when you scream it...

"Oh my God...Rory!"

Why is her voice getting so soft, and what is wrong? It's getting so tight, what is...

I suddenly realize that I've not been in a reality since I began to take in her food order, and that my eyes are shut. Not to mention, my throat is abnormally dry. Obviously, I had a sudden blackout from going on the tangent about her voice, what I was thinking probably overheating a brain so used to romance cutting away at the perfect moment before the editor got out his censorship pen.

So why do I feel so clammy? The air in the car had been so dry. Suddenly my head feels cool, and my brow is dripping, along with my underarms...

Of which on my right side, is pushed against me, hard.

Trailing down to my arm, I realize it's not at all at my side, like I assumed that it was.

It's nowhere near my side.

Uh, did I mention that there's a huge rush of cold air going up my legs? Or that the reason for that is that my dress is hiked 3/4 up my thighs?

Or that my hand...

Oh fuck.

Look at Paris, look at Paris. She must be thinking you’re a goddamn loonball right now...

What the hell was I thinking about during that pause? I need to ask her, she must think I'm beyond multi-faceted abnormal!

Wait, why is she looking at me like that? She's close to me in the middle of the seat, and she's looking at me with...I've never seen that look on her face before at all. I know all of her expressions, how her face scowls, and how high she smiles, but never before...

Her eyes look dilated, and far gone. Her mouth, opened wide, yet she bites at the inside of her lip. Her breath is heavy, and she's panting, hard. Her cheeks are red, and she's just looking me...down and up. My own face is wrinkled, as if I was in the middle of something...

When I look down towards her breasts, her chest raises high and low, hard breaths swelling her as far out as she'll go. Her throat is tightened in, and her nipples...I will just say that whatever was shielding her behind the satin of the dress, it really wasn't working.

She was stunned, and cold, looking at me in a way I have never known. I don't know how long it takes her to speak again as she tries to regain her bearings.

I wouldn't blame her if it took the rest of the night. But if she doesn't say anything for two minutes, she thinks she's lost her voice in the world...

"So my voice, eh?" Firm and direct, yet with a small sense of mirth within.

"What about your voice?" I didn't think I said a word...

"I was trying to tell you that the order would be ready by the time we got there, but suddenly you were blacking out and you seemed to be..." She directed her look down, "involved."

"Are you sure?" Says the girl with the dampened hand and heated clitoris like a lump between her legs.

She stares at me, like I had possibly gone Sybil on her. "So you have absolutely no idea that you asked me to keep talking, because quote, 'it gets me so fucking wet'?"

My eyes are wide. No, definitely not me. At least in reality. I'm like a sailor in my dreams. "No," I squeaked out smally.

"Or that if I was a sexual phone operator, I'd need to charge $100 per minute because everyone would come within 38 seconds from my voice?" Oh God!

Another squeaky "No."

She's moving closer to me...what happened to the tension from earlier? And why do her breasts seem suddenly swelling within her dress? "So you couldn't have heard me say after I hung up, I saw you pushed hard against the back of your seat, gown hiked up your pale legs, fingers gliding within yourself, and you had no idea that I was watching you confess that you used minutes recordings for jilling material?"

This was getting to be a routine. "No."

"Why aren't you finishing then?" She's looking at me, stopping me from pulling down my dress in embarrassment. "If a simple food order can get your trigger going, I think I'll have to hold off reading the Constitution as a bedtime story for at least a few months."

"Paris..." I felt mortified. "This is embarrassing, I shouldn't--"

"I hope the next word is 'stop', because..." She scrapes her fingers across my left arm, moving her lips within inches of mine. "This is exactly what I was looking forward to for tonight. Nothing else."

"Hearing that I have a voice kink?" Internally, I'm freaking out majorly. I'm composed and have a good head on my shoulders, I shouldn't be blacking out. "I let my mind wander, I'm--"

"Going to masturbate until you can't stand it anymore." She lays a kiss against my lips, soft, just enough to show that she's going to be verbally aggressive towards me. "And yes, I said masturbate. It's hardly a crude term at all when you think about it. I don't understand why it has to be hidden under all of these girly terms. For instance, petting the kitty?" She scoffed. "Really? Petting the kitty. Believe me, I understand that kitty is synonymous with cat, and in turn, pussy, but let's review the facts here; I've never had a cat. Madeline had a cat. When I've petted it, it certainly hasn't been in the way I've 'petted' my so-called 'kitty'. You can call it Sherman for all I care, but it's still a pussy, and all the cutesy words in the world aren't going to cover that up!"

Paris, stop it, fighting that damn urge...fighting that fucking urge! And stop blatantly showing your boobs right in front of me!

"I never understood why anyone would coin it a beaver either. I've examined an actual beaver, and as far as I know, the human vagina neither has bucked teeth or a flat tail. The short fur, yes, that is an apt comparison, but that's about it. But if you went with that broad criteria, you could apply it to a hedgehog also, and frankly the only image that inspires that comparison comes every twenty-eight days or so..."

She takes this opportunity to undo the few complicated pins holding her hair within an upswept bob, going east-west around her head as she begins to let her hair fall down. I can feel the breath from her speech fall against my chest, and a few words come out strong, flinging droplets of her saliva across it. I'm letting myself fall back into her speech as she goes on further with the nickname topic.

"Frankly, the best slang I've found to describe how we fuck ourselves, it has to be double-clicking the mouse. Now, I'm not into teen sex comedies at all, but it's just perfect, and it aptly describes how I both drag the cursor within the space of my trackpad, along with manipulating around my clit." She's adding a bit of a sexual commanding husk on as I press my index and middle just below my button. "The term in itself suggests an accomplishment, like after you click on an icon, you start something up you really want, say a web browser window or composing an electronic mail or instant message..."

I love how she never abbreviates anything, it adds even more words for me to get me hot to...

"Sometimes it doesn't work, like if some stupid slow program is hanging everything up, but you can fix that easily in both circumstances. Boot the task from the Task Manager, or reposition yourself. Sometimes you just don't have enough room to navigate, and you're crowded in. But you make do, because your thigh makes just as good a mousepad, or you manipulate so that in the tight spot, you can still get yourself off. Frankly if you let yourself wait, the high disappears. You need to go further, whether you like it or not, and just finish yourself off."

I seethe her name through my teeth, my fingers tightening within me. "Paris...more..."

"Then, there was tonight, while you were watching me with Jamie. A missed opportunity to buff the pearl in the way you seem to enjoy so much."

What was she talking about? I continued to stroke, circling my clit with my thumb, my eyes focused on her, but I did force out a response.

"Are you kidding...me?"

She was surprisingly unshakable, her voice remaining steady.

"You're not being serious, are you? For at least an hour and a half, you did not sit in that chair, just focusing on the adventures of Madam Bovary and not think, 'Gee, I wonder if that girl whose current date I want to pummel with a test cricket bat is repeating what she did two years ago as far as what's residing against her bum? Is she wearing anything beneath that dress? And how does it feel for her, compared to me? I'm surprised I'm in public without panties, and I don't see the big deal about attending social events like her without them on. Never mind that she goes without just to keep the focus off her ass and that pantylines to her are a true imperfection. She might not be vain, but she's not stupid; look at her brain, not her booty.'"

I can't believe I'm doing this, with her driver behind a partition and disobeying the passing signs to 'Buckle Up!'. I'm listening to her dialogue, focusing my eyes on her delicious mouth, watching her tongue click atop the roof of her mouth. I'm grunting and panting her name, hearing the suction of my pussy as she goes on and on, while suggesting panties to her are like her tight bras after school, annoying. She can't push it any further, can she?

"Even when I was forced to go to that horrible party your grandmother threw for you just after you arrived at Chilton, I didn't need to wear any. When I look back on that day, I don't remember the bitterness, the hate I had for you at the time. I imagine you and I, pushing into the game room, both of us so turned on, while you're so pissed off over Emily, over Tristan, over me, but yet, you're willing to fuck even your worst enemy to expel the stress. Onto the pool table, the triangle digging against your back as I lift the green overdress off from you, and unzip what you wore under to get at you. Your hands find their way beneath the wool hem of my own dress, and hitch it up until I'm almost exposed. But damn my mother for making me wear fucking pantyhose that night, how dare she, beyond a whine that I would freeze without them on."

Shit...overload. She has dreams of messing with her past, imagining herself deflowering me on the day I turned 16. She's so crude, yet...so very articulate about how we go about it. Her voice is taking on that possessive growl.

"You deal with them rather quickly, however, grabbing at the nylon, tearing a hole across them, freeing my cunt." She's doing the leg uncrossing...my eyes are wandering down. "Your fingers plunge in, and I'm so gone, immediately. I slide my own two between your thick curls. It's nothing loving, just anger and lust buried within, a wanting to know how Madeline, Louise, Tristan, how those three feel when they're in this depraved act. We bite, scratch, claw, and I leave a trail of marks across your form, two months older than mine. I whisper into your ear...'I hope your sixteenth is sweet, because you taste that way to me.'"

I'm rubbing myself, faster...faster. Her legs are still open, nipples so fucking still against the bodice of her dress.

"I manipulate our past often when I get myself off...the concert, we shove off to a bathroom under the stage. Madeline's party, I beat Tristan to get at you, and your body leaves a indelible print on the surface of that 115 year-old Steinway as you make Don Music seem like a competent composer with your feet smashing against those keys. Even the date with Tristan, I fuck up for my own depravity. I changed out of my clothes at your home, in your bathroom, but leave your mom's on the toilet seat. I walk out of the bathroom fully nude."

My eyes are tightening shut, my weeping quim inundated, my fingers cramped as I push in-out in-out, my clit swollen so hard.

"I tell you I don't need your pity..." Pushing back to be close to me. "But I do need you."

"And that will never change. Ever. Because, Lorelai Leigh Gilmore, if I ever say that I don't, it's a goddamned lie." She's straddling across me on both sides, one hand on the suit hook above the door, the other against the seat. Paris's cleavage...up close and personal, I can strongly smell her perfume. "I think of you now, every second of every minute, every minute of every hour, every hour of every day, of every week, and finally, of every week of every year." I can clearly see the pink outline of the top of her nipples, down her dress. I'm circling my clit as if I need the release immediately.

"I do not want you to ever doubt what I feel for you, ever again. I am ready to tell you..."

She comes in for one last kiss, forcing her tongue within my mouth and escalating it as I begin to feel the contractions begin. I'm bumping up and down against the seat, the rubbing so overwhelming.

Paris forces in a little more, pushing her tits against mine within the dress, we have no space to spare. The last of the braids falls from her hair, leaving the top of her head a sloppy mess, but a hot and sloppy mess. I'm closing my eyes again.

"I want you to be mine for as long as you'll have me." I have three inside now. "When you see me with another guy, I'm thinking of you. With another woman, I'm thinking of you. Anywhere...just you, baby. I think of you." One more kiss. "Come for me, let me see you spill out, come on! Please, just for your Par-Bear, the one you want to snuggle up with at night against her chest."

I love her encouragement.

"Fuck...Paris...Par...oh damn!"

"I want to be the only one to ever see you this way..."

"Baby girl..." I don't even know how to censor myself anymore...

"That's right, I'm your little baby, I'm your baby girl. You're my mama, teaching me what to do, how to let my heart come out to play. To be passionate...to be sexual, frank, honest, to feel beautiful."

Oh yessss...yesss, oh lord....I've got a nickname from her, and I'm almost there. I can't even say anything, I'm reduced to gasps and curses!

"And to know that there's someone out there who loves me for who I am." I can feel it bubbling, up, up, up....

"Par...baby girl..."

One more kiss, a deeper one...oh my God...

Another pause, I don't know what's happening.

"I love you, Rory Gilmore."

An echo through my mind. Three words.

Oh my God.

I think that did it. I hear her say what she's wanted to admit for months.

That's the trigger point. I can't stop this orgasm from overtaking me, as she presses hard against me, physically and emotionally with her words.

I think I'm about to cry.

And I am, hard as everything hits home. The four letter word, in my mind, as I feel the heat between my legs spill forth against the back of my dress. I'm shrieking, cursing God's name.

Never has this happened. Ever. I'm overcome.

Her words have gotten to me, the tease through her sexy voice. She knows how to get me off just right, and this is definitely beyond words. I can't say a damn thing. Two hours off what would have been the end of everything, and she's shown me the light.

Literally. I see a white light within my closed eyes. My stomach sucked in as I feel the buildup of two days overcome me. I'm gone, I'm coming, I'm wanted.

I'm loved.

And I'm crying as I begin to settle down. Yet I'm afraid of what to say next. Do I admit the same? Do I wait?

Do I--

She's kissing me softly, upon my forehead, and my temple, the tip of my nose. The come down feels sticky and hot, but yet, it is a wonderful afterglow, as I let myself cry, feeling so overwhelmed by her voice. Just her voice, and my fingers, and her kisses.

Along with her love.

"Ror, don't say a word." She's caring, the demanding voice gone, replaced with her rare soft tone. "I don't need to hear you now, I'll wait."

"But--but..." Disorientated, undone, my hair sticking against me. "I thought."

"I love you for sharing that with me," she coos. "To let me watch, to enjoy you as you are. I don't need to hear it. I will not pressure." I was shocked, she's usually so demanding.

"Paris, did I?" I left the question hanging. I'm letting the tears fall freely, as she helps me fix the dress and brings me against her, in a tight hug.

"You did scare me tonight," she admitted. "I was so afraid, petrified. I had been holding it to my heart for a least the last three weeks, since you defended me. I don't want to lose you, hon." I'm beginning to relax, and she grabs tissue from the console dispenser to help cleanse me. "I know you needed that. You get cranky when stressed, and always, it's a natural stress reducer."

"How much do you..." I hang the statement again, the petrifaction at saying the word still blocking my desire.

"I can't say an exact range. But I'll tell you it broke the Range Game and Bob Barker's blowing a fucking gasket at me." I laugh a little, but my sides hurt from my coming, so I have to settle down, since I feel that dizzy sting in my head. "I'm not afraid to be myself with you, dear. You see me for who I am, and tonight when I was crying after Maddy found me, I knew I had to fight to get you back." Her body is warm, soothing. I love to be against her...

"You won, baby girl. You won me back." I continue to cry against her, visibly and emotionally spent from her sharing so much with me. "I'm sorry I was--"

She lays a kiss upon my lips, interrupting me before I can continue to apologize further. I know she says I don't have to, but I must. She's stopping me, though. Another kiss, and she pulls back from me, her lashes lowered and regarding me as the most beautiful thing she's ever laid her eyes on.

"We have at least two and a half hours before we must be home," she mentions, and for once I'm thankful Lorelai dropped curfew for once, mentioning that I should enjoy the night and she would trust me. "Just as long as you get home before the bars close," she said. "My mother expects me to not even walk in that door until after one, and for once, I'm going to push it." She smoothes my dress out along my lap, my raspy breathing still heavy.

"So that means..." I thought about the time schedule and the layout of the rest of the night.

"We're rebooting the night." She compares it to a video game. "Irrational jealousy just put us on a different path, the long detour. This night will end right, I know it."

For the first time since the moment I saw Jamie, I could smile without any guilt, feeling it all freed up from me. "I know it will. It's started off on a good note." I was now thinking about it since my blacking out, with her admission of her love for me. As we broke apart, I felt a renewal that no matter what Sharon did to muck up things for her, Paris would not let anything get in her way. I looked at her, so beautiful, her hair out of the odd bun from earlier, curled down across her shoulders. I'm taken aback by her every time I see her, and there's nothing she could ever do or say to kill my high from her saying 'I love you, Rory Gilmore'...

"One thing though. I'm asking for some moist towelettes when we pick up our food."

"Well, of course, fish can be messy." That's when I saw her eyes wander southbound, and she clears her throat.

"Not for that." She giggles a bit at me, and umm, yeah. Obviously I've been so unfulfilled for so long within a relationship, I didn't know that when I have an orgasm, I really have one!

I shake my head and dart a dirty look towards her. "You're not exactly spic and span yourself there, hon."

She opens her mouth wide, surprised by my audacity. "Excuse me, but I feel like I have some semblance of control over my fulfillment!" She slugs me on the arm.

"For now you do," I suggest darkly, moving close to her ear. "One day, you're going to scream from me, and you'll be feeling it for days." I lick her earlobe, chuckling as I move back, and see her roll her eyes up. Obviously, she doesn't believe that whenever I do so, I will make her brain melt into a puddle.

"I'd like to see you try," she comes back, and I feel like I finally have the last word to win the argument.

"Oh, you know you'd love me for it," I respond sweetly, crossing my legs and putting my seatbelt back on. Now I can throw her confession of love right back, and be all smug and high in front of her.

And for the next three hours, we're all alone, beyond a driver who won't say a word about us because he cares about her, but also because you don't mess with Paris, ever.

I already have things in mind, and trust me when I say this will be a Formal night we'll never forget. I know it's burned into my mind permanently, taking the place of my hate for that damned Barbie that said Math is hard.

A memory I don't mind losing, because I now have someone can undress and do whatever I want to, and I'm not about to pull her head off.

And she loves me.

I now have a true lover.

God, I love her...

Paris's POV, 12:30am-1:00am

I have never had a crazier evening than I had tonight.

I'm being truthful here. Every night I've lived, compared to this, has been calm and collected compared to December 7, 2002.

Not even the night Louise caught some kind of illness and feared she was pregnant, forcing Madeline and I to her house at 2:30am in the morning with 3 CVS-bought test kits in hand (along with a $50 bribe to shut the clerk up), having to calm her down as she swore she would never, ever have sex again.

When she didn't see the line though, she kept her schedule and had another guy after she felt better, three days later. That night also changed Madeline's attitude towards sex, and since then she's been so very cautious.

I tell you this, because this happened only seven months ago. I've never told Rory, and neither has Madeline, because of a vow to Louise to never say anything. Louise is playing with fire right now, and I'm just thankful that Madeline has veered away from Lou's current course. Even if in my mind I'd rather she go out with anyone but Brad, he is good for her. Her grades are up, her eyes are on the prize, and she's finally under the impression that she can do good in this world, and I know she will.

But I was even more surprised to see her so accepting of Rory as my girlfriend. I didn't think of her as willing to accept it, remembering her 'fuck off, pervert, I'm not a lez' comment when guys circled her and Louise at a party, hoping they'd kiss. However, in the conversation in the bathroom when I brought it up, she said she just meant it to get the men away from her, not as her feelings at all.

"I would never hate anyone attracted to the same sex," she explained. "I really don't see what the big deal is about gay marriage being fought and everything. I'd think the wedding industry would love it, and if those in denial would marry someone they loved if they were their own sex, I think we wouldn't see as much divorce. I hate divorce, it's so mean, and any lawyer involved with divorce is an asshole."


"Well, not your father's, she fought the good fight for him. Your mom's on the other hand...grrr." She finished her point. "You should be happy. But you shouldn't be happy because you denied yourself other happiness. Rory has been good for all of us, but most of all, she's been good for you. I think you need to tell her that tonight if she gets her head out of her ass."

"But you know her issues with admissions," I explained. "You don't remember two years ago with Dean?"

"Paris," she reminded me calmly. "He did it in the wrong way, in the classical big buildup where she had almost no choice and would've been the bitch if she said nothing, and she was stuck. He didn't say it in a normal moment at all, and if I was in that position with him, I'd be petrified. But you have all this momentum with her, where nothing can go wrong."

