DISCLAIMER: None of this is really mine. I know, you'd think it was, but Gilmore Girls is the property of Dorothy Parker Drank Here Productions/Amy Sherman-Palladino, Hofflund-Polone and Warner Bros. Television. All products mentioned within are the property and trademarks of their respective owners, and no disrespect is meant or implied, nor are the implications about private investigators made in this story.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Well...I got a chapter done in nine months. That's less than a year, so that's better than a year, right? Again I do apologize for the long wait between chapters, but life and other things have been in my way; let's just say my real-life work has become more hectic lately and that my jumps to other fandoms have made writing this story a little tougher, along with my interest in Paris/Lorelai becoming more than this one (not helping are the badfic authors continuing to insist that Rory has the IQ of a gnat and no intelligence about birth control and continuing to make Paris a 'meanie' cockblocking her from Logan). Hopefully this chapter more than makes up for it; I admit it took longer because it had to move along the story in ways which forced me to write Paris in the way I hate the most; in pain. It was tough to put her through all of this, and I hope you'll forgive me for having to do this in order to put this through. Also, this is going to be back to how the story started with alternating viewpoints between Paris and Rory. So next chapter, we see Rory's view of things. And here, additional views from Madeline and Lorelai which I do encourage you not to skip over because of how things build up (I know there have been a few readers who are jarred by my Madeline POV's, but I feel they're important, and sorry, but she spent more time on the show and was much more important than Stephanie, who could be played by any blonde in Hollywood). My thanks to everyone who has given me the patience through all these years of writing, and to my closest ladies, Danielle and Marieke for sticking by me. FF.net'ers...you know by now. Don't like ladies together, there are so many other stories for you to read out there. Also, this chapter meets TOS in their form unedited. Title inspiration is from a lyric from the Sarah McLachlan song "Elsewhere" which has stuck with me since I first thought of this chapter set all those years ago. Finally, please review, let me know how you enjoyed (or didn't enjoy) the story. I try to work hard on my writing and a review of any form does make my day and tells me my effort is worth it.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Longing With a Cherry Tomato on Top
By Nate

Chapter Twenty-Two
Mother...It Might Not Be Right For You, But It's Right For Me


Paris's POV, 11:00pm

All of my life, I've seemed to get my way.

I've been told by my counselors before not to take classes because they might jeopardize my grade point average because of their difficulty. I was told point blank that if I took an advanced chemistry class that was out of my Harvard wheelhouse that I could say goodbye to them. "If you fail this, Paris, you will end up behind by two tenths of a grade point," she told me.

But I blew past her advice anyways. I did quite well. And my GPA? It rose a quarter of a point.

Once a few years back I wanted to visit the Museum of Natural History after hours because I have a fear of big crowds. There was an exhibition I had wanted to check out for months but that because my father was in merger talks and my mother found taking me to anything that didn't have "Mall" or "Galleria" suffixed to the end, I didn't get a chance to. I was told nobody ever got into the museum after hours. Especially an eleven year-old girl who was lightly supervised.

Cue my smug laughter as I tottered past a security guard examining a mammoth skeleton up-close at 10:30 in the evening. The Gellar name will get you anything if you press far enough.

Four years ago I was bound for an uncomfortable four-bunk situation for an entire summer at camp. And one of those girls just would happen to be Francine Jarvis. I surely could have stayed home and been quite comfortable at the Manor all summer.

Instead I was able to kick back in my own cabin after convincing the heads of the camp that surely a girl with my amount of false allergies and true sleep maladies would prove to be a hindrance to my roommates. So I lost socialization points. But I gained a whole lot of space and the ability to get in half of my extra credit work for the next year within that cabin. I was very happy.

There are other small examples of how I have been able to control my own life. Times of getting a library to myself. Influencing Charleston to gain some important public speaking role at Chilton. You might of course be familiar with the time I happened to give Ms. LaCosta $1,000 to get the studio for the Romeo & Juliet rehearsals. Oh, to deny the Stars Hollow Jazzercise club their time was the highlight of that month.

I always get my way.

Except when it comes to Sharon Gellar.

The woman who is supposed to be my mother. Who was supposed to raise me as her daughter and whose legacy I was supposed to carry on. Who in normality should be my role model.

But a storm was brewing. Since the divorce I began to see the snow job she blew over all of the staff and my father. She was able to keep it hidden from me for so long and now I knew why my father had to stay away on business trips for so long.

It was for his own sanity. And I can't say that I have to think that in this case, maintaining the 'ignorance is bliss' adage probably saved him so much heartache and turmoil.

Personally it hurts me to feel this way about my mother. I shouldn't think this way about her. I should love her and respect her, no matter what she does, and be there for her, always.

After this morning however, I cannot hide my true feelings for her anymore. I've never said these three words in public to anyone. Not even when I learned a year ago that she had a doctor prescribe easily abusable drugs under my name, forcing a pharmacist to call my father or my lawyer every time I need to refill my skin medication or sleeping medicine. Everything in my life has to be protected. My money is in