This would be the turning point in stopping me from just leaving Rory in the lurch. "Now, if you two can clean up things just right, follow your heart, look at her, and know from there if the moment is right." She set her hand against my shoulder, and I saw her be all I needed to be; a friend giving me advice I truly needed. "I know you have issues with Sharon and Tristan was a big quagmire, but from what you've said about her tonight, this is you being humble, human, and wanting of her. You've asserted your femininity with her, and the both of you, there's no shyness beyond the romantic kind. You're no longer the girl who slid down her locker just because Tristan greeted you. You're happy with her, and you should tell her that."

"If you're sure," I said, scared about what was to happen after I called Lorelai to start the plan to get her back.

"You have to be." We then went on to talk about said plan, and she gave me the idea to call Lorelai, and eventually, I was back to being able to shorten Rory's name again, along with being her lover.

Also, I said the three words. Words, which I had never used with anyone else before.

I remember pausing just a bit before I said them, wondering if she was ready or not. Just a half-hour after being pissed at me, she was getting herself off in front of me, to the sound of my voice. I said them tentatively, knowing something could turn one way or another. I also prepared myself just in case she felt it was the wrong time, that if she reacted wrong, she would know that I wasn't going to leave her at all. That like I told her earlier, this wasn't a situation like she was in with Dean. I've been hurt myself, and I know how she felt to have someone abandon her coldly.

But she responded positively, despite not returning them at my behest. Through it all, we have solidified our bond further. We're both so full of tension, and again being affectionate. I'm sure Henrico in the front is wondering if he'll score combat pay for having to deal with two horny women (the answer to that is him and his family will have quite the Christmas this year), and I can tell that he's happy for me, though behind the partition I'm sure he was playing his music cassettes as loud as he could without interrupting our own harmony. Still, I know he doesn't mind, and that he's just as angry at Sharon as I am.

Frankly, that Rory and I recovered as much as we did is a miracle, considering how cold she had been to me up until I pointed out her lack of a cell phone. But we have, and with Madeline encouraging me further, if I had ignored her advice I may have done something I might have regretted. Not only sleeping with Jamie out of spite for Ror (I actually considered it, but for two seconds), but that I would have just left without a word and let the situation fester until Rory and I were further broken apart and only would unite on the stage at graduation.

But I kept her. I used a mix of my education, and my newly found skills in the art of flirting and driving her up a wall to win her back. A month ago, I would not have pictured myself using my shorthand sig against her vagina, but it worked. It riled her up, and it got her to think that I still saw things her way.

Of course, it left me feeling tight once I realized she decided to take my cue and go to the Formal without panties on. I swear, Gilmore looks innocent and pure if you just look at her. But inside, she's making me feel like the Big Bad Wolf leering at Tex Avery's Red Hot Riding Hood.

At least this time, everything doesn't end with me being cornered by her horny grandma: I apologize profusely if your thoughts wandered to Emily behaving like that.

But I'm glad that after we talked out the tension and she got out her other tension, I was also able to eat, finally. I was so hungry for my fish and chips, and it was well worth it to finally take in another one of my culinary guilty pleasures besides mac and cheese. Rory was just as hungry, and we enjoyed our dinners on the way to the Hollow (no, I did not forget Henrico and he ate too), talking about homework things and about layout plans for Formal coverage in the next Franklin issue. Although I wasn't able to see the event on the sidelines like I thought I would, it seemed like a success, since we also had a toy drive component where a new toy could be brought in at the ticket sale for a discount. We had so many toys we filled the barrel, and the last-minute attendees filled it again, forcing us to use a spare foot locker from the locker room. I think we did well as far as fundraising, and thanks to new security I think we'll do a lot better controlling fights between morons than we had the past few years.

However, none of that was on my mind at all. I was surprised that Rory asked me to go home, rather than hang out somewhere in Hartford.

"Doesn't everything close by eight?" I asked.

"You're right." She smiled towards me. "But I know somewhere that's open almost all night." When I asked she didn't say a word, so I was left in a fog of mystery as to where the rest of the night would lead. I couldn't think of anything except her having Luke stay open late, but I know the guy's a sucker for punctuality and always closes by around 8:30. When I asked where we were headed to, she shook her head. I was left to my own devices, and due to my limited knowledge as to the layout of Stars Hollow's plat and businesses, I was left to think we might be headed for a Laundromat for all I knew.

Which of course, connected to thoughts of Rory naked while her dress was in the spin cycle. Frustration, she is a cruel goddess.

With our food finished and the time at about 11:30pm, Rory guided Henrico past Monty, local steel rooster/directional landmark, and had him drive towards the town square until we were at the west side of the circle surrounding the gazebo in the center of the town.

"We're here," she said cheerfully.

"How long do we need?"

"Um, could you have him meet you at 1:15am at my house?" I smiled, and hit the button on the intercom to speak to him.


"Un quince en un treintados Carril de Cerezas. Estaré allí, daré o tomaré algunos minutos."

"Sí, Senorita Gellar. Buena tarde a ti y a Senorita Gilmore."

"Gracias." We left the car, and he drove off, as Rory regarded me oddly.

"You enjoy speaking their language, don't you?" she asked, and I nodded.

"Rory, I'm not like your grandmother who thinks of maids in the same way as utility outfielders. At least 80% of the staff of the Manor has been there since I've been born, and 35% were serving my grandfather and my daddy when he was a child in the 60s. We love to think of them as family, and beyond my mother, they've always been treated fairly and enjoy their employment with us. Fran, for instance was hired by my father based on a friend's recommendation when his wife went into labor in Lisbon and Fran was her midwife. He took that recommendation very seriously, and did everything for her."

"Did she help give birth to you?"

"Mm-hmm; my mother refused to open her eyes until I was all clean and my father was somewhat petrified at having some unknown intern hold my umbilical cord in place for cutting, so she held it in place while the scissors were put through." I brought my jacket close, feeling an extreme chill in the air. "She was actually a prodigy herself though, graduating high in her intermediate school class and having strong English fluency. It took her awhile to speak bilingually, and there are some traits that aren't going to be fixed in her speech. But she understands everything well, and she understands me. I remember I was taught by my father to follow Portuguese as a second language, but it was my first to begin with. When I was three I asked for a glass of leite from a maid, and she had no idea what I was asking for. My father had actually been learning Portuguese to keep up with Francisca and I, and knew it was milk I wanted."

"I couldn't imagine remembering two languages at that age."

"I know, it was hard. But since it was naturally part of my upbringing, I love it. I enjoy being able to correspond with more than Commonwealth countries." We continued to walk, her talking about Emily's long line of maids as we headed towards our destination. I didn't know where we were headed, and we walked three blocks around the town square. The temperature on the Oak Cities Savings & Loan clock read 24°F, and the sky was pink. Rory walked slowly, anticipating something, her head craned up towards the sky.

"What are you doing?" I looked up with her. "There's no stars we can see."

"I know, I just get this feeling, you know? That sense that there's a change coming?"

"A change?"

"In the weather," she explained. "You remember how my mother is obsessed with snow?"

"How could I ever forget?" I rolled my eyes, remembering the phone call I made to Rory last January cursing that debate prep would have to be pushed out of the way because of a snow day. "I swear, snow has the same effect as cocaine on her."

Rory smiled slightly towards me, the comparison apt for her. "I won't disagree. I love snow myself, but when it gets in my way I don't enjoy it. I got stuck once at Grandma's one day after school because of it."

"I had to go through a power outage from a snowstorm at the Vermont cabin once," I shared. "We had the fireplace, but I was still freezing horribly. It was dark out too, and the next cell tower was 25 miles away. By the time it came back on the next morning, I swear my earlobes could hammer a nail in."

"How far away were you from anything?"

"We couldn't even get any television from Burlington, and the only radio stations locally available were in French and from Quebec."

"You knew French I hope."

"Just a bit at that time," I responded. "But I learned just enough to communicate emergency warnings to my parents. When spring came, my father immediately had a generator and a fuel supply installed near the cabin so it wouldn't happen again. My grandfather had a hard time with it though. He had the cabin built in the 30's to help out the local population during the Depression, and he hated to see us make it 'luxurious' when it was meant to be an escape from the bustle of urban New England."

"Kind of like our Cape Cod house."

"Yeah, except we know there's no one out where we are except for maple syrup smugglers and bears." We chatted on for a little while longer, past the library and the firehouse, basking in the silence of the usually busting village at 11:15 on a December Saturday evening. The holiday lights in the town square and on light poles were all turned off, the few cars parked along the street those used by occupants of downtown apartments. I couldn't hear anything at all beyond our footsteps and the rustling of the wind against trees. It was so quiet I could also make out the clicking of the switch blinking a stop sign about 300 feet away.

The turmoil I felt after Jamie revealed that my mother was playing with my love life was dissipating, though the anger remained at her for using my name in such a way as to change things around. I don't know that this time I can get over her doing this to me. Before she had been subtle and I could easily ignore her demands and threats towards my love life. But she proved to me tonight that I couldn't avoid her anymore. I felt a horrible sourness in my stomach thinking about her writing love missives to Jamie in 'my voice'.

I also think about how she signed my name within those letters. I have a complicated hallmark that's tall and slants to the right as left-handed writing is apt to do, and I thought it was so foolproof that my right-handed mother could never copy it. But since Jamie never saw me sign anything, for all I know she signed my name with a heart above the I and a happy face at the end. But I think she used my real one, probably acquiring it from something I signed and having it printed on a rubber stamp. People might think me paranoid for having all my cards printed with 'see ID' and that my father and I are the only ones authorized to do anything with my banks and investment houses. But it's better to be overly cautious than slip up on something as simple as a library request form.

I'll be honest, I'm freaking out internally at what she's been doing, that with her hand, she can change anything, even my reputation. I still have an empty feeling in my stomach that she's suspicious of where I am at times, that she's catching on. She hasn't seemed to catch on yet, but one day, soon, she will.

But for now, I have that in the back in my mind. I can't think positively if I'm basing every decision I make on what Mother would do to interfere. For tonight was about proving to Rory how much love I had for exactly beyond my Price is Right-infused wisecrack of earlier.

It was another five minutes and a conversation about life sciences before we arrived at where Rory said was open all night.

"We're here," she said brightly. I looked up, surprised.

"Here?" I pointed towards the building. "But its 11:30 in the evening. How are you going to get in?"

"A key." She gave me a questioning glare, as if I didn't know how to open the door, while she reached into her bag for her keyring. "Were you expecting to be somewhere else?"

"An all night restaurant, or maybe the Inn," I admitted. "But not here." The 'here' being the former rail depot, now Miss Patty's dance studio/default town meeting site/polling place. I didn't want to seem like I was breaking any rules. "How did you get the key anyway?"

"Miss Patty trusts me; sometimes when the library or Inn are both too crowded to study, I can use the old ticket booth inside to study. I also help her out with more than that, such as props for her recitals and holiday events." She unlocked the door, and I still felt uncomfortable, no matter that Ms. LaCosta was the first to know about us. I stood still as she opened up the front door.

"Paris, I assure you, we're both fine." She smiled in my direction, stretching out her arm as to invite me in. "No one ever comes in at this time at night. It's quiet and a place to go, and offers privacy in this town." Still, I was nervous, even if Lorelai assured me to have fun and to not feel pressured to bring back Rory so fast.

It was then she noted how red my cheeks were. "Get inside, you're freezing!"

I saw her look at me, and I know I couldn't refuse her, no matter my fears. I also couldn't deny that I was in a town where peace and quiet beyond gossip was something you had to find and ferret out.

One more minute I was outside, and then I went in with her, as she closed the door behind me and locked it, turning on a couple banks of lights lining the outer walls of the station, enough to create a visible atmosphere. The building was warm, much unlike the ice cold weather outside which was freezing my legs. My feet hurt in the heels I wore, but I kept on the shoes for a bit as Rory slid her hand into mine.

"Is this better?" she said softly, the words echoing through the former station lobby. "I just haven't had a quiet moment with you, alone tonight. Not that your driver didn't leave us alone, but I just don't need him privy to a private moment."

My eyes scanned the depot, old dancing posters in both Spanish and English along the walls of the room, along with a few old train schedules and advertisements. I never really had a close examination of the building during the play rehearsals, and found myself wanting to explore further. I let go of Ror's hand, and took off my jacket to hang on a hook near the dressing room where I assumed all the ballet students changed.

I felt the days of my youth return, a flashback to the school where I honed my dance skills every day after school, and for most of the summer, as an escape from my mother's idea of fun, which involved flash cards and repetitive ESPN2-like workouts. I know with certainly there was no way I could perform even a simple fouetté in the current day, which was child's play way back then for me. I let the regret of losing that possible career rise up within me, wondering how it could have been if Ms. LaCosta was my teacher way back then.

When I finished hanging my coat, I came back to Rory's side, watching her starting into a glass display case towards the back of the room.

"What are you looking at?" I walked towards her.

"I haven't been here since the day before the marathon. Apparently, Miss Patty is really proud of us." She had me look down, towards a display recapping this year's marathon. Clippings from the Courant and the high school's paper were on a shelf, along with a program listing all of the competitors on the floor opened up to the page our names appeared on.

A picture of us, captioned as having been taken around the time of our break at 4:30 am, showed us bonding, talking over strategy on first glance. My legs laid against the bleachers as Rory massaged my feet in the small space before the end of the yellow card break. We looked so close and intimate, that we didn't even know the picture was taken, too busy in our own little world as we strategized how to take down Kirk and Carrie. On each side of the picture, our '131' numbers, which we thought we had discarded wrapped around to define the display, and below the picture, a stopwatch reading 23:48:07.64 was still stopped at the exact moment, as if time stood still. Other pictures were in the display on the bottom shelf, of us in the crowd during the early hours, right in the middle, and in the center...

"How did they get a photo of that moment?" I was utterly in shock, reminded of the moment when I came back in and swept Rory off her feet just before my yellow card time expired. Below it, the text read Paris pushed the limits to bring the best out of her partner. "I...I didn't even think it was that big of a deal."

"She hasn't done a display this complicated in years," Rory noted, looking down towards my hands, tightened into fists from being so nervous. "Usually with Kirk she just puts up a plaque and a picture, and it's good enough. But this year she went all out."

"It's nice," I said, smiling. Usually because of the prestige of the sports teams over academics, I always felt as if celebrations of my academic victories were too muted. It was always celebrated just by myself, or the team out at some suburban restaurant in Bristol, which was always picked because the guys hoped to meet Stuart Scott or Chris Berman having dinner or something. To show off a victory, an award in the trophy case was good enough.

This, however was beyond awesome. The both of us looking at the results of such an accomplishment, to outlast the entire town on the dance floor, I loved it, to share the moment with her. That even against the odds, we won that marathon, it brings back the confidence that we can do anything if we're passionate and focused on each other and the goal.

I was focused on her in that moment, and I unclenched my fists, moving to pin her against the case. "How we did that on such a hormone overload, I will never figure out. Between the two of us, we were probably beyond overloaded by the end of the night." I brushed some hair from her eyes, looking up at her as if she was the most beautiful girl. "And even after. We had to have spent at least 96 hours between prep, the event, and the confession holding everything in."

"It was more than that for me, I hadn't done a thing since that morning I had to borrow a shirt from you. I would have partaken if I didn't have to break up with Dean. Until you left I had to make do with cold showers and bad thoughts about you." She felt a bit down having to admit she held out five days for her own pleasure, to focus on trying to romance me. "How long was it between for you?"

"The night you broke up with him, I was in my room, wearing your shirt." I tittered nervously, admitting my depravity. "I didn't think I'd ever get so close to holding something of yours in my arms, even if you had borrowed it. It was wonderful, seeing you in my blouse. I still haven't washed it, and I have no plans to, probably ever." I was blushing, deeply, as she moved closer to the edge of the case. "I remember when you stripped off your wet shirt, how hot and nervous I felt with you in my bedroom. It was...it was..." We were moving closer together, the satin of my dress rubbing against her grey frock. "I remember the way your nipples tightened against the ribbed cotton of the tank top, how I wanted to slide my hands beneath your arms and slide them around within my fingers..."

"Paris." Her voice was deepened, hoarse, her eyes shutting, overwhelmed with the stimuli. "You really need to stop having a way with words."

"What's wrong, hon?" I pouted my lips. "Realizing that maybe you needed to wear underwear after all?"

"No, not that." She looked down towards my cleavage. "I really need to cool down, is all. You're creating these vivid pictures in my head, and I feel like what I'm thinking about pales in comparison." Her hand moved along the side of my stomach. "There was a reason I brought you here other than a quiet place."

I blanched, feeling bad that I was overtaking her after giving her so much to grieve over through the night. "I'm sorry, Ror. I guess I got a little carried away."

"It's all right." She smiled shyly, and broke from me, moving towards the center of the room. "I'm so tense right now." She slipped off her shoes, moving towards the entertainment center on the other side of the room.

What is she doing? I was trying to figure out exactly what was going through her mind, and the reasoning for why we were in the dance studio. I know this is where her flirtation with Tristan flamed out, but I was focused more on the play at that time than her. I couldn't figure out the significance of why we were here exactly.

She bent down to grab the remote controlling everything, and turned on the system. She turned around to face me.

"Do you remember the cable channel that standards are on? I don't usually tune to those music channels."

I thought to my own cable system. "I think it's 836. Why?" She tuned the cable box to that channel, and a soft tune began to play over the speakers pointed down from the rafters.

"Because," she walked towards me. "I still owe you a dance for this evening." I watched her stride confidently my way, and felt a lump in my throat forming.


"A dance?" I was numb, not thinking at all about dancing. "But we weren't going to dance at the Formal."

"So?" Her eyes lit up as she brought herself closer to me. "I was planning to myself, in some way tonight. How could I resist sharing another dance with you?" Man, she was trying to flatter me with such compliments, buttering me up. I tried to shift away from her.

"Rory, it's all right, honestly. I don't have to dance with you..." I felt cornered, and very turned on.

"Lose the shoes, Par-Bear." I began to moving closer. She was bringing me out of the shyness I tried to maintain when she had the upper hand. "Your feet must hurt, right?"

I nodded, my heels were indeed painful.  I stepped out of the shoes slowly, and the temperature of the cold wooden floor when I stepped onto it sent a shock up my spine. "They're also going to be cold though."

She slowly approached, beginning to undo the clips and barrettes holding her hair in a bun. Like I did earlier, she knew how much undoing her hair weakened me. It's just something about the setting, going from the stuffy ritualistic setting of the Formal, where we have to act and behave a certain way. There's nothing we can do in that situation, besides undress each other with our eyes and peer through the walls of sexuality set up by tradition and community.

But here, it was just us, alone. If we felt the need the music could be bluegrass or that Misdemeanor Elliot woman talking about rain or something while cursing out guys who could only last a minute at something I'm not sure of. Sex, maybe? Or was it watching soap operas?

Yeah, I wasn't dwelling on that as her eyes shone with want for me, and I took her into my arms, trying to find a rhythm with the unknown music. I was sort of wishing that Rory had been as resourceful as when she brought Eternal Flame with her, but it was spur of the moment.

"Still cold?" She looked down at me as we stepped carefully, doing a slow waltz.

I smiled towards her, her body heat and fragrance intoxicating. "Not really." To begin with we started out with uncomplicated moves, letting myself get used to the resumption of physical activity. Soon, the rhythm of the song picked up, and we became more daring.

Not so daring that we were throwing each other around, but enough to show off the purpose of each of our Formal dresses, to lure each other in. I twirled her around, out from me, my hand holding hers tightly. She twisted back towards me in a slow revolution, and back against my body. Then, she brought me into my own spin, and though it didn't come off as professional as mine, it was just as comparable. The fabric of the bottom of my dress spun up from the revolutions, showing off a little leg to her. I tried to keep my focus on her, and her attention wasn't wandering off from me at all. I then spun back towards her, as she guided me perfectly into my arms, my back against her front. The fabric of her dress was so flattering against her breasts, displaying her cleavage in a way suggestive of a long ice cream dish from her pale skin.

I was amazed with her footwork, despite a month having passed since the marathon. I still remember that I ditched my shoes towards the end, but she didn't at all, going on and on in them. But watching her own feet bare against the smooth hardwood of the former rail depot, I could see she wasn't forgetting those steps at all.

"You know, I really did want to dance, show you off." I continued to be under her spell as the beat picked up. "When I danced with Dean, I could never be in any way daring, or blatant. I even tried pushing myself against him once during a Stars Hollow dance, and he pushed me away, as if my trying to feel him against me was wrong." More spinning, quick steps, close blatant touches moving lower and lower as the song went on. "My first thought when I saw you was that you looked so beautiful and graceful. That finally, you know that your mother has no business telling you how to look, and you are sexual on your own." I felt so flattered as she went on and on, describing how the bright satin green brought out my eyes, and the sheen of my hair further. "All that jealousy building built in me as you danced with Jamie, keeping him arms length from you. Yet I knew that you could be doing so much more in this dress.

"I wanted to watch you do what you did last month here, in that halter dress. You were so beautiful in it, your skin looking perfect within it, your long legs distracting me often." Another twirl from my end. "By the end of the marathon, I knew that I wanted you even more than anyone else. You were so beautiful and confident, drawn out, having such a good time. We were both competitive, and it was such a turn-on. To see you competitive, whether it be dancing...like this..." She pressed herself close to me as the song's bridge ended. "Or you're on that stage, hunched over, not even paying one mind to that index card sitting in front of you, speaking into that mike. It's suggestive, full of innuendo, how you work your mouth to speak, shout, cry out to make your points. It's so wrong, but like I said earlier, I get off on you being aggressive, fighting for a victory. I picture the way the microphone vibrates as you speak into it, thinking of those tremors against me."

I began to tighten up, like I had earlier, but which dissipated as I brought the focus towards Rory frigging herself from my words. My legs, rubbing against each other, felt slick, wet between. The sinful slit in my dress made me feel so exposed, showing off my right leg up to almost mid-thigh. I continued to dance with her, feeling so wound up, turned on. Rory's hand, pressed provocatively against the curve of my ass, her eyes lowered, knowing now that I never wore underwear during social events. God, if we ever bumped into each other at a party Emily threw it would be a hard night to get through!

I love her voice when it gets so suggestive and deep. Gone was her usual small-town squeak, the sense of whimsy and mischief she had in common with her mother. Instead, it was even and targeted, the way she speaks in desperation if some smug ass just tried to make a point they thought she wouldn't top.

There began to be an overriding sense that this was just some kind of foreplay...

"I can sense there's a change between us." I could no longer hear the music, which was fading into the background. "You looked so let down tonight, and my conscience nagged at me that I was bitchy in my reaction. And I was, so much so. You could've gotten revenge by getting dirty with Jamie on the floor tonight, but you kept him away. Like you wanted me to cut in and show everyone how it's done." My breath became shallow as she read my mind. All night, I had been anticipating her bringing me under control, deciding all the sudden to fuck her book, slam it down on the chair, and bring me into a close dance as Jamie watched us, stunned and frozen in place while Rory had her wicked way with me.

Her hand was moving lower...

"You can't resist me, baby girl; I see it in your eyes." To be reminded of the 78 days separating our births through her new nickname for me, it made me feel even more wrong for being just that much younger than her. That my brain might top hers, but physically, she has a few more days of experience than I do. "I bet when you drive off at night from my house, you just feel so hot, getting to reduce me from quick and witty to hot and all wound up. You love to be so blatant, caressing my legs, leaving me notes within my margins, giving me phone messages that remind me how much you care for me. I've been astonished at how you prove you enjoy being my girlfriend. It's so sweet and unexpected, beyond how I ever thought things would be between us."

Lower again...I was gritting my teeth. Another whirl around the center of the room. "I remember how smug and righteous you were the first time we met, trying to prove you wouldn't let anyone get to you, including me. You closed yourself off, scared of being hurt, or taking a risk that didn't fit The Plan. Of how you would use space to keep us apart, be it at Chilton or Harvard, and that until I proved myself, I would never be an equal to you. After a while, it got to me, and I began to prove myself. But looking at you each time Tristan mucked things up, I hated it. Hated seeing you leave me because of something so stupid, with someone I wouldn't ever see as more than a nuisance."

Building up even more, I felt with each step the friction dissipating, replaced with a slickness. My throat tightened as she speeded the steps and moves, faster and faster. Her cadence remained straight all through, her speech still strong-willed. "But I saw through that hurt. You might think until the moment we first kissed I saw you as the Queen B, never to be taken. You would never fall victim to anyone, nor would you surrender anything to me." She moved her mouth closer to mine as I took her in, the strong chronology defining what our relationship is. "I just saw you though, a little girl lost, knowing what you wanted in everything except your heart. I hated seeing you hurt, and that you would live with that hurt, it made me see you as more than just a bitter classmate, or someone cannot handle pain well."

Her hand came around my backside, moving against the top of my thigh. Closer...closer....

"I could just stand here all night just looking at you," she said, her voice deep with want. Soon we were slowing down, and she moved her free arm up to brace me. "Looking into those beautiful eyes, finding myself enchanted with you. You are indelible, and I can't not think about you anymore." My breath quickened as her hand slid down the material, and she brought me into a dip.

"You're so beautiful to me, and all I can think right now is that..." she wandered off, letting me fall against her hand along my back, while her right hand slid beneath the daring slit. She pushed up the material as she brought it higher along my thigh. A breeze went up through the dress, and suddenly I felt exposed. I closed my eyes, feeling a straining cry involuntarily emit from my throat. Surely this wasn't the innocent girl I thought would leave Chilton in less than three weeks after her arrival.

Such a tease...such hands...sliding up towards my center, the slit pushed up so high there was no hiding the red ache between my legs any longer. I was losing my mind, I was sure, as she brought her mouth to mine...

"I need you to get a blanket."

I couldn't have heard that. No...she was beginning to pull away, what was happening? My mind was in a panic.

"A...a blanket?" Maybe she sensed something in me, the panic, and it projected.

"There's some in the emergency locker in the supply room." Her voice was returning to normal as the music faded out. "I did say I could stand here looking at you, but I want to relax a little. We have time. I'm going to grab a few mats for us to lay down on." She broke apart from me, and I thought I could tell that there was a little bit of revenge thrown in from my car play from earlier. I was stunned, trying to regain my bearings as I realized that the music and the dance had an intoxicating effect on the both of us.

Yet, I did shudder for a moment. Not at the insinuation that she wanted me to relax, but something else that I had to do for my own sanity.

"Uhh, umm...do you mind if I grab two blankets?" I asked, feeling a bit freaked. "I don't want to insult any of your fellow townspeople, but I do have a bit of mysophobia, a fear of some germs. Even if they're dressed, I just feel odd, you know?" Why I was so unfocused, I didn't know, but I felt like a freak in that one moment. I'm not extreme to the point of washing my hands raw or anything, but beyond the privacy concerns I have in public showers, I also tread lightly because of how icky locker rooms are.

Yet, Rory understood, which surprised me. She looked towards me and smiled, completely open to trying to make the situation as calming and centered as she could make it for me.

"If you want to, we can lay on our jackets too," she responded. "I don't want you to feel uncomfortable." She laughed a little. "It's OK, go on."

"Um, thanks," I said, relieved that I could keep clean. I really felt as if I couldn't insult the town anymore and tried to make sure I didn't, even through something as little as contact with a gym mat. I breathed out calmly and proceeded to the storage room as Rory made her way over to the pile of mats on the other side of the room.

Still, I was a bit unsettled. Thinking about what else went on all through the night with the exception of the incident in the town car, I thought we had blown any chance at intimacy. You cried when she brought you down, I reminded myself internally, even without any fault on my end. I didn't stop a thing, so I thought to myself that I deserved such punishment. I had refused to listen to my own advice to discount my mother, and I was paying for it now, with Rory stopping me before things got hot.

Opening the old surplus locker, I found a some pastel-colored wool blankets, meant for a king sized bed, thinking about how tired I was indeed. It had been a long night, first with the two hours with Jamie, then the hour and a half settling things down with Gilmore and eating.

Maybe I did need to settle my hormones a bit. After all, three weeks before, I was content with the occasional touch and fondle of her, and the same on her end. A few days after, a call triggered a rush to be erotic, and I felt myself losing control of my inhibitions. Mind you, I didn't take a sex before marriage pledge, mainly because I thought I wouldn't even have sex before I was married in any way. In the months after Tristan left and before Washington I had enjoyed being a single woman and not giving a damn about anyone's pleasure but mine. It was something I didn't need to deal with. I mean doing 'it', my mother makes it out to be this big thing with fireworks and multiple orgasms and the like, and my first time must be like that, period. My father comes more from the school of denial and went with the idea that sex is fun, but full of a minefield of consequences.

Sometimes it seems much easier when your only sexual partners have been the vibe stick in my dresser drawer, or my hands. I knew myself, and in reality I've had a fear of someone else touching me. I made progress on that through the weekend during the sleepover with her rubbing against me and her oral exploration. But the first time, I was still covered by underwear and still had the cami-bra on. I was covered when I took her virginity.

I looked down at myself, examining my body, feeling so weird about her seeing me fully nude. It always comes down to that fear for me, that she'll think me unworthy. I am fine with my own nudeness, but scared with someone else. There's only six others who have seen me fully nude outside of a locker room, including my parents, Fran, my pediatrician, and Tristan, who did so when he was five and we were playing doctor.

Louise has, but I'm uncomfortable sharing exactly why. It was a friends thing, and it wasn't in ill will, that's all I can say.

I closed my eyes, remembering my acceptance of Rory's 'crooked' lips (which are not). I don't know if I could deal with her judging me in that way.

No, I am not nervous, I told myself, shaky confidence breaking the statement a bit. You do love her, and if she wants you, it's because she loves you too. She's over the hurt of earlier, and I should not be scared to share anything with her, even if my body isn't much to look at. I took the blanket into my hands, sucking up all of the fears I held.

After all, we were just going to relax and look into each other's eyes, right?

However, I had no idea of how this dance studio figured in Rory's past as I left the storage room, blankets in my hands. It was a hidden part of Hollow history she hid behind for so long as I walked out to watch her, slowly moving towards me.

In the time she had left, she had used the washroom and washed her makeup off, leaving only her true natural beauty. The uniform paleness of her face was gone, replaced with freckles on her cheeks, messy hair, and a casualness to her steps that was unlike her stiff formal stride of earlier.

The only time I saw her this way was six days ago, when she woke up...

She was walking towards me, and ready to share once again.

"Par, there is a reason I asked you here," she started, looking at me straight on. "The last few times I've been in this hall outside of town stuff, it hasn't gone well. Over on that table over there, for instance." She pointed towards the 'platform' she laid on during the play rehearsals. "We had to deal with an inattentive Louise, and an ambivalent Tristan only bent on playing on your last nerve, along with my boyfriend. I didn't want him here, nor you, because I knew there was trouble ahead. Yet, we went on, and thankfully we had a miracle where everything fell into place."

She pushed four light yoga mats together, layering them 2x2 on top of each other with our jackets to the side so I could layer a top blanket on top of the mates. "But we're not here to talk about that." Looking down at the mats, she brought up the worst day of her life as I spread out the blue blanket to layer over the mats. I was glad to see them covered up as Rory then put the jackets on top to complete the safety net I needed for our impromptu bed.

"The night of the Formal in our sophomore year, Dean and I ended up here, talking and flirting. I thought then he was truly the love of my life, that he would be mine forever. When we came into here to browse the room and talk about nothing and everything, I was under a spell with him. He was influencing me, and even after the fight with Tristan, I still wanted him. Dean...he was the one for me, and the town at first hated him, but eventually found him perfect for me."

She continued down, as I lay down on the mat, my eyes feeling heavy. "At first, things were relaxed, wonderful. We were enchanted and lost into each other's eyes. And that night, I was curious."


"I had been finally glad to have some kind of relationship with someone who didn't immediately find me to be a pariah, or untouchable. Dean had no idea of my past in Stars Hollow, about how much school sucked for me. He was a clean slate, and didn't give a damn about the gossip at Hollow High. I was beginning to fall for him, and in turn, I was curious." She lowered her eyebrows. "I had been having dreams of him. Not innocent dreams. But sexual dreams of the both of us. We were together, and we had sex. Sometimes, the dream would end in a nightmare, but usually it was a happy moment."

"Why tell me this?" I asked, inquiring as to why I was being told all of this.

"Because...I need to be open and honest with you," she said, softly. "I don't want to do anything more with you until I get this out. To scare off the demons of old, and let you in fully." She unfurled the blanket next to me, and laid next to me, as we looked at each other face to face. "What I'm about to say, there is no one who knows about this. Nobody at all. Not Lane, not my mother, not even Dean himself, at least how I felt after. If I ever said a word about this to anyone, I don't know how anyone would react, beyond rage and hate for what I did, along with a sense I'm making things up to justify why I eventually broke up with him."

"And if I get mad?" Suddenly, I was finding myself fearful that what she was admitting would change my worldview of her in a whirlwind.

"Then you get mad." She paused for a few seconds, and gathered herself to let everything out. "But if I don't say anything, you'll find out from Dean whenever we come out, and his spin won't be the truth."

"It isn't..." My mind spun into negative things. "He didn't, did he?"

She shook her head. "It's more like what I did." With that, she told me what happened that night, describing it as a three hour period before Ms. LaCosta and the Morning Yoga group found them. "We were just two teenagers, finding ourselves enchanted with each other. I had gone into the date thinking that he wanted something for me, and the nights before after I asked him out, I prepared myself for the possibility of Dean asking me...asking if we could be more than steady."

"So, what do you mean?" Her eyes told me the guilt she had.

"I was ready," she stated, without ceremony. "We had been seeing each other officially for a couple of months, and unofficially a couple weeks before then. I felt as if I could handle things, that I could want him that way, and I felt I couldn't get pregnant at that time." She held up her hand to stop my objection. "Yes, I know how I came into this world, but I know my ovulation. It couldn't happen at that time and I was going to do all I could not to.

"The entire night, I was nervous, thinking about how to tell him that I was ready." I was stunned that I was the only one to know this. "No one knew, not even him." A breath. "Remember when we went to Providence during the field trip to see that play, the week before?"

I nodded, the field trip foggy beyond the destination. "Yes."

"When we made the lunch stop in Cranston, I ran across the street to that mini mart under the assumption of picking up a ProJo. Really, I was hoping to find a condom machine. Thankfully, there was one, and it went in the disk pocket of my backpack." It was a surprising revelation from her that she wanted him that way so early. She went on further.

"When we arrived here, after a bit, we fell asleep for an hour. I had the condom in my bag, within my wallet, beneath my Social Security card." She struggled a bit to get through. "When I woke up, I was staring at this handsome boy, looking so peaceful, probably thinking about me next to him. It was dark in the room, 2am in the morning. And the closeness we shared, it was so overwhelming."

The details to come were shocking, but in the manner of something unexpected. "We had been touching each other, doing silly things that kind of stuff. And all I could think about since the moment I laid down with him was how it felt to...how it was to touch...touch...it." She was ashamed. "Everything in my mind, and I was thinking about his cock. How it would feel, if it was really as wonderful as advertised. How I eyed it up blatantly when he wasn't noticing, through his pants. I had sexual thoughts about him, wanting to feel him inside. I flushed each time I thought about it, but I was turned on by it.

"But I had issues in the past about masturbation, wanting Dean in that way and getting myself off. I was so ashamed, dirty thinking that way. With my fingers, thinking about him, of him inside of me. My fingers, and an old curved highlighter, the only things I used. I was just then getting over my fears, and the morning before the dance, I had an erotic, bed-soaking dream about him. I wanted to be with him that way, that night."

She went on to describe what she did as she woke him up, with a deep kiss, pushing herself against him. He woke up, surprised that Rory was acting this way, but joining in on it anyways. Describing the process of sharing a mat with him, how hot she felt around him, and wanting for him.

"Eventually, I was cavalier, telling him how much I wanted him. He voiced out nervous concerns about my mother, but I assured him they'd never get back to her. I told him how much I wanted to feel him, that I wanted him so bad." She felt odd admitting that. "I told him that I was ready for him, no matter what everything in my being was telling me, that I would regret it eventually.

She shared more details, about how she undid his pants, exposing his briefs and so on, until with his permission, she began to explore him. At first she thought it big, but now she knows that his endowment was average sized. She stroked it through his underwear, being slow and teasing, like she read about. Rory watched his facial reactions, and at first was just intending to get him hard enough.

"But I was intimidated suddenly. I felt like I didn't want that in me, at least not without practice. I felt sudden pressure upon myself to deliver, and that maybe I'd be lousy. But he surprised me, telling me it was all right if I could just do a hand job."

I felt flushed as she went on and on, describing her slow stroking of him, until eventually she felt comfortable and slowly eased him out until she began to stroke him with the condom (good thinking). She described him as so pent up with frustration and wanting, and that she continued to go slow, until eventually, he came, breathing in and out heavily.

"It looked like he was quite satisfied, and he came well. I thought I had satisfied him and given him something he dreamed about..."

I was expecting her to say something positive.

She frowned at that moment. "When I asked him how it felt? He didn't say a word. Nothing, at all." She frowned. "He kissed me, smiled, disposed of the condom discreetly and went back to sleep. That's it."


"But that's not it." I then became privy to information never shared by her before. I could see that she was sad, frustrated with her confession, and I had no idea what she'd admit.

"I stayed awake next to him, just looking at him, watching him sleep, falling in love with him with each passing minute. Until..." She choked back a tear. "Until he began to have a dream. An erotic dream, right next to me." I couldn't understand why she would be crying about that. It seemed like a good thing, like my sleep talking during the summer. Dreams are good, right?

It was then I found out why she could never truly trust Dean to be her first, even as her mind and the entirety of the Hollow unofficially proclaimed Dean to be her soulmate.

"Par..." she grasped my hand. "In all of my time here, you are the only one I know of who has actually thought of me sexually and erotically, and wanted to push those feelings upon me. I know he dreamed of me that way, he just didn't want me to share in them."

I felt stunned in place as she brought the conversation to a head. "He never got over Beth."

"Beth?" Who was she?

"His girlfriend in Chicago." She felt pain go through her, saying the name. "He never really thought of me sexually in reality. Next to me, he redreamed my handjob as if Beth did it."

I thought she was just thinking oddly; there was no way that Dean would be with this beautiful girl and ever want to think of anyone else. "Rory, I'm sure he didn't mean it--"

She interrupted me, quickly clearing things up. "He said in his sleep, 'God, you stroke me better than that girl in Connecticut! Beth...oh Beth...Bethy!'" She was crying. "And he went on, saying he was in love with her, still."

"What does this have to do with me?" I asked, pulling her close as the silk lining of my jacket felt luxurious against the both of us.

"Because," she gathered herself up for the full catharsis. "I grew to find you attractive, mainly because Dean has been hiding things from me. I was clueless for all of these months. After he said that in his sleep I assumed that he was just thinking of us in a kinky sense, but as time wore on, it was getting to the point where he thought of himself petulantly being pulled out of Chicago from the love of his life and having to find someone new that was unlike his first love." She snarled her lip, as I found myself dealing with something no one should ever deal with.

"He might have loved me here," she said, "but never really ended it with Beth."

"What?" I was...I didn't know how I felt, beyond numb. "How do you know?"

"Because, I borrowed his computer when school started a couple of months ago to Google something when I was over at his house, and an IM window popped up with 'Hey there D-boy ;)'. The guy's an idiot and doesn't know how to work anything to keep secrets." Everything I despised about him began to multiply quadfold. "He has a hidden Yahoo account he uses to talk to someone who just happens to look like a teenage girl in Winnetka. They talked daily, and according to the transcripts I could find on the PC while he was out of the room, they were doing more than that. The chats were extremely specific to saying that I wasn't in the picture at all, beyond being 'that girl who likes me'." She continued on. "There was cybersex in them. Something I tried myself when I was in the mood, but could never do with him because he said 'POS' like it was his fucking catchphrase; mind you his house's computer room is in a locked office! It was specific and dirty, and I just...oh my God, I found out about all of this days after I came back. I had tried to do something with him when he came back, but he refused me, and it was then that I knew why.

Her jaw clenched as she described the secrets Dean was hiding. "Apparently, him and Beth renewed things the moment he got back to Illinois, and the reason why his postcards to Washington always sucked and he didn't share much was that him and Beth were too busy this summer in bed with each other when he went back there to see his grandparents!" She was beyond pissed, as I took her into my arms. "He's always pushed off every sexual advance since I gave him that handjob, because apparently, I suck at bring a girlfriend! He said he loved me and everything, but just not enough to get him off." She hyperventilated, beyond tearful. "I read through that month of chats, about how he said he missed 'her loving'. I didn't know before then that I was with a cheater, and...and...and..."

"Before you found out, you sacrificed your feelings for me so that you could love him." I was matter-of-fact, very sympathetic to her. "You thought the dream was a slip of the tongue and lived with his lack of anything sexual involving him, but it was because..." I was just stunned. "He never really broke it off with Beth."

"Not for a moment." Rory hated herself for not seeing the signs. "I didn't want to confront him because I hate conflict, so after that, I decided to hell with what he wanted, I wanted you. I gave him the cold shoulder after I found out and only allowed him to kiss me, that's it. It make my skin crawl each time he touched me or said he loved me. I looked for any excuse to ditch him, and thankfully Dwight's sprinklers came into play, so I was able to break it off without telling him I knew he was a cheating bastard. I laid into him with everything I had, but I didn't say one word about knowing he was fucking Beth, or that he still talked to her. I just told him what was also a truth; I couldn't stand him and I was sick of him treating me as if I'm fragile. I mean, in what world does it make sense that you're cheating on a girlfriend really there for you and willing to love you, but you're getting your rocks off through some chick typing on a keyboard or doing God knows what on a webcam? I didn't check that, because c'mon, I don't need to see that!"

"Rory...Rory..." I slid my arms around her. "Settle...please, settle down."

"Am I really that repulsive?" She was in a panic. "I went through a few days where I considered not eating because I didn't look like Beth, slim and skinny Beth! I thought there was something wrong with me, that there was a reason he hated to see me sexy, and that I was abnormal. I always thought I was loyal and cute, and that I'm definitely a get. I thought when he gave me the bracelet for my 16th, Beth was just a girl in his past, never to be thought of again."

I couldn't believe that she ever thought about herself that way. All of this insecurity bubbling up within her, the betrayal that was put over her for years. I always thought the guy was a jerk for being so controlling, but this topped all. He messed with the heart of the woman I love, kept her in the dark.

"I screwed up...I wasted two years of my life on a first love who never loved me! He said he did, but I was just a stand-in until he could get back to the Windy City. He said he's going back to the Chicago area to attend the College of DuPage as a jump to get a hockey scholarship at a WCHA school, whatever that is, but I don't believe that for a moment. He's...he just gets by, and..."

"Shh, hon, don't get wound up on him, please, don't do it." I shifted over, massaging Rory's scalp as I brought her close to me. "Why did you never say anything?"

"Who would believe me?" She was crying, and it was then I could see the exact reason she reacted so violently to even the inkling of me with another man. No wonder she cut into you deep, I thought to myself. The way he treated her within that relationship, there's so much hidden hurt within her.

I wanted to understand her, and I began to see her insecurities and drive as more than just avoiding her mother's errors (I can't use the 'm' word anymore, because without it, we wouldn't be here). She has so many complex problems that I don't know about yet, and though when she came into Chilton I only saw accomplishments and GPA numbers, there's much more than that with her.

"I would have believed you," I said. "People in this town, beyond a few, are obviously stupid if they thought you two were ever right for each other." I rubbed at her neck, playing with the silver necklace adorning it. "I always got this sense that he was possessive over you, and one day I'd either see you fall apart before my eyes or just resign and give up under his pressure."

"Par, you couldn't have known. It was demeaning to be with him. The day I got some Harvard materials in the mail, I wanted to go over them at my own pace, slowly, just enjoy the crimson printing and class descriptions. But I had to push it off a couple of days because he wanted me to come over and bond with him and his father over an American Chopper marathon." She slowly begins to calm down. "I mean, modifying motorcycles? I had to watch this for four hours and to watch these guys bicker on TV about brakes and tires and throttles, it's like who cares? And all through, they thought they were teaching me that motorcycles are cool. They aren't!"

"Not that kind at least," I mused. "I respect Harleys much more myself. But I'm more about speed bikes."

"Huh?" She looked at me, confused. "You're into motorcycles?"

A crooked smile from me, as I was glad for a distraction. "You haven't lived until you've taken a ten mile stretch of Sunrise Highway on the Island at 115 mph, the only thing keeping you alive being mere inches of rubber, a circumference of fabric, foam and hard plastic around your head, a padded suit, and a metal guardrail. I hate the 'manly' type of motorcycle, the one where it's just this huge mess of metal and chrome in front of you. I prefer speed and something that says 'stay out of my way'."

"Why, Paris Gellar, I do believe you're full of surprises," she teased. "All this time I was stuck watching that, and I could've been riding with you?"

I disclaimed a wee bit. "Actually, you'd be my first ever passenger, I've always rode alone on my Ducati. But if you want to, and your mother trusts me, I'll take you on a ride sometime in the spring or the summer."

"I would enjoy that." We stayed close for a few moments, my hands still in her hair, mine against her back. "What didn't I see in you before Tristan left? All of this time, we had all these things in common, and uncommon things I'm interested in, and we kept apart. And for what? For your mother to set you up with duds, while I stayed with a guy still pining for his first girlfriend." She hesitated, closing her eyes and trying to come up with something. "Men are just trainwrecks."

"Not all men," I corrected. "My father is wonderful. Luke is great, if a bit surly. And Brad, Madeline describes him as a true gentleman." I smiled at her, trying to cheer her up. "I just think it's the way things went, that we were not meant to have the best luck with guys."

"I know, but there was Jess. I think if I had found there were sparks there I might have gone for it, but when we kissed, it just felt as if I was Marcia and kissing Greg." She laughed nervously. "It was a good fairy tale moment, he swept me and it was sudden. But it was just too friendly, and we're on two different planes."

"It was the same with Jamie outside of the restaurant in Washington; I just didn't feel a thing. I was prepared to, but there wasn't that sense of building tension and want that we had when we first kissed. We had an entire summer to build up, and then two months after, and it came to a head on the couch, when everything was just right, I looked into your eyes, and saw that there was something there." She bit on her lip, as our eyes met together. "The countdown to the inevitable, that we shared something beyond topping the classes. I remember that moment right now." She was breathing, in and out, deeply, the moment flashing around us, along with the notebook list. How I fell for her slowly, and closed the distance with her. That wobbly feeling of excitement of jumping into the unknown came back to me.

There was still an open matter that we had to deal with before the night ended, that white elephant with the floppy hair that kept us apart for so long.

"Are you sure you're not mad at me, about Dean?" Shyly, she pushed herself away from me. "You have every right to, considering how I treated you tonight." I hated that she was doing this to herself, beating herself up over something that never should have happened.

I sighed, and watched as she got up, to sort out a pain in her back. I then rose up, sitting with my knees across. "I'm not going to dwell on your past. You've justified to me that he never deserved you, but we're together. That's the important thing for me." I slid my fingers through my hair to smooth it out. "How many ways do I have to say it? You have nothing to apologize for."

"How can you be so calm about this?" she argued. "You're taking everything well. It's odd, and I expected a fight." I asked her why. "Because, that's how you always dealt with problems in the past, we talked them out and threw words at each other until we both left in angry huffs."

"Ror, that might work when you're trying to squeeze your story onto page two, but when we're together like this, we need to just look at situations one at a time. What happened between us, it could be dealt with rationally, so I went about making you see things in a sane manner. I wasn't going to argue with you because the only thing that does is further the rift." I looked up towards her, suddenly having a carnal feeling rising within me, being able to look down her dress. "If I had to, I would've pulled another 4:30 visit to make you see that I didn't want Jamie." I looked up at her. "I only want you."

"Paris." She was taken aback as I focused in towards her, making it clear I wasn't going to let her go. "You...you would've come back here?"

"Anything for you. If I had to, I'd have sent you a multitude of flowers asking for your forgiveness tomorrow." I lay back down on the mat, looking up towards her. "The only problem with the whole sneaking into your room plan now though, is that I can't stop thinking about undressing you in bed."

With a chuckle, Rory let herself stretch out, the hem of her dress rise up, giving me a view of her legs up to mid-thigh. "You don't know what that thought's doing to me right now." She was flushing. "It's enough that I got off to your voice in the town car earlier, but somehow I still don't feel sated enough." Slowly, she began to re-approach. "Thanks to you, missy, I'm down to panties and tank tops in bed, and the top's off by my first bathroom break of the night!"

I felt overwhelmed by that image. "Have you been dreaming about me in your sleep?"

"Maybe," she spoke, her voice tinny. "Can I plead the Fifth on sharing that information?"

"Absolutely." I decided to rile her up a little more. "However, I will waive my own and tell you that my laundry costs are rising."

"Oh, I'm sure they are, hon." She spun around to give me a teasing twirl. "I may not make it to laundry day myself."

"You are gonna kill me, I swear." I shook my head at the idea of her fully bare beneath her uniform.

Little did she know, that all through baring her soul about Dean, in the back of my mind I had been preparing to give the mats below us a true blessing. Our legs had rubbed together all through her talk, and the more I thought about it each moment, I felt my wanting to hold back from her slip away. I had given her a true way to remember Monday morning next to the pond. But I had continually dwelled on knowing that I was ready for her myself, fully. After admitting my love, it was only a matter of time. The only thing was I needed to find the perfect moment to do so.

But as I lay down on that mat and the blanket and jackets, all the nervousness seemed to melt away for me, about being fully intimate. Her hands had wandered me throughout, and as we grew closer the fear I felt at her seeing me nude was disappearing. I felt easy-going and comfortable, less nervous than I did a month ago where just the very insinuation by her of taking off my clothes, even something as little as a dress knot, scared me.

I looked into her eyes, trying to muster if this was the moment I was looking for. Rory had just admitted her experience with Dean was worse than I feared, and to take advantage of that in a contest sort of way, to assert sexual control over her, made me feel uncomfortable.

"Paris?" She mustered a sensual whisper in her voice, and as she moved towards the center of the room, I could sense she was nervous. About what exactly, was unknown to me. I asked her what was wrong.

"How did you hold back on doing anything in the towncar while I was stroking myself from your voice?" Slowly, she walked back towards me, her feet softly padding the hardwood floor. "That must've taken some tenacity."

"I--I was fine," I said, watching her approach. "I was too stunned to have any reaction beyond babbling about self-loving lingo to hasten you on further."

Rory stopped, letting her feet rest evenly. "You looked like you wanted to do something though. Somehow I think I stole your thunder." Smiling, her right hand moved towards the left strap of her dress. "You were so apologetic about everything, but behind it, I could tell that my being stubborn was doing something to you. You kept staring at me from the floor, as I read my book. And then trying to get out of the ride, you were just waiting for me to realize my phone was missing."

She took the thin ribbon of silk between her fingers. "I know you, baby girl. Inside you were a panicked mess of nerves, angry at me for being so obstinate that you and Jamie were together, even if there was nothing going on. I could sense that stare a few times, those deep browns of yours fired up, making it clear that if I moved from that spot, I would not leave the floor alive." She pushed the strap from her shoulder, slowly, teasing me with the bareness of her freckled shoulders. "From the moment you woke up this morning, I know you had one goal in mind." Another slow step, as she blatantly bent down to work her way out of the strap. "We talked a few hours before the dance, teasing each other about what we would wear. I was willing to share in full detail. However, you wouldn't, because you wanted me to be surprised. Which meant I had a very boring shower, and it left me in knots, trying to figure out what I'd see you in."

She ran her tongue along her mouth, and tossed her hair back, a mess out of her intended hairstyle. "All through the ride to the venue, I kept thinking about what the mystery was as to why you were hiding your dress from me. I thought you'd go conservative just to get me all hot and bothered, something tight that hugged your curves, but didn't show anything off. Boy, was I wrong, and I'm glad I failed that test." Her other hand moved towards her other strap. She eyed me up, her eyes trained blatantly on my generous breasts. "While I was on that sideline, watching you dance, I was so pissed I didn't get to be right next to you. Still, even though I swore that I'd never speak to you again, I still stared, your legs looking delicious in my view. Watching the curve of your arch as you spun on your heel, the classic symmetry of your body, and how I was able to sneak a look at your tattoo, knowing I was the only one who knew the meaning. I wanted to be on that floor, doing a risky tango with you."

Down came the other strap, in such a sensual and erotic way, her eyes steady against the leg bared by the slit. "I just wanted to walk on that floor and show everyone exactly why we won the dance marathon last month. Sitting there, stewing, wishing I could be at your side. My stomach still felt dizzy though, just watching you dance, and I knew more about you than Jamie could ever bear to take in."

The bodice of the dress was only hanging on against her bust from gravity and friction. I sucked my stomach in, anticipating the fall of the article. I took in her words, softly spoken, the bitterness of earlier gone. "And through all of that, I could've been reading my book, but instead I was thinking about Monday morning, how everything felt between us as we flirted throughout the morning, until it all came to a head in the back of your car." Smiling down towards me, she held up the dress as she used her other hand to create a teasing path towards the back zipper. "I've thought about it all week, how wonderful that you made me feel, seducing me, making me feel wanted and beautiful. When I was at Hollow High, I was none of those things to anyone. I was either seen as a She's All That-type nerd meant to be the prize of a dare, or else the date of someone willing to settle. I never felt prized, special. I was treated like crap, and the entire experience almost turned me off to guys. If not for Dean, I would still be single."

She reached the zipper, as I began to feel myself slicken up, so turned on by her voice myself. "It was the same when I started Chilton, even with Tristan thinking I was the hottest thing in saddle shoes. I actually had dreams of him and I together, but I just felt...I don't know. It didn't fit, the two of us. He got me mad and I didn't like him, but to have him as a sex partner, it wouldn't be the worst thing. I mean in the two months before he went Duncan and Bowman's way I admit I had sexual dreams of him. But it never felt right, because you were there first, and I was honing in on your turf. When you cut me off, it did hurt that you believed the gossip about the tickets. I was glad we fixed things though, and after he left, I began to feel more comfortable, able to express myself. I no longer had to think about any kind of distraction, beyond you at Chilton.

"Except when he was finally gone..." I heard the zip begin. "I was finally able to let myself relax around you. I noticed you more, beyond being a taskmaster and someone looking to put her stamp on everything."

She began to fall down to her knees, in front of me, releasing her hand from her dress so she could continue the sweet torture. I was getting so hot, turned on, the entire night beginning to come to a head. Her curled hair cascaded down from her beautifully bared shoulders. "It began during the performance, and went further from there. My eyes would wander from the material in class, towards you, so stiff and regal in your uniform. Yet, you knew how to tease me. Those long socks, for instance." She scanned down my legs. "They drew me towards your beautiful legs, a wish to see them bared. I would have these dreams of working them off, and the day you came to school only wearing the short kind, I knew I was in big trouble, because I couldn't help but be distracted." She continued to ease the zipper down, her breasts slowly inching out from the bodice.

Truly, I was caught in an odd position, with Rory seducing me. My brain was addled, worn out from everything that led us into the empty depot. To know that she had tried something in that room before and was deemed a failure, she didn't have to share anything involving what I thought would be a guy's dream come true. Recalling, I put myself back into the dream situation she described over the phone, of us here. The irony of living out that fantasy wasn't lost on me at all.

She lifted the hem of her dress above her knees and pushed towards me, those cerulean eyes of hers clear as turquoise. I felt them weigh down on me as she continued to talk and show off what had to be the most understated burlesque performance that can be mustered.

"I have no idea why the simple things you do attract me. When we were doing the layout for the last paper of the year and graduation extra, it was a hot and miserable day, leaving you in the newsroom with rolled up sleeves and an undone tie around your neck." I closed my eyes, remembering the setting, the hot newsroom lacking air conditioning easily remembered. "Your prescription anti-perspirant failed, and you sweated, no matter how many bottles of Poland Spring you drank.

"I looked at you when I could, hot myself but cool because I decided to work in my undershirt, dress code be damned. Biting down on the cap end of a pen as I scribbled changes and typed in tags for the online edition to organize it, you sat there, worn out, hair thrown in a damp ponytail, dunked in water from the darkroom sink in a desperate attempt to keep cool." I could sense her heat moving towards me. "A half-hour later, your tie was still hanging around your neck, two buttons undone while you complained about the inane notes in a piece you wouldn't use in the extra. Your shirt untucked, bent over your desk with your glasses on and a magnifier in one hand because Farley Coles enjoyed typing his stories in 8-point legal type."

Her left hand caressed my right foot, softly. "You were doing so much for me during those afternoons, keeping me sane and collected, showing that even you were distracted by the heat."

"Rory..." I gulped, the flashes of those days coming back in the aftermath of the election win and the recognition that Rory would be at my side for the next year. My hormones were in flux, and I awaited June 11th, the day of leaving with anticipation.

"God, if you could be in my shoes through those days. All wound up and wet, frustrated. The back of the skirt sticking to your legs, your hot leather work chair definitely the worst place of all to sit. Yet there you were, working hard and proving you were the best, driving me in turn."

She moved up my body, hands drifting across my knees. "When I came towards your desk while you proofed and did layout, I saw you there, looking so beautiful despite the heat. You didn't let it get to you, and you had no care to leave for even a shower because it would kill your preparation. You wanted to finish your job even if it led to a heat stroke."

The vivid images came back, in a new light not seen that day. She described the frustration I felt during those afternoons, how I felt so uncomfortable in the newsroom that even a fan at my side didn't help, blowing warm air into my face. I thought I would never get anything done and by the second day I was ready to just go home and finish up layouts and my editorial for the Class of 2002 from the comfort of my own laptop.

There was another reason that I felt uncomfortable. Having to watch Rory in only a blue babydoll shirt with the Chilton Blue Demon logo on the front, I was distracted and extremely nervous, and I actually yelled at her a couple of times through the afternoon to put her blouse back on in at least an unbuttoned state. I thought it would help, but inevitably after fifteen minutes the blue Oxford shirt was once again draped across her chair. Coming off the election our bond had deepened further, more so as we talked more on the phone to plan our packing and such. I couldn't stop staring at her, and I would peer over my light brown horn-rimmed reading glasses, lowering them down just enough to keep my 'focus' on the material, but my eyes upon her from across the room. I kept thinking of her stripping it off. I would distract with another story and grating grammatical error, but sooner or later, my attention was back to her.

"You brushed off my help, but I was tenacious, standing above you and just enjoying the way you looked over your corrections." I felt glued to the mat, stilled by the seduction. "What drew me in more though was your scent. Dripping in sweat, your hair damp, mixed in with the spare body spray you spritzed on before the start of the paper layout. I let my nose take in your fragrance, perspiration mixing with lavender. I couldn't help but want to stay near you, because you were just that irresistible. I was pulled in your direction and couldn't leave your side."

Her hands drifted along my legs, reveling in the feel of the dress fabric. "In that moment I thought you looked so beautiful. I didn't know why, because at the time I had my feelings for you really hidden, far back. I thought you'd never be interested in much more than a grudging friendship." Rory's voice cracked, the emotions of that period of time raw. "I mean, when you had me run for VP I thought you were truly just going for the 'hot girl next to the nerd' thing to draw voters in, because I was approachable, and you were cold." I kept my mouth closed, knowing that this seduction wasn't going to be so plain by any means. "But I had time to think about everything, after the kiss with Jess, the election results, being pulled away to Washington for two months. There were all these people concerned about my well-being while I was gone, that leaving my sheltered town was taking me away from them. I was scared to leave at first because you'd be the only familiar face, and I'd have to be around you for all this time.

"I had to deal with my mom making bad Marion Berry and Lewinsky jokes, while my grandparents told me I should use the trip to find political and college connections rather than have fun. Dean, you know how he felt, and Lane had jealousy because we wouldn't have a summer. I was ready that afternoon to ask you if it would be OK to not come with, just so I could spare everyone else's feelings." Slowly, her hands slid up, and she moved her legs between mine. I kept my eyes on her, trying to avoid a blatant stare into her dress, falling off her at a slow pace. "I was going to say something at that moment I approached you for help, hopeful you'd take it well."

Then she sighed, looking down at me, so much desire in her eyes, and her cheeks warmed. "But when you turned around and asked 'Gilmore, can you get me another bottle of Poland Spring from the mini-fridge'..." A pause as her fingers slid up my arms. "I laid my eyes upon you, damp, sweaty, your fingers stained with black, blue, and red pen ink, eyes tired within your beautiful glasses and with that annoyed scowl from knowing I was the only one who could understand you. I saw the year flash before my eyes, from the moment you told me the wrong time to come into the office for the first meeting and that I was so pissed off at you, to coming into town for the Dinner and the story idea, your grade panic where we had the sleepover, along with the aborted night of celebrating when I was introduced to my father's new girlfriend. I saw it all, along with the feelings I had growing for you that I wanted to deny, throw off to the side, because Dean was it, he was the one for me."

She brought the back of her left hand up to along my neck, caressing me softly. "Looking at you in that moment that should have been your worst, tired and defeated, something sparked, made me feel winded. Just staring into your eyes, seeing that you were ready to give up and head home to finish because you were so stressed out. That was when my mind...when I thought..." Rory began to lose her train of thought, afraid to admit what she wanted to.

I took her other hand at the wrist, and circled the heel of her hand with a finger. "Come on, go ahead hon," I intoned, softly. "I'm not hurt."

Rory took a deep and calming breath, girding herself to finish out the situation. "OK, here goes." She closed her eyes, and then laid herself against me. "The thing is, as junior year drifted on, I had dreams about you. The sexual kind, of course. Before then it was all you being a terror, but February on I began to think of you sexually. I attributed it to lack of progress with Dean at first and ignored them. Well, beyond the sweaty ones where I woke up in a cold sweat. Heh." Laughing nervously, I was fully invested in what she had to say. "But as I had the dreams, more and more I looked at you. I tried to avoid what arose in me, that it was abnormal and wrong, against society, I couldn't think of you that way. You'd kill me if you ever knew and be offended." I tried to speak up, but was stopped before I could say anything. "I felt weird, and thought if I just could stay in denial, I would be able to stop feeling how I did. And if I could find an excuse to not go to Washington, I could forget all about it by the start of school."

Her face below mine, she told me what that moment did to her. "I was about to tell you I wasn't going to DC, but then, seeing you like that, I saw us together, just like this, in a situation where we were utterly and passionately inseparable. Both of us drawn together to be the sane forces in each of our lives, me with too many noses in my business, you thinking a 93 means a failure and scorn from Sharon. I stared into your eyes, and for the first time, it was clear. I could avoid what I felt and wish for what might have been..." Small tears fell from her eyes. "I could avoid these growing feelings, these thoughts that to me, you're the most beautiful woman I've ever known, that I see through the layers and know you for who you really are. I could leave you lost in the federal city all summer, your heart broken because I couldn't stand even one evening with you in the same room, much less eighty of them. I could be back here, with Dean for all the wrong reasons, or Jess because of our thread of a literate connection, while thinking if I didn't go, I would never be so kindred with you. I was ready to leave you behind, Paris. We would have never been in this room right now, much less on that dance floor."

Her hand moved to the back of my dress, locating the zipper. "I could have said no and let this all never have happened. There were 381 reasons that would have kept me in Connecticut all summer. All not mine. All of them would have not followed what my heart wanted."

I was losing my breath, Rory's fragrance overwhelming my nostrils, her words perking my ears solid. My body was completely still as the teeth on the zipper grinded down, the only sound between us. She was face to face with me, mere millimeters keeping us apart.

"But in my heart, the only reason I needed to know that Washington was right. Not for the contacts, or the learning experience, or going to all those meetings and getting to know these politicians. None of that mattered to me. Looking at you, I knew there was only one reason I needed to go. If it was slow, it was slow. If it was fast, we'd go fast."

I felt her breath against my lips, her eyes upon mine. The zip of the dress, as far as it would go. I didn't even know where I was physically anymore, beyond in her arms.

"I went for you." A bare whisper. I couldn't say a word, my mind stunned.

"Just for you, Par. My heart told me we were meant for each other, and I've never found it to guide me wrong. It's saved me from going further with Dean, from anything with Jess, to abandoning Chilton when you were at your worst or when I learned my grandparents would pay my tuition in exchange for regular meetings with them. My heart guides my decisions, and it told me I would be gravely wrong if I left you behind."

She laid a soft peck on my upper lip. "My heart told me to listen to you when I found out about Jamie. My emotions shouted it down. I should have listened to it to begin with, but I thank God for your forgiveness."

I felt her pulling the dress down from my arms, so it came down just above my breasts. The flesh where my heart was bare, exposed, and she placed her hand on it, feeling the hard thumping against my heated skin.

"It was that afternoon that led me to know that I could possibly love you, one day."

I placed my own left hand upon her chest, on her heart.

"And now, I know I do."  Her other hand, rested upon my back. I felt closed in, intimate and wanting. My world at that moment was just her. My eyes watered, her beautiful words making me feel so...so...

I need not speak any further on, for Rory Gilmore's next words to me broke through my barriers, fully and without any resistance.

"Eu te amo, Paris Gellar. Com todo o meu coração, eu amo você." (I love you, Paris Gellar. With all of my heart, I love you.)

I couldn't say one word at all. Not one. If I had expected the three words, they would have been in English and said with overwhelming passion. My breath stilled, and I swear I could feel my heart suddenly stop for a couple of beats.

I had dreamt this moment in hundreds of my dreams, all ending in 'I love you' before the cruel reality of the world came back to remind me that she really didn't. Against walls, in beds, falling asleep in desk chairs and couches or in cars. The words never changed, the feeling behind them never overwhelming.

But to be told I was loved by her in the language I grew to love and treasure, the one of the woman who had raised me to believe that the horizon was limitless and to never surrender hope. All of the dreams I ever had, the moment she said it, it wasn't the reality. It was my fiction, and I was ready to accept it as it was.

She would not. The words were meant, the passion within her throat. Her translation of the words was pitch perfect. She spoke the language like I did casually, there was no fault in her words at all.

The events of the rest of the night were now forgotten. In that moment, I could only say one thing, my voice disappearing with each syllable.

"Eu te amo demais, Rory. Está lindo, suas palavras são bonitas." (I love you too, Rory. You are beautiful, your words are beautiful.)

I was afraid she wouldn't understand the last sentence.

"Você é bonito também." (You are beautiful also.)

Usually, I'd ask how she learned Portuguese within the space of a month in detail.

That would not happen, as we shared the softest and most tender kiss we've ever had, both of us to lost within each other. She tipped back my throat and we just fell into the moment. I was enchanted, the hours before with Jamie seeming to be within another generation entirely. I felt my body respond, hungered from the denied touch of her over the last five days. From my throat, to my lips, and then my forehead, she circled my face with touching busses. Kissing my eyelids was so intimate, along with her whispers that I looked so elegant, with or without the makeup. I could barely breathe as the ice around my heart melted, and I opened myself completely to her.

I can truthfully say I enjoy the intimacy, but the kissing and petting which leads up to it makes it all worth it. Hearing the rustling of the blanket below me, and the slight groan in the distressed old floor of New Brunswick maple it rested upon. The atmosphere was perfect, quiet, close. The large space could not dissipate our intimacy.

I slid my hands onto her arms loosely, letting her determine where things would go. I felt safe with Rory, perfectly guided. I then reached behind her to finish the undoing of her gown. The bodice of the dress fell to her hips and hung loose, giving me a true view of her flat stomach, the pale skin of her torso, all the way down to where the dress hung tantalizingly at the bottom of her abdomen, making me imagine what was lower. The hair along my arms stood on end as her hands trailed down to hike up my dress and she began to slowly undress me.

"I love you in green," she husked. "This especially, showing yourself off. You're really coming out of your shell." I felt her lips move down from my mouth, small kisses trailing along my right cheek, and lower. I seemed to idle, still overwhelmed, falling deeper into the chasm. I closed my eyes when I tipped my head back as I found them dead-on with a ceiling fixture.

With a sense lost and taste not in the mix for that moment, the other three amplified. I could feel more air stream along my legs as she pushed the dress up as her thumbs circled out and then in along my thighs. I moaned softly, letting her have control. Along my neck, my legs, she touched softly, exploring and familiarizing herself with what got me hot outside of the rushed situations of last weekend. There was no hurry or a sense of time, and I was astonished by her assertiveness over the situation.

That included slowly sliding off the thin garment that made up my dress. The zipping from earlier may have been speedy, but the rustling of fabric was very soft, as if it was...being centimetered off? I know the term is inched, but an inch is such a large measurement. She was being purposefully slow and teasing, sliding the straps down first, and then the bodice, leaving soft kisses down the middle of my chest with each new piece of exposed skin. I stayed still beyond my lungs filling and emptying, thinking about how this was going to happen.

The air in the room was cool, a side effect of the large space and being in it after the usual heating hours. However I felt warm enough. Her hand pushed up the blatant slit of my dress, taking in the strong curve of my leg as I became lost to the situation. My building doubts about my body image seemed to be knocked down with each new compliment from Rory.

"You're so smooth, beautiful." I love the sound of her voice when she's in passion, a deep timbre rarely heard by anyone else. I wish I could have a guidepoint to compare it to, but I guess you could think of a singer with a throaty voice. I was so dizzy from what she was doing.

"Ror...lower." I was failing to find words to describe what I wanted. Her hand slowly exposed each of my breasts from the cups of the dress. My skin was warm, my nipples hardened from the slow torture of the entire evening, of having to watch her work her clit in a circle as I talked her through her orgasm.

The image was ineradicable in my mind as her tongue took in my taste. The thin wisps of brown curls in a neat sort of inverted pyramid, surrounded by reddened and pearlish tissue glistening in the spare city lights as we headed south on Berlin Turnpike. Small fingers circling counter-clockwise, occasionally venturing in and out to hasten her fulfillment, her deep moans reassuring me that I was giving her the fuel she needed to spill over.

Her nose brushed against the sensitive tip of one of my nubs, and there was a violent upheaval within me as I grasped the mat below suddenly, seething out a profanity, begging her to further. Everything from thereon out seemed to be beyond indescribable. Indeed, my wont to describe every possible action she instigated in the hour seemed to disappear as image blurred into image, kiss into kiss, and each new touch became a part of another touch.  I was now feeling what she was within the Jaguar, that first sense of knowing your lover, what they want to do, how they want to make you feel good.

I can't understand why she enjoys my breasts so much, but I know I shouldn't be complaining. Her mouth around each nipple as she went back and forth, her hands caressed them in a slow and aching wander. Her nails scratched across the outer circumference of each one. I shrieked aloud as the effects of the cooling saliva that was a remainder of her kisses pushed through me.

She slid down the dress from my legs, making me nervous. Her lashes fluttered as she took me in, and there was an urge to shift my arms across my breasts while shielding myself with a hand as if in the Venus de Milo. I felt exposed to her, all of my faults out there to see.

My inner dialogue built my doubts further. God, I need to lose ten pounds for sure, she doesn't seem to approve. The rhythm of my heart accelerated as I felt her sparkling blues rake over me, taking in those imperfections of mine. The dress was dragged over my feet, and then softly set aside at the foot of the mat.

My conscience became the Jewish mother I never had. She does realize her ex was at least built, right? What is she doing with me, thinking I'm sexy? Looking at my face, sure, but the only thing I've done is tease through shirts and pants. I don't have a body like Louise's by any means, and I'm so shy...

Rory took me in from above, and if I was afraid that would be the point of rejection, I would have been disappointed. She moved up to meet me at eye level, perusing my curves, taking me in as if I was one of those lollipops with the chocolate center. The raspberry kind that unlike the owl says, takes 493 licks to get to (as revealed by Madeline during a ninth grade science project).

Smirking, she let her hands wander across my waist, her hair cascading down, while she positioned herself so that we met face to face, while her legs brushed against my ankles.

How did I feel at that moment? With my lover on top of me, internally a mess from the emotions of the night, but probably for the first time not running away because I held her back from doing so. She was a runner, scared of conflict, and even tonight in the bathroom as she confronted me over Jamie, angered and pissed that I wouldn't say anything about him to her, I still saw her fear. She was closed off, prepared to end things right there to spare her heart.

I blocked her way. I put my heart on the line to save the relationship, but even I didn't think the result would be this. She, against me, in the same place where she realized Dean and she were compatible, but not sexually. Bringing her anger out, the betrayal she felt towards Dean, the scars he left with her that she wasn't to even utter 'fuck' because that would ruin her china doll image, leavened with a bit of acid towards Sharon.

Her eyes weighted down on me, as her hand slid down from my stomach, and towards the strip of hair, all that was between us and knocking down that last fence protecting the line between friends and lovers. If the person above me was Tristan, I would have probably been scared. Not just shitless, but paralyzed and unable to move. My mind would have been a spinning quagmire featuring a calendar and a timer stating when I took my last pill, a fear he would push in too fast, his dirty talk sort of offensive as he'd probably say something like he'd want to suck my breasts, but they'd be described in a crude plural term that rhymes with 'soccer' or 'mitt'. Of him spilling into me within a couple minutes, not even getting me started. Not to even mention that my first destination after his come would be the shower because his musk would be all over me, the signs of what he did all over, with bruises and pain. Fears that it would just be sex, nothing more, something I would remember forever, but he would recount I Love the 80's style in front of a bluescreen as part of a countdown, between Denise Terreo and Lemon Vermouth.

Like Rory said, sex with Tristan would probably be wonderful and fulfilling, and I dreamed about it many times. But in the end, looking back, I'm content I made the right decision on shutting him out after his ticket ploy and never sleeping with him. When all is said and done, I don't regret anything. Tristan will be happy with someone else, while I can be happy with Rory.

Very, very happy. Oh dear, I must be sounding a step above demented...

Her thumbs brushed across the sides of my breasts as she took me in warmly, with the nervousness of the week gone. She felt confident in her own skin, her eyes not displaying any kind of fear towards me, lips pouted, nostrils flared. A lump in her throat, I could tell the only thing on her mind was my pleasure. I felt my throat squeak, a bit intimidated at watching her above me. There was that fiery confidence in her that always comes through at the right time.

Brushing against the lower part of one, I flinched, kicking up on reflex, shocked. I knew where I felt turned on but wanted her to be surprised. I moaned her name out, and she felt encourage on further. I let my hands settle at her waist while my thumbs rested on the top of her backside.

Slowly I found myself coming into my own and willing to let her explore. She was caring and deliberate with her touches, kisses along my cheeks, her words softened. The bitterness of earlier was replaced with wary caution to turn me on but know that I didn't want rough play. I wanted slow, and she was great in that regard. I heard her whisper nothings to me, mentions of the taste of my skin, the scent of my perfume, how silky my hair felt. Admittedly I was clenching my fists at times and trying to hold back, but relaxation came quickly with loving strokes.

It took a while to warm up, as she concentrated on finding my erogenous zones, especially my scalp and the small of my back, and including my stomach. She spoke about how beautiful I was nude, how natural my beauty was. "I could just stare at you all night and be fulfilled," she said softly as her hands explored my curves. I felt her against me, her nipples as hard as mine and pushed against my breasts, occasionally brushing at my sensitive nubs and causing me to react with a seething call of her name out loud. The mat was about the only odd thing in the whole setting as I felt myself sticking against it, but it was a little thing.

She lavished my breasts with touches, kisses, and then moved up towards my neck. She fit perfectly against me, and as the minutes passed the anticipation built. Her hand would slide down to occasionally brush my sensitive clit to tease me, the reaction seemingly pleasing her. In the periphery of my vision I could see what began as dark red marks, fading out as her lipcolor dissipated along the swell of my bust. As she went on, she would pull her hand away to slide across my stomach, but circled lower with each new tease.

Lower, lower...its odd how I enjoy her nails only grown out an eighth of an inch. They aren't long, but they're just enough for me, so perfect. She curled them down my center line in a tight three pattern along the edge of the indentation to start out with and as she moved down opened the stroke to be more of a nine with a small loop. My insides were gel and I was reacting involuntarily to the touch as it began to approach my hairline. She kissed my eyelids as the circles drifted ever lower as she switched her strokes to counter-clockwise sixes. My breathing was ragged, thoughts about her preparing for this with herself for so many months running through my mind.

"Want you, all for myself." She tucked my hair behind my ear. "Want you, baby girl."

"How much?" She was beginning to position herself above me, sensing where things were going.

Chills went through me when she answered. "More than Harvard." She instigated another deep kiss and I was too far gone to even answer. My body began to respond as I pulled her down a bit, her hand just over my clit as she attempted to tease.

I wanted this so much, there was no doubt about it. I was soaking and so turned on by her seductive moves before all of this, and we now knew each other more than we could have ever fathomed before I discovered the notebook. There wasn't a need for permission, a moment of pause where I had those second thoughts before reassuring myself that I wanted this. My eyes said it all to her, wide and watery, begging her to make this the moment the little Jewish girl finally let herself be a woman.

"I love you." Those were my last words before her hand breached me, and I lost all conscious thought as she took me to a plane I know that nobody else could have ever taken me. I could describe everything in agonizing detail, but I also forgot so many of them because I was so overwhelmingly turned on and hot, each memory only there to further the moment on. Suffice to say she didn't tease, nor did she hold back at all. It was long, it was agonizing and beautiful. The way she took me was beyond how I could've ever dreamed it, her thin fingers carefully sliding in. One first, then two, and then, finally three, with her thumb manipulating my clit. My fear that Rory had no idea how to make love to me was instead replaced with a thought that I don't know if I could live if we couldn't be together like this ever again. My throat was ragged by the end, my hair ravaged and my body...a good kind of hurting going through my bones from her passion.

I could've never dreamed that by the end of this evening I'd be giving the most precious thing I bear to the girl I loved in such a way, after going through so many obstacles and hearing how her devotion to someone has burned her before. A memory she wanted to forget and never have reoccur.

Well I can tell you right now despite how vocal I am in my sleep talking, the thought of Tristan, or any man for that matter, giving me the passion that Rory did in the time that passed after is hereby impossible. The way her fingers slid effortlessly within me, how she knew where I wanted to be touched, and how it naturally went from a focus on me to lovemaking between the both of us in every sense of the word, there wasn't anything that I wanted to change at all. Even the argument in the bathroom and the coldness of the Formal is something that has strengthened us further. We both learned tonight that we have to share how we feel, that we need to defend each other and prepare for any kind of suspicion, and reassure each other that the words we said tonight will remain the statement that defines us in the future, not something that's said due to chronological convenience or a panic.

We're both just settling down now from the outpouring of passion and lust, my body against her slim form and fitting within her perfectly. We're both so damp, and I feel limp as I look at her about to close my eyes. God, I want to get up, but how can I? Can I really justify moving away from Rory when my heart is yearning to stay so close? The blankets are loosely wrapped around us, the lining of my jacket sticking against me, everything which had been on our persons thrown haphazardly around the mats, and my rationality is telling me to get the fuck out of here lest we be discovered...

But my hand is clasped in hers, a warm, secure feeling, and her dimmed eyes are telling me I can't go, along with her quiet voice, reassuring and calm. That small-town squeak within it catches my breath every time.

"You know, you've just guaranteed I won't be out of bed until one o'clock." Her legs brush against mine and she brushes a buss across my lips. "Who would've thought you'd be the one to ruin my highly organized Sundays?"

"I'm sure Lorelai appreciates it," I noted. "I'm just glad that we got to this step without any kind of pro-con list whatsoever."

"Hey!" She slugged my arm. "I'll have you know, missy, that I still had a plan in my head."

"A plan sidetracked by my mother, so you had to improvise." I smirked. "You had to scramble after I made you see that your cell was at home."

"How did you know that anyways?" she asked.

I tried to avoid the truth. "Just an educated guess that somehow my messages went unheeded."

"Riggght." She shook her head. "I'm pretty sure that you checked with my mom before you went with your plan of attack."

"Perhaps I did. But even if I didn't it would have been 50/50 that you were without your phone." I decided to tease her a little bit more. "I suppose then you totally missed the other messages I left you before Sharon sprung Jamie on me."

"Come to think of it I left it charging since last night." She was visibly annoyed as she realized her absent-mindedness. "Then again I was sort of forgetful all through the evening; my mind was elsewhere all through dinner with the grandparents."

"Really now? Was it about the test Mercurio has us taking on War and Peace Tuesday morning?"

"No." Pushing closer to me she let her hands settle against the small of my back, making herself comfortable. "I...I kind of had to go upstairs after only finishing half my plate."

I didn't understand the lead of the conversation because her voice seemed unsettled. "So?" I saw her sigh and smile weirdly at me.

"So, I can't stop thinking about you! Grandma going on about my refusal to get a Yale interview in before December ends, Grandpa going on about Yale traditions, and Mom arguing about Yale with them, it was pretty much an all-Yale dinner. It made me feel sick."

"I'm sorry. God, you really just need to burn a Yale jersey or the Daily News in front of them just to get the point across." I felt so much sympathy for her having to go through this stupid debate about a college which isn't where she wants to be. I kissed her forehead and then rested in the crook of her neck as we began to talk ourselves asleep.

"And that's why I said I was sick and wanted to lie down, I needed space from them. I needed space from their pre-ordained idea of life for me. I escaped up to my bedroom at the mansion and thought of the both of us, like we did, making love. I still had your scent in my mind from hours earlier, along with the anticipation of seeing you tonight, and I just felt...so overwhelmed. Like I can only think about you."

Trembling against me, she was emotional. "I don't know why I've fallen so hard and so fast for you, Par. I mean a month ago when I could only watch you I thought I could keep everything in control, stay focused and not have every moment I could spare result in thinking about you. I just was under this mindset that if we were together we'd end up moving at the same speed as I did with Dean. That it would be...sane." She looked down.

"You forget though, love is the least sane emotion of them all." I ran my hand along her back. "I understand much more about why you stayed with Dean now, even as you were pulled towards me. He offered you so much safety, a bit of control to keep yourself from heading off the end, and that's why you always had that sense in your mind that your 'I love you' to him in the courtyard wasn't what you really felt. You did love him, like I did Tristan. It just wasn't a kind of love where you gave him your heart and soul, you didn't let go of it because those thoughts of Beth were always with you."

"That's why when he said it in the junkyard, I couldn't say it back," she explained pensively. "Did he really mean it? How could he know that he loved me after exactly 90-92 days of dating? I mean if he said it before then or didn't bring it up until later, I wouldn't have held the doubts about Beth because I knew the words were true, from his heart, not pre-conceptions."

Pausing for a moment, she seemed to be lost in thought, going back to something in her past. After a bit of searching, she found what she wanted to say. "I've never said this, but I regret telling him I loved him." There was no hesitation in her words, and I was surprised by her tone.

"But you did," I said softly. "Why would you?"

Rory, staring at me with those eyes so clear, brushed a finger against my cheek, and with her soft voice, melted my heart. "Because he didn't treasure the love I have for another like you do." I was stunned, my emotions completely stunted by her confession. "There were times where I knew he meant it, but it was always when it was expected, when he was at my house and in front of my mother. He would never say it when I visited his house, or when I met him in front of the high school after an early dismissal, or just because. It was just a suffix to his goodbye, something familiar he knew I'd never question." She sighed, and then made the ring motion with her index finger around mine. "If I would have known that his love would be so boring I would have broken up with him."

To add finality to how she stood with me, she reminded me of what we went through tonight. "I could have lost your love tonight with that outburst in the bathroom, and rightly so. But you weren't like Dean. You didn't act like a five year-old and wait for me to come around and apologize. You decided to be proactive and you made it damned clear that the only way you're going to lose me is in a way that's beyond your control. And even then you'll continue to fight for me until you can't. You love me, Paris, and I love you. I know others would think that we're acting too fast, we're irrational, and that we have no idea how to love or be in love."

She quickly paused to catch her breath within our heated embrace, the words coming out in a rush of emotion. "But I look at it this way. We're perfect for each other. I was stuck in a two year relationship that wouldn't budge beyond puppy love, no matter what I tried to do to make that clear to Dean, who I just could never see as really wanting me beyond a replacement for Beth. You, on the other hand, you've wanted a relationship for so long, on your own terms, but you haven't been able to. Tristan, whoever Sharon pushes off on you, along with Louise trying to force you to think that the sex beyond everything else is what makes a relationship great. It just alienated you from even considering one. We want someone we can love on every level, be passionate with, share everything and anything. We have that in so many ways, and..." her voice finally faded down as she began to feel tired. "I love you for everything you did tonight. For thinking fast and getting me in the town car before I almost ruined the best night we've had so far before it ever started. For being there to hear me out, my worries and doubts, and letting me be there to comfort you when your mother's intentions became clear. And for letting me bring you here, a place that holds so much meaning for me. I can never forget this night."

I touched her side softly, crying as everything she said overwhelmed me. I couldn't really put how everything affected me into words, everything she said. All I knew was that I wouldn't forget tonight either. Kissing her softly, I closed my eyes and whispered how much she meant to me.

"Thank you for coming back, my love." I pulled up the blanket, brought her close. "If we can get through something like what happened with Jamie, we can get through anything."

"I love you, Paris."

"I love you too." I smiled, and then brought everything to a close. "Do we want to get up? I don't know that I can after...that."

"Miss Patty has no Sunday yoga tomorrow as far as I remember." She curled up against me, ready to rest.

"Good." With that, she began to fall asleep, and I began to think of what this night resulted in, beyond no longer having to carry the Mary tag silently within Chilton.

I lay here, about to fall asleep, thinking about how much Rory has confided in me, the way she trusted me with all this information about how hurt she was in the past with Dean. How simple it was for her to apply a fictional veneer to her small town life that showed that she was an unhappy part of a happy couple. It makes me consider what could have happened if somehow Tristan would have found cause to get together with me.

What was I thinking at that time, honestly? He was just coming off that relationship with Summer and I'd be the girlfriend to set him straight? Really I'm glad all of my delusions of his not wanting Rory were gone with the kiss in the music room. I don't regret the way things went after the date, but if I would have known Rory was telling the truth I know things might have gone differently.

Like for instance instead of hearing about Deano's front drive foray from Madeline, I could've been there to try and avert it from ever happening. If I knew then what I knew now I could've announced to the world that his jack-off material consisted not of my brown-eyed beauty, but some assembly line richie from the North Shore. How he could choose her over Rory, I don't think I'll ever know. But Rory knows I never liked him to begin with. He was an idiot, someone who's the nice boy and doesn't ruffle any feathers at all.

Much less a bra strap.

But I'm getting the last laugh now. In the same room where two years ago he had his chance he blew, the girl who was to love him left him completely behind, telling me she loved me. Then of her proceeding to make love to me in a way that turned my dreams from vivid and color to dull and sepia. The real woman, with the real heart and passion, has overtaken the girl I thought about for over a year doing these things.

She looks so beautiful when she sleeps, and as I let my eyes close for a quick nap, I can't help but think that maybe that pink sky out there was a foretelling. Her mother has always said that 'wonderful things happen in snow'.

I don't know if it is for sure, but If there's flakes falling, I think my opinion of snow as an annoyance may be changing...

Rory's POV, 3:50am-4:05am

You know, it seems like this night has stretched on to forever. Like it will never end. Sure, I know it has to eventually end. I'm never usually up at this hour at all, and the one time I was before it seemed like my future was doomed. Coming home from the studio with my mother waiting to put me on the pill and lock me up. If it wasn't for Grandpa being rushed to the hospital it could have changed us forever and created a rift between us.

Two years and an attraction to the same sex however, can change quite a few things about that paranoia. I was just glad that everything tonight worked out the way it did.

That, and we were able to get out of the studio before anyone could find us sleeping on their mats. I was sleeping soundly against Paris when I suddenly heard a faint noise from a distance. I brushed it off as part of a dream at first, but it became louder and louder, repeating after five seconds. I didn't want to get up, and eventually it went away. But about a minute later it began again. I tried to block it out, but then I remembered the familiar sound.

It was Paris's ringer, which was a refrain from The Four Seasons. Obviously it was important if they were calling so early in the morning, and it may have been her driver. I didn't want to move, but I had to answer, lest suddenly Henrico didn't get an answer, he assumed the worst, and my girlfriend would be part of a missing woman media blitz by the time Sunday Today began.

I got up to get to her purse on the other side of the room completely naked and then dug through her purse to find her cell phone. Of course I wasn't thinking clearly at the time, so I failed to check the caller ID before I flipped open the phone and answered it, watching my dozing lover as I spoke in a sleepy voice.


"Why, it's my daughter, who is...about two hours late for her generous curfew. What's up, kiddo?"

"Ummmmmm..." Where I was tired moments before, I was now wide awake!

I did mention the being naked part, right?


"Yes, I am your mother, and I'm sitting here on the couch watching the Magic Bullet infomercial while I wait for my daughter to come home, and she hasn't shown up quite yet." If it was possible, I was blushing deeper than Violet Beauregard. "I'm assuming that either Paris is sleeping or is avoiding the phone just in case the Wicked Witch of the West Hartford Hills decides to call."

"Uhhhh...the first?" I felt so nervous, I pulled at my sleeve.

A sleeve that wasn't there. So I yanked at skin and yelped instead, covering it up by pulling the phone quickly away from me, and then back.

"So you two were sleeping, and I woke you up?"

My neurons weren't firing on all cylinders as I answered the question. "Um, you could say that."

"Really?" There's the 'Mom voice'. "You kind of seem a bit apprehensive."

"What time is it?"

"About 2:30."

"Oh God." I was panicked. "I'm so sorry, I...I wanted to be home by one."


"Mom, please. I just...I need time to digest. I'm sorry, but when I get home, we will talk. We have to." I shook my head, feeling so guilty about everything. I hope I didn't ruin everything between Paris and I while creating a rift with Lorelai at the same time. "Paris should come too?"

"Mm-hmm." Eventually I said goodbye, and I had to wake up Paris, who I can tell you is definitely not an early morning person. After telling her my mom just called, her only responses were annoyed Luke-like grunts and that she didn't want to put her dress back on. "You're the one who brought me here," she reminded me.

"I know, I thought it would be romantic!"

"It was," she assured, slipping on the silky frock and putting back on her shoes. "I'll always remember this, but my back is going to be in pain for a week, I'm sure."

Shaking my head, I was glad she was too tired to get on my case about answering her phone, and in record time we were dressed, the mats were back in place, the blankets were folded in the lockers, and we out the depot, locking the door behind us and as dressed as we could possibly be in our interrupted post-coital bliss. The temperature outside was colder than it was when we went into the studio and the whole time over Paris had her arms close together as she slowly woke up while I guided her down the streets towards the house. She grumped all the way there, cursing her choice of a thin jacket rather than the comfort of her Chilton overcoat. We also ran a bit. Well, as much as we could in heels.

Oh, and it was starting to snow too. Usually a point where I'd get happy and wistful,  but instead it had me treading carefully just in case I slipped and fell hard on my butt.

Ten minutes later we were running up the driveway towards the house, where Mom was waiting out front, relieved that we were both alive and in one piece. She opened the door for us and we walked into the house.

The moment Par entered the foyer though, I could tell that there was a change in attitude with her. The assertive shyness she had shown earlier with me as I slowly wooed her had dissipated, and I could tell the gravity of the situation was finally hitting her. There was that fear, of discovery, of self-doubt that she made the right decision in giving me her love tonight. Just alone between us it had seemed right, but now as Lorelai's gaze weighed down upon her shoulders, she was beginning to doubt the last two weeks. Her hands shook, her eyes downcast as she began to feel doubt rise in her. The fear that my mom would call Mrs. Gellar and let her know, or that she was going to be shouted down at.

I didn't feel very complacent myself. What I had done, the entire evening seemed to flash before my eyes. Since the moment I picked up that phone Thanksgiving evening, I'd found myself unwilling to define my relationship within Mom's rules. Slow and steady wasn't the speed I craved, and I had been following what my heart wanted.

I needed a lover, not just someone to make out with. Throwing all my pre-conceptions aside, that thinking likely was about to bring me trouble, and as I sat down next to my girlfriend on the sofa, I prepared for the lecture of the century. Paris, with her eyes shut probably wanted to rush her reincarnation into something beyond the mortified girl who would have a chastity belt slapped on her the moment she got back to Gellar Manor. My mother pacing, I held her hand, trying to tell her it was all going to be OK. Not immediately, but sometime in the next decade.

After preparing herself a bit more, Mom was finally ready to start talking to the both of us. Imagine her on the chair, as we sit on the couch with our hair in disarray and makeup pretty much mussed and non-existent. I closed my eyes, trying to calm my nerves just in case she tried to strike one. I couldn't judge what Paris was going to do, but facing up to my mother like she did Villard Hall last year during a strong illegal immigration debate probably wasn't in her plan. Her hand was tight in mine.

I expected Mom to say horrible, horrible things, that I had done everything too fast, ruined my life. There was shame in how I felt, the decisions I made, how she thought I was the good one and I turned out much different than that. Whatever she says, she's right. This is going too fast. We're not thinking, we're in this fully blind and the fact that we love each other is no excuse for what we did.

I was ready for an argument, and I'm sure Paris would be eventually.

What we weren't prepared for was...acceptance?

"I guess hormones beat parliamentary procedure every time. Isn't that right, Paris?" Directing a look towards her, she was startled at the direction of questioning going right to her instead of me. It was so unexpected. Flaring up, Paris sunk into the couch cushions.

She was literally speechless, unable to respond in any way except for a squeak, strangled.

"Far be it for me to wonder that you were twenty minutes away from school on Monday morning, with my daughter. I think to myself 'she'll get there with so much time to spare that they could play a pickup soccer game'. Around noon though, I get a call on my cell phone, from a friendly recorded voice mentioning that my daughter missed two classes that morning." Shaking her head, she smiled at her. "I thought I would never receive that call a second time after Rory's little day trip to Brooklyn, and I held it back from Sookie, who was in the same room and wondering who it was."

"Ms. Gilmore..." Paris was about to say anything, but was stopped.

"Paris, I'm about to say something to you and my daughter that I thought I would never, ever say. All my life I've always thought of myself as her protector, the one to warn her off from danger or sticky situations. But the thing is, she's always tried to be more adult than I am. She's so focused on how something affects her life, she writes out pro/con lists before she decides on anything."

A pause, and a deep breath. I'm so nervous about this. What is she going to do? I felt mortified about what Mom was about to say. I thought this was the end of everything, that I just had my last taste of her. We went too far...

"You're both bringing each other out of your shells. Watching and observing, the few times I've been able to, I spent the first few days after I caught you two thinking that I did something wrong." She expressed her doubts in a candor I never had heard from her before as she turned to face me. "I never wanted to admit this, but the day after when I was in my office at the Inn, I kept thinking if I had done something wrong with you. I questioned my entire relationship history, going over everything to see if there may have been a way to misdirect you back to Dean, or even to Jess. I hated myself for thinking that, the very idea of wanting you torn apart, but it was something real that I thought about. And then the thoughts of you breaking each other's hearts." She shook her head, closing her eyes. The guilt she felt must have been painful. "I was happy for you both, but crying because here I thought I knew my daughter. I knew what she wanted, what made her happy, who gave her the drive to be the way she is."

She took a sip of the water in front of her, needing to hydrate herself. It was odd to watch my mom like this, not joking or the way she was two years ago, thinking I had blown my life because of Dean. Continuing, her voice was unsteady. "But I've watched you these last three weeks, together in the front drive and in my foyer, or on my couch, watching a movie together or just being close to each other." She sighed, setting the bottle down. "At first I felt uncomfortable, and there was that need to tear you apart and say this wasn't right. That voice in my mind telling me that Rory needed to find someone like Christopher on her own." It was then she recalled the drive back from Hartford after our Christmas shopping. "But I noticed something changing with you, Rory. It wasn't just in the way you couldn't stop talking about Paris, but when I looked at you in the mall as we tackled each store, there was a difference from how you were a month ago. I...I saw how unhappy you were with Dean, the frustration you felt because he took himself too seriously as not allowing you to express yourself. He felt like I'd gang up on him as soon as he went for more, but I had relaxed by the middle of last year. I assumed he would make his move and that some time, everything would change."

Mom then told me about the signs that she knew I wasn't happy that she missed. How I would avoid going over to Dean's or was a bitch regarding her cooing over our having our 15-month and 18-month anniversaries, which just to me were becoming milestones of him not getting the hint that I wanted him to be my first. The pressure I felt inside that I wanted him as my first, combined with the frustration that nothing I could do would make him see that I was ready for him. My love letters went ignored, my demands to go deeper brushed off as me being lovesick. Hearing Mom talk about it as a disappointment in him rather than me was a relief.

She continued, alluding to how my love for Paris had overwhelmed what I felt for Dean. "I know...I know the both of you aren't like anybody else in your entire school. Education is your first priority and the gossip circle is at best tertiary to your achievements. I kept thinking over and over that you both were too young to rush into this, that you need some time to think and realize the consequences before you do anything. In bed I've been plagued by some dreams of the town hating you, thinking of you as a corruptor of Rory's virtue, that she was unwilling to go into this at all and you've bullied your way into her heart."

Soon, she came to her point. "But then thinking of that call, and of tonight, while I waited for you both to come. I put myself in your shoes, Paris. They were kind of uncomfortable and bulky, the socks were odd and you double-tie them so I'm not used to them, but I did." Taking another pause for water, she hesitated, looking at my girlfriend, who felt odd about the humor. She brought her gaze down to her hands, while I circled my hand within Paris's palm.

"Looking at the situation at your age, your time, rather than my view as outside, I...I'm struggling to say this, but I have to, because it took me too long to think about you two in more than a friendship, much less romantic."

"Mom?" I questioned. I knew she was unsettled if she used so many words before finding her point. "What are you trying to say?"

Her words came out, a bit shaky. "I'm saying that...when I saw you two in the bedroom, I forgot that you were adults, or are on the cusp of adulthood. I keep thinking of you two as kids, but that ended on October 8th for you, kiddo. I looked at things as Paris does, and I'm looking at how you were thinking about it, and I'm beginning to understand what kind of give and take you both have in your relationship. It's complex and sometimes odd, but on the most basic of levels, it works. I keep thinking about all of these fights you have and how you bounce insults off one another when you're both pissed off. If that was me, I'd keep a grudge. But somehow, you both...well, I hate to be so blunt and I should slap myself for telling my daughter this." She stopped. "You both get off on it."

Yup, there I was, flushing deeply at the bluntness of her opinion. You can never say that my mother minces words, and she was finding her voice as she told us how she felt.

"You're both primed to be around each other, competitive and always trying to outdo each other, and somehow that's developed into something else entirely. I could say that I don't want you to be around each other, but I can't. There's something the both of you see about each other that I can't, or everyone else, and I know that whatever it is, you're connected on this small hidden level that I know would unhinge you both if someone tried to break you off. At this point, you need each other, and somehow I'm relieved that it's with you, Paris."

She finally voiced the concerns about Dean she had for months, her attention moving towards me. "I admit, I was prepared whenever you had your first time with Dean. By last year, I thought it was inevitable. But when you hadn't, I was surprised, and a bit disturbed. I saw it in your eyes as you prepared to go out with him and experimented with more makeup and thinner dress. You wanted him and you thought he'd return those feelings. You'd come home though, say the date was fine, and when I tried to ask you what happened, you always sounded bored, like you were forced to date him. Then you tell me all these things about him being possessive or denying you affection because Jess happened to be at the diner and you had to order something from him, it was appalling for him to be so possessive. I never thought to say something about it, but I thought you were dealing with it."

"I was." I stared down at my hands as I went into detail about it. "I dealt with it internally at first, because no one seemed to understand. You told me to hope, while Lane said I should be happy that he was in the right for wanting to be proper with my chastity. Par was the only one to tell me I was wrong. We talked about it several times over the summer, when I came back to Howard with another pithy postcard in the mail. She hates to see me this way, worrying over mail I poured my heart into, only to be regarded on the same level as junk mail." My lip quivered as I went on, my internal filter making sure to leave out he was cheating with Beth and I knew it. From there I explained again what drew me to Paris and exactly what drew me to her sexually. I admitted what we did Monday and tonight, while Paris explained everything that she thought about Dean, though she was struggling to stay awake, her biological clock out of whack. I was fully expecting of my mom to put more restrictions on us from seeing each other outside of school, such as directly coming home after paper work or a call when we got to Chilton. But we both promised that we would no longer detour off-route, that Monday morning was a one time thing.

Still, there were some concerns from her. "I'm sort of disappointed that you two didn't wait and just jumped into things, I guess. But if you two feel that you're mature enough, and you can handle this, I won't try to stop you."

"Thank you--" Paris was interrupted.

"I won't try to stop you, but the open door rule remains here at home." Her stern tone was surprising, but understandable. "If you're both here without me I'm going to trust you not to do anything that I wouldn't want to see. I also expect you both to keep your grades up like you have so far, and the Thursday night visits are still mandatory. As for Bracebridge night, I'm afraid you can't invite Paris here, Rory."

I readied an objection, but Paris stopped me. "Don't worry, I won't be going. Mother found out I went last year and she chastised me for associating with 'yokels'. I'm sure it'll be better this year, hopefully."

"Yeah, me too," Mom said. She shook her head and asked her one last question. "I'm sorry I have to exclude you, but the probability of someone in town finding out about you two is going to be very high. I can't risk someone like Kirk or Babbette walking into your room and blabbing all about it. As someone who had to hide a pregnancy for a few months, I know how it is to keep quiet. As much as you'd both like to come out, it's not time, right?"

We both shook our heads at the same time, but that brought Paris into the perfect opportunity to ask me something. "If you don't mind, I'd like to invite Rory to dinner with my father at his loft in downtown Wednesday night." I was startled for a moment as the implication of what she was asking hit me.

"You want to come out to him?" I asked.

"I need to, hon." She kissed me on the cheek, placing her hand on my knee. "I wanted him to be the first after your mom to know, but Madeline took that place. I can't break that trust the two of us have had against Mother, and I don't want to hide it from him."

"Does he know I'm coming?"

"I let him know I'd be over on Wednesday, but not that you'd be coming." I thought for a moment about the ramifications of coming out to Mr. Gellar. Would he accept me, think of me as worthy? Or would he be like Mr. Forrester, tolerating me while he went on about 'that Beth girl' and how he wished she was back in his son's life full time?

I knew though, that it had to be done, and soon. Right now, between holidays, we can come out without the stress of those days on us yet. No awkward uncles or weird nephews to judge us, just the closest people to us.

That made me think of the other important family in my life. Something that I felt I needed to share soon so that they wouldn't have the wrong idea. I told them about ending things with Dean, so I'm sure during the Christmas party they're going to have a 'meet market' situation where I'll suddenly see so many Chilton guys wanting a piece of the Gilmore wealth. I really didn't want them to waste their time, so I crossed my fingers that I could figure out a way to come out to the grandparents before Grandma tried to set me up with someone that night. But I had to deal with the here and now.

"I'll come with you," I said. "I do want to meet your father. He seems like a nice man."

"He cares about me," she said, cuddling close to me. "I'm his whole world, and I don't see him being vile towards you at all. He only wants the best for me and he knows what it's like to yearn for someone so long and finally get them."

Mom then shared her opinion of Paris's father. "I knew your father from when he was in his 20's. He'd be over at our house having drinks with my father and other associates from his company, looking to offer their drugs at reduced cost under Dad's insurance company. He was drained from medical school but knew that he'd rather his drugs go to those who deserve it rather than just because they could charge $200 for twenty pills. I respect him, though I don't see much of him since I left Hartford."

"He's never changed," Paris said proudly. "The divorce almost sapped his energy, but with all these other companies advertising unneeded pills he wants to get some out that actually make a difference. He's a little guy in their world, but I know that if he can do it, his legacy will be remembered well."

"I'd like to think we'd all love to be proud of our parents," I said, settling in against Paris as the talk of the night shifted towards a more relaxed pace. She prepared to call Henrico to come at 4am so I had just a bit more time with her. Every minute I have with her, especially after tonight, I treasure, and I enjoyed watching her as she began to be conciliatory with Mom. She put a comic spin on the Jamie situation, and the cell phone drama, which seemed like it would kill all of our progress hours before, quickly became a distant footnote, explained away with a joking warning I'd be frisked for a phone from now on.

Unlike two years ago, there was no yelling, screaming, and Paris's head was safe from dull hedge clippers for the time being. There was a calm over all three of us that wasn't there two weeks ago when we were walked in on, a sense that the bumps in the road were coming, but that here we'd have a rest stop, a respite from the chaos to come in the next few weeks.

It's now about 10 minutes to 4, and Mom just went to bed after saying her goodnights to us, while telling us that we have nothing to be ashamed about at all. "At least you were warm when you lost yours," she said, while I whined about her reminding me where I was conceived. Of course, Paris didn't have to know where!

That left my girlfriend waiting downstairs for Henrico, and I decided to brush my teeth and wash my face before I bid Paris adieu for the evening. I'm not prepared for more than a goodnight kiss from her, and as I walk towards my bedroom, I expect that she's standing in the foyer, waiting for her ride home. All the lights are turned out except for a couple dim ones and the light over the sink in the kitchen. I notice the door to my bedroom is almost closed, but since I left it that way I don't suspect anything amiss at all.

I open the door to enter and set my grooming supplies on the desk...

I'm surprised to find as I close the door and prepare to head to my dresser, hands wrapping around my waist from behind.

"I really had a wonderful time tonight." Her voice is soft, elegant, her breath tickling the shell of my ear. "The first two hours were awful, but we made up lost time in those last six."

"Paris..." I'm surprised, shocked. "What are you doing in here?"

"Saying goodnight, darling." She turns me around so I'm reversed, and she walks me towards the bed. "You know, those eyes really sparkle within the dimmest light. It's almost as if a whole galaxy resides within your irises."

"Hon, you can't be in here. What...what about Mom? And the rules!" I noticed that she attempts to kick the door closed, but it comes up just short.

"As long as the door doesn't close all the way, we can be in here," she husks, her hands sliding down the middle of my back. She finds the catch of my zipper. "I am currently following the rules to the letter. The door is not closed."

"But...but..." I feel her lips touch mine as she induces me into a slow kiss, her other hand caressing my cheek as she lets herself revel in me. I still taste the cocoa she made up from the Swiss Miss powder in the kitchen to warm herself up after the conversation, her lips still stained a bit by the substance. Her kiss is slow and teasing, her touches are wandering.

"Technically, we are not doing anything sexual at all," she notes, using the law to have her way. "I am getting you ready for bed."

I'm a little shocked at her audacity. "What about pajamas?"

She's bringing down my zipper in response.

"Not tonight," Paris says, her tone like silk as she brings down the straps of my dress. "Tonight, no pajamas. You're going to be much too warm to have to wear them."

"It's 20 degrees outside; I need something to wear."

"Untuck your sheets," she commands, as we near my bed, while she continues to unzip me.

"Can't I...can't I at least grab some underwear?" I see her shake her head in the darkness.

"Why, are you afraid of your own nudity?" She stares me over as she brings down the dress, exposing my breasts.

"It's not that. I have a robe, I'm just, well. I...I'm a bit self-conscious about being fully...naked." I'm flustered as her hand brushes across a breast, her eyes moving down to take in my exposed skin.

"You were in Miss Patty's and had no problem."

"But I put my clothes on as soon as I could," I say, my lips trembling as she pushes the dress the rest of the way down, until it pools at my ankles. "And if I have a dream about you, well, I um, you know."

"You soak your sheets. You can't hold back what you feel, so you ruin them, thinking about me." I push the blankets aside to crawl in, as she backs me against the rail of the bed. "I bet you dream about me loudly, moan my name in pleasure. You push a sheet against your mound, rubbing your clit round and round, or you just rub in your sleep. I bet you'd feel even sexier, naughtier without anything to stop you except your mons."

"Par..." I'm overwhelmed by her. This is that evil side she still revels in from time to time, where she just gets so naughty. I'm so not prepared at all. I should be going to bed, not indulging in her one last time. But there she is, standing above me, her fingers circling across my stomach, her eyes darkened with the latent want that I thought I would have never seen, but now seems to be a permanent feature when she sees me. She forces me to sit at the edge of the bed, while I look up at her.

"Rory," she says softly. "I just want to thank you for making me feel special tonight. Even with that rough start, that you admitted you made a mistake in the way you did, even though I had no need to forgive you, it's heartening to see that the girl I love is so selfless and afraid. I feel the love I have for you in my heart, and when we were in the depot I could have felt so many ways about everything you confided in me tonight. But it makes me see you as more than you are. The real you is the girl I'm in love with, and there's something to be treasured in knowing that I'm not the only one to have doubts in myself." I felt her take my hand, and I had the spinning feeling in my stomach from how she described this evening. That she felt special...loved. I felt a lump in my throat that I was in her heart.

"Baby girl," I say nervously. "Did...did I break through the stone?" I don't know why I asked, but I go back to that whole fight in the locker room, where I described her as having rock for a soul. The words still feel acidic, the anger at her for not accepting a compliment, bitter. She pulls me onto the bed, forcing me to the left side so she could lay at my right, on the covers. Staring at me, I see the sheen of her lips in the darkness, her soft breathing so soothing to me.

She brings my right hand to her, sliding down her left dress strap to expose the top of her bosom. Laying it upon the spot of her heart, the warm and tanned skin is beautiful, smooth. I think that if she ages, she will do so gracefully, her beauty slowly maturing and never declining.

She commands me to take in her heartbeat. "Feel it pumping through, the blood flowing, my body in flux, dealing with the passion we shared tonight." The beat is fast; probably 15-20 beats every ten seconds if I can estimate. "I opened my heart to you, and I hope that soon I can share something just as deep like you have tonight." Her coda for the night was strong, beautiful. "I know that we've shared more in less than thirty days than we both shared with Tristan and Dean combined. My eyes are open to everything, the possibilities, the hope, the fears." She caresses my hair softly, reaching over to lay her head against the good Colonel. "I know that I will not take you for granted, ever, like that boy did. I never want you to regret me, and though things aren't going to be like this all the time and we'll have some bumps, know right now that what we're committing to, this is a democracy. Tell me how you feel, I'll tell you the same. Ask for what you want, be the way you are, say what you want to me. In you, I have a special girl, but I want you to know that I'm not going to treat you like china. I love you, and I want you to see that every day. For now, just in private. But when we have to leave our nest and be out, I'll be there to hold your hand."  She lays against me as I stare up at her, the romance I have for her becoming much more than it ever could in my dreams. She pulls the covers up until I'm tucked in all tight and I feel so much for her.

"I feel the same," I say softly, my voice cracking. "If you wouldn't have pulled up to pick me up at the curb, I'd be in this bed, crying, dreaming of what might have been, but never was. If I would have lost you with what I said, I would have been at your locker Monday morning, doing almost anything to be your friend again. But tonight, after Jamie left and we were able to make the most of the night, I can never forget that. I can't forget you. The moment you said you loved me, I knew that my fears were gone. I was afraid to say it before you did, because I wanted you to have that moment. That clarity that I was the one you wanted, the only one. Once you said those words, in that passion I felt for you, I knew I had to say them. I wanted them to touch you though, not just be ordinary. That's why I told you I loved you in Portuguese, because I know that if any one should be touched by what I said beyond you, it should be your nanny." Her hand rubbed my arm, mouth formed in a soft smile as I stated to her that this night went beyond the pale. "I can't see you like I did when I first came to Chilton, the way your mother wanted you to be. You're finally standing up to her and living for yourself, and that takes courage."

"I'll be thinking of you at that cocktail party tomorrow night." She pushes up her dress again while she sighs. "I really don't want to be there. I just get the feeling when I get home, or whenever the fuck Sharon wakes up from her latest .23 bender, Jamie's going to be the first subject."

"I'm sure if she calls him he'll lie about knowing."

"I know that. The poor kid, he thought he was in love with me, and I crushed his heart. I hope that girl in Charm City gets a shot at him, he's really a nice guy."

"I feel bad for thinking mean things about him in my mind," I mentioned.

"Was there a vise involved?"

"There may have been," I joked. I felt relaxed with her next to me in bed, that even if we weren't doing anything sexual, we could talk lightly like this, without any kind of tension. We stare at each other while talking softly about our plans for the next couple days, including some paper work, obviously. We both feel a bit bad for neglecting the Franklin, but we'd make up for it, I'm sure. After all, there hasn't seemed to be a problem staying until seven to work on the paper. I think we could probably pull it off.

I was hoping that she could stay with me all night, but soon I hear a knocking on the front door. I feel myself deflate immediately, knowing that our night was over.

"Time to go, Ror." She kisses my forehead and rises from the bed, looking so beautiful with her mussed hair and sleepy eyes. "Remember, do not get out of that bed."

"But, Paris..." She waves her finger in my direction.

"I'm sleeping until 2:30 tomorrow...after I take a shower. I'm in such a wonderful mood I'm not even going to wear a robe after I slip out of this." She smiles, and I feel so warm from her suggestiveness. "I would probably check your mail too before 7 o'clock. I'm not doing the awkward thing with the camera phone again, so I'll just do it with my mirror."

"Are you going to be wearing something...daring?"

She shakes her head. "This was daring. Tomorrow night I'm going to make sure that I remain a 'no man's land.' But since you have this seemingly insane obsession about what I wear, I will send you pictures."

"I am not insane," I argue. "I'm 'multi-faceted abnormal.'"

"I'm sure Dr. Birnbaum would want to argue that point." She picks up her bag, sitting on top of my dresser. "Now you stay in that bed and rest away most of the day, like I am. Just enjoy what we did tonight, and that we have a bit more leeway to do what we want."

"Fine, I'm staying." I flop my head onto the pillow. "I feel all weird though."

She gives a reminder of why she asked me to do so. "If we're going to sleep together, we have to get used to doing so without clothes. Very awkward to have sex and then throw our pajamas back on." She looks at me one last time, backing towards the door, with her hand on the knob. "You know what I mean, right?"

"Yes, Par." I am indeed feeling warm despite the lack of anything to wear as she opens the door. "I'll see you Monday morning, hon. I love you."

"Boa noite, meu amor. Até o próximo encontro." She closes the door, shutting it softly, and I hear her heels clack across the floor as she leaves the house, as I'm thankful that the library has those CD courses to give me a basic overview of Portuguese. I really wanted to watch her depart, but I know if I did I'd leave the bed and she'd be disappointed. Tucking me in like Mom did when I was younger, saying goodnight the way she did, Paris is proving that she's more than I could have ever imagined.

I hear the purring of the town car engine and the sound of the gravel as the car drives out, and I think to myself that this night was definitely the best I've ever had. I was able to be the most special person in her life in that depot, and to be the way I am with her, I know now that I'm too ahead now to just end things without a reason.

Really, I could sleep twenty hours now. My body is too relaxed and I only feel my eyes weighing down with sleep. I don't know that I have the energy to indulge in my sexual fantasies at all to fall asleep.

Not that I need to anyways. Somehow I think that my dreams will take care of that for me. I'm guessing I'll be able to be the one with her on the dance floor instead of Jamie and that I'll dream of the both of us heading onto that balcony above the floor of the armory and do some interesting things around there.

Just as long as my dream doesn't end up with us walking in on Madeline and Brad I think I'll be fine. Or anyone I've ever known. I really want to remember this night beyond the reality, and not just because it was magical from the lightly falling snow outside the window...

Madeline's POV, 4:10am-4:25am

I've never stayed the night with a guy before.

OK, I have, technically. But not in the whole 'we're sharing a bed' sense. Either I've had a co-ed sleepover where the guys shared a room with us and nothing sexual happened, or I slept in another room or on the floor below after sex. Mainly because I don't like the awkwardness of being felt up in the middle of the night, or pushed to do it again when I don't want to. Oh, and some guys...they smell. Yeah, no one should have to suffer through that.

Right now, I'm upstairs in Brad's house, in his bedroom.

I'm was next to him as he softly snoozed in his bed, my view colored by a Mets poster and one of those big life-sized sticky thingys with an athlete on it. It's weird, knowing Brad lost his virginity to me while David Beckham watched from above. Suddenly bending it like that guy has a whole new meaning in my head!

Now I know you're all 'Madeline, what if he knocks you up, oh God, you weren't prepared!'. Calm down, dudes, we were. That's why Rite-Aid was founded, I have the awesomest OB-GYN in the state, and I have the compact with the little pills in it. You really don't think the two of us would go into this without protection, would you? Even if my Red Fox had to be a little embarrassed about buying condoms. Poor guy, the girl at the counter made fun of him while I went to get a box of Whoppers for a snack on the way home.

That changed when I slapped his cute little butt and smiled at him for being all adorable. Counter bitch shut her trap right then. Serves her right for making assumptions about the class of girl he could be with.

All I have to say is thank God Mrs. Langford gave me her blessing a week ago when I asked if would be OK for me to ask if we could take the next step after Formal. Also, that she had an important taxidermy convention up in New Hampshire this weekend, so nothing to stop us.

I won't go into much detail about what we did, but I will say this for Brad. He might not know everything (yet), but he knows how to please a girl. He's chivalrous and kind, and we went slow and steady. There was no rush, nothing naughty or any dirty talk. We just made love, and it was perfect, great. Nothing I could do in a Chilton closet could beat the look he gave me as he lifted off his undershirt nervously and asked me what I thought about him.

There was no hesitation, looking up at him, clad only in boxer briefs, a sexy trail of red hair in a perfectly line down from his navel. I swooned, and smiled at him.

"I think the geek just won the girl," I said. "And I think he'll keep her for a long time." Everything else from there...well, I'm wearing a smile that hasn't disappeared for three hours, even when we went to bed after an hour and a half.

I really do love him so much, and I felt such a responsibility to make sure his first time didn't end up like Jim launching the rockets early on Nadia, twice. I concentrated on his chest, slowly making my way down and did I could to make him hold off as long as he could. His stamina was amazing, and uh...oh, is Louise going to hate me when she finds out about it.

He doubled me, right where he needed to. Burying his head in the books and on the Internet made him learn where I was most sensitive, and you could say, he turned two. The boy, he's beyond amazing. I mean, c'mon, he's a born actor. Of course he prepares for sex like it's a big role. Whatever he did, I'm going to have a glow for at least the next three days that won't disappear.

Brad went to sleep after some cute pillow talk, and I eventually drifted off too. But wouldn't you know it? Me having hot chocolate duty turned out to be not so hot, and I drank a little too much of the stuff, along with water and juice. So I got up about twenty minutes ago to go pee.

What, I have a bashful bladder!

Anyways, I went and washed, and was about to head back into bed, when I noticed my cell rattling on top of Brad's nightstand.

"Who could be calling now?" I wondered, so I picked up the phone and opened it up to read the incoming screen.

Interesting, I thought, reading the name and number. I didn't want to be rude, and I didn't want to wake Brad up so I ran out to the hall and closed the door to a sliver so I could talk uninterrupted, and flipped open the phone.


The voice on the other end was very surprised. "Madeline?"

"What brings you to call me at 4am, Paris?" I had never heard from her so late, unless it was to 'shut your trap' during our sleepovers.

"I...I actually didn't expect you to be up," she admitted. "I was just going to leave you a message."

"I didn't expect to be up, but I am." I laughed nervously.

"Well if I woke you up at a time you didn't want to be, I suppose I can talk to you later--"

"Paris, don't hang up. I know what you're calling about and to tell the truth, I was expecting this call. Though more at 11am than 4am, but still, we're here, you're queer, I'm used to it."

"You make my sexual orientation sound like a campaign slogan."

"Ah, if only you and Rory would have been a couple then. The poll numbers would have been so interesting."


I went on, despite her aural annoyance. "Could you imagine? You win, you go up to the podium and you kiss your running mate in a hot manner. Oh, that would get attention!"

"No, that would get me an expulsion. Plus I'd never do it because Chilton is not the setting for a Hooters commercial."

"I know, but you have to admit, you're thinking about it."

"I'm not. I have thought about it, but not right now." She was sort of guilty.

"Oh, Paris, you think you're all innocent and perfect."

"I was innocent and perfect. Until tonight."

Whoa, put on the full brakes, Captain!! What on earth was she talking about?


"Well, I guess you're wondering what happened after you left and gave Rory that evil eye."

"Not really," I lied. "I'd rather hear about Louise's exploits with the captain of the intermural rugby team."

"What happened to Football Guy?"

"I was watching Fox Sports World when she came to pick up an old Seventeen and an Irish rugby match was on. Bad idea in retrospect."

I could sense the eye roll within her voice. "I feel like you're the smarter one now."

"I feel like she needs a kick in the ass." I bit my lip, shaking my head. "But enough about her, what happened with you and Rory?"

"What didn't happen?" she hinted. My eyes popped right open as I heard her voice curl in a way I never heard before. "Pretty much I pulled up, I had her get in, and when she tried to find her cell phone she pretty much made up with me right away."

I heard Brainy Smurf in my head boasting that 'I was right, I was right!' "See, what did I tell you?"

"But that's not the half of it, at all. When all three of us got to Jamie's hotel, he thought I was going to go in with him and that for four months I'd been writing love letters non-stop waiting for the day he'd come for me."

"Really?" I was surprised. "I thought that you liked her."

"I do. It was my mother who wrote to him as myself." Going into the details of how her plan worked until they both realized they were had, I found myself seething at the audacity of that bitch to try to bring them into a romance they didn't want. I felt angered and betrayed at Sharon Gellar and how she managed to take Rory, a great girl with a good head on her shoulders, and made her so mad that she reduced my good friend into a pile of tears from a miscommunication.

"I owe her, an apology, don't I?" I slumped against the wall. "Oh my God, I was mean to her. I told her she was dense and...crap."

"Madeline, you have nothing to apologize for," she assured. "Your reaction was key to making her see that she wasn't acting right."

"But I feel awful," I admitted.

"Remember how you were the only friend to her through that summer? How you ignored my demands to be cold? From day one, you saw what I should have seen to begin with, that I should have been her friend. To see you be mean to her, I think that gave her a shock that she was stupid, and it made getting her into the car much easier than if you pretended everything was fine."

I hesitated a bit. "If you're sure."

"I am, Mads. What you did for me tonight was what a true friend does, and I will be forever grateful to you for giving us that reset for the evening. It went beyond anything I could have ever dreamed would happen tonight."

She then explained what transpired after they left Jamie at the hotel, from their stop for fish to their visit to the dance studio. But it was all the naughty details she told me about their night that totally made the conversation.

Paris described everything romantically, like a whole new woman. Her voice was light and happy, her descriptions of them in the dance studio just...wow. The play-by-play of one of Louise's dates now pales in my mind when compared to the tit-for-tat, as I learned why exactly they weren't in school on Monday. I couldn't help but feel entranced by the details, the romance of their young love just so refreshing and something I've wanted for Paris for years. Not just so she'll stop yelling at me, but just because. I'm tired of everyone passing her by just because she's a little rough around the edges and speaks her mind. I felt horrible for her that no one noticed her, and was even more angered to see Tristan kiss Rory in a weak moment in my piano room. I remember being scared to show her the tape, but unlike Lou, who whined and complained when she burned the cassette because she wanted some 'fun', I was hoping that Paris made the right choice.

To hear her describe Lorelai's reaction to their night of fun was cute. I didn't expect the woman to hate them at all, and was happy to hear she was as fine with it as she could be. That she was also doing the same thing I was, keeping the secret, I knew then that everything was right and well. Although the reaction of everyone else to come was going to be rough for the both of them I held the hope that it would be easy for them, though I knew that it wouldn't. Chilton is complicated, and there will be someone to protest them together.

But those are thoughts for another night. For that moment, I was happy that for the first time in many years, Paris and I were totally friendly towards each other, having a long ten-minute conversation where my usual stoic buddy was far from that. She was in love, Rory was in love with her, and all was well in the world.

"What are you doing up anyway?" she asked. "And where are you? When you're at home you have your phone turned off or unplugged."

I smiled, but was hopeful she wasn't about to tease me. "You could say that you weren't the only one in the Class of 2003 to punch their V-ticket tonight."

A silent pause, an intake of breath. Then, utter shock. "Madeline Linda Lynn, you didn't!"

I glowed. "I did!"

I think she was most likely horrified. "You and Brad."

"Yes." I heard her stumbling for breath.

"And you stayed."

"I did. I'm wearing his Boy Scout shirt as we speak!" My finger caressed the letters of his name patch. "It smells really sexy."

"Brad and sexy are two terms I never want to hear again." Her reaction was so uncharacteristic after I explained the circumstances leading me to his bed. "Oh God, my friend did Duckie! Man, I never thought I'd see the day when you stood your ground and didn't let Lou get to you."

"He's just a smart and caring guy," I gushed, "I don't know why I find him to be so perfect for me. I had my doubts to begin with, but I feel like to know each other like we do, it's nice. I don't have to focus on just one thing, the sexual. I can build it up slowly, at my own pace, and I won't scare him off."

I shared an apprehension that I still had about myself. "I'm still scared that my past will come back to bite me. I want this to last, but what if he thinks I'm not in it long term?"

"Madeline, you can do it," she said strongly, the stirring of her voice apparent through the phone. "I know that right now you're in this glow like I am and you're trying to forget the reality to come, but think about what we've gone through. Both of us have anxieties in relationships, and while with me I tried to avoid it, you jumped in even if you were unhappy. The both of us were influenced by Sharon and Louise, and we look at them and think that it's impossible to have a positive relationship with anybody. We just have to stay away from their examples and just let things evolve between our lovers the way we want them to. I mean you're off to a great start if Brad is perfect to your parents and Mrs. Langford trusts you enough with her son."

"I know. The last thing I ever want to do is hurt him." I looked into the peek of the slightly opened door, looking at my boy sleeping comfortably. "He liked me since the rehearsals and it actually hurt him to leave to go to Hillside. He told me that the rabbi told him to face his fears, and one of them happened to be him asking me to be a friend to him. Not even a girlfriend, just a plain vanilla friend."

"He was scared," she thought.

"Mm-hmm, you and Louise, he felt intimidated. It was only after I was friendly to him at that dance that he opened up. A little faster than we both thought, but I love that there was an instant connection between us." I flipped some wayward hair back, sighing into the mic as I let the night wash over me. "Like you and Rory have."

"It took us two years," she reminded me. "You can't describe us as instant unless you're talking in era terms."

"No, Paris. It was instant." I shared my theory. "Usually when you sized up those coming in on scholarships you got the information and then you just blew them away without having to do what you did with Gilmore. She was beguiling to you from the moment her and Lorelai walked past us on the staircase her first day. They walked past and Louise was just kind of bored while I was like 'yay, new kid.' But your eyes trained onto her as she walked past. You sized her up, examined her body language, tried to determine if she'd be 'Dorothy Gale, small and meek' or someone to give you competition. Now in the back of your mind, that first glance, looking through the files, you were interested, but not exactly feeling like she was a threat. Then her ass met your moat. She's sorry, she wants to fix it, but you'd rather do it alone. She keeps on begging for you to help her anyways, and without the teacher getting in the way she just might have been helping you out. So she tackled your questions, laid down the gauntlet, and a month later you're being taunted for not saying anything when you called her a loser. From there...well, I say you've talked about her more than you ever did Tristan."

She took in my argument, weighing everything that I said. Probably shocked at how I argued everything, she hesitated into the phone for a bit before her response.

"Maybe you would make a good scientist. That was well-argued." I felt vindicated for stating things so concisely. "It's amazing you have more clarity about my past than I do."

"You needed a neutral view, and I'm giving it to you. Besides, playing dumb for so long's gotten tiring. I hate that we've drifted apart over the years thanks to Louise." That was the first time I ever admitted to feeling the blonde was ruining our bond.

"I...I do too. You might not have known me for most of my life like Lou has, but you bring levity to my life, Mads. If it wasn't for you I might deny myself happiness often."

"Well..." I lowered my voice to try to do a horrible Charlie Brown. "Happiness is a warm pussy." I giggled as I heard Paris groan deeply, pulling the phone away. I felt pretty pleased with myself as she came back on the line.

"I'm glad you find my baby steps into Sapphic romance so inspirational."

I smiled, wanting to get an idea of things. "So Rory isn't at all like she came off to Dean?"

"She couldn't come off to Dean, much less get off. Trust me, how she was with Dean was her on mute. I'm only at half-volume with her right now. Imagine what she'll be like when we get deeper, at 11." I was shocked to hear about their exploits within Gellar Manor Sunday into Monday, and where nothing Louise does is very surprising anymore, the details about her sneaking into her very own shower to bring her girlfriend off, and the oral turnabout from Rory later was enough to get my heart pumping and, um, feel very funny. Going on to describe how loud Rory gets in orgasm along with her voice fetish, I only had one thing to say to my longtime friend.

"It's official. You are definitely the most insatiable among us, Gel. No wonder you held out for so long, your libido is like Cookie Monster!" I smiled, so happy that happiness was finding all four of us, but especially a girl I've known for so long that has suffered enough in her life.

"I'm sure I'll trail off, eventually," she demurred. "But I'm happy for you too. Coming out of your element, going after what you really want and depending more on your wits than sex appeal. I'm proud of you tonight, Mads, but I have been since you've been with Louise less often."

"I'm not going to let her ruin us," I said, determined. "We're both doing well, and I'm going to fight for you. Will you fight for me?"

"I've got your back. Right now, you two are safe with me. The images of you two having sex...that'll be something for Birnbaum to sort out during my next appointment." She shuddered, and I sighed dreamily about my man.

"My new secret nickname for him is totally the Big Brad Wolf."

"Madeline," she warned.

"He can huff and puff and blow me away anytime. And I should've seen the signs you and Rory were together. Your skin is clearer and your hands are less clammy. Meanwhile your eyes when we were playing lacrosse through the week, they were really intense, like they took a lighter brown shade. You just seemed, brighter, better. It was more than your traditional November tan in Florida usually does." I went on, noting the closeness of the two, along with how their arguments were more playful, and in retrospect seemed like flirting. I noticed a change in her at the beginning of the year, and I could finally put my finger on the reason for her looser dress and kinder authority. When she lets me slip in a small dating section into the Franklin classifieds without argument, you know something rocked her world.

We talked a bit more, about school and such, along with about how nice Ms. Gilmore was to her despite the shock of her daughter with my friend. The conversation drifted several times, and it seemed like the closeness gone for so many years was back. Our secrets brought us back towards actual friendship and everything else. I know we're not about to talk about boys anytime soon, but who cares? The Paris of old (by old I mean since 1998) is gone, slinking away and replaced with this new girl who I know can build a relationship with Rory that will work for the both of them.

Slowly we get to our goodnights and I let her go, saying that I'll see her on Monday. But she leaves me with a message to pass on to Brad.

"What is it?"

Her tone turned serious. "If Brad does one thing to upset you enough to ruin the relationship, he's getting a Mary Queen of Scots-style beheading."

The old Paris was still there, I guess. But I still understood her side of things as far as true love got. If there's one wonderful thing about her, its that motherly concern of her that keeps me close to her and in line with sanity. I smiled, thinking about how much of a gentleman he really is. He opens the door and pushes in chairs for me. No guy has done that for me before, ever.

"I'll be sure to warn him, Par. And you two better not mess this up. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."

"Trust me, I think Ror got that point loud and clear."

"She better." I placed my finger on the END button. "Night, Par."

"See you on Monday." We hung up, and I felt the unease about them fully disappear. I was nervous about them and hoped they would make up quickly, and I'm glad they did. I always thought about them as close friends and that they'd actually be that way, to the point that Rory would be the maid of honor at her wedding.

Little did I know that I might take that slot at their wedding. OK, a bit fast and maybe putting my eggs in a basket too soon, but even if I've only heard about them together, they seem like they're so unbreakable. As I slip the handset into the breast pocket of the shirt, I think about how scared I've always been for Paris. That Tristan brushed her off for so long, and how her mother has discouraged romance that doesn't have some kind of influence or scripted feel to it. She's been so discouraged, and I know Louise and I have been bad examples.

But I know that the both of us, we can change and open up to new ideas. I have already by changing so much from Lou, while I hear all the hope in Paris's voice that her stiff and regal demeanor may be loosening up around her girlfriend. I mean, anyone would be lucky enough to have Paris. She's smart, loyal, beautiful, witty and she gives more than 100% to everything she does. While I can only say that although I don't have a sexual attraction towards her (or Louise, let's get that idea of a threesome out of your head right now; Brad told me he only wants me), if I had a list of qualities in a lover, she would fulfill many of them. I'm glad for her, I'm glad for Rory, and for once, I will treasure the intimate moments between them meant for no one to see, but Brad and I can watch and know that we're not alone in this crazy quest for this love thing.

I guess I better get back off to bed, I wouldn't want him to get worried...

Whoa, something's wrapping up around me! What on earth...

And there's a gusty breath in my ear. Oh boy, um, I was so not expecting this. He must have heard quite a bit...

"So I'm like a wolf," a nervous voice says into my ear as the hands of my lover drape across my stomach. "You know, I love wolves. I never thought I'd be compared to one."

"You're a red wolf," I respond, gasping as he folds over the collar of his shirt to expose my neck.

"Canis rufus, a shy and wary species indigenous to the South. Pair-bonding is strong between a male and a female." Oh, lord! It's so late in the evening, and um...he's pressing up against me. Why, hello there, Brad! I was taken aback and struggled for words.

"Brad...sneaking up behind me? Scoring major points with me right now." I feel him press his lips against a spot he earlier marked which should stay hidden beneath my uniform.

"Tell Paris I got her message, but I really want to keep it." I felt him turn me around so we could back right into the bedroom. "Actually, both of them. Um, no need for her to get any ideas about, you know that woman in Virginia, Lorena, I think? I..."

"Shhh, baby. I got it, but we need not say anything." I backed towards the bed. "This would be the first time someone wanted seconds with me."

"Really, never?" I shook my head. "But, you're so beautiful. Who would turn you down?"

"Stupid guys who don't have encyclopedic knowledge of taxidermy and the entire works of the most famous playwrights filling their pot-addled brains." I slide my hand down his stomach and push it into his boxer briefs. "After hearing about Par and Rory doing things all over tarnation, I think I need you."

"Was...um, I'm scared to say something about them."

"Brad, they're hot. I know you think that. And if my talking to Paris about it gets you all hard, who am I to stop you, my ravenous boyfriend, from taking me until I'm exhausted?" Smirking at him, I brought him close. "That's why I didn't have you buy just one condom out of a bathroom machine; I know you want me, so one will hardly do."

"Maddy..." His eyes were wide as he takes me in, beginning to unbutton the shirt. "You're amazing!" He felt like the luckiest guy ever in the history of Chilton.

"You think I'm amazing the first time, just try to think up another word for me the second time, Mr. Cutie." He begins to kiss me and well...

I think my mind will otherwise be occupied for the next two hours or so, sorry folks! All I have to say is, I think the four of us will have heavenly bright glows as we walk into those Chilton doors Monday morning...

Part 19

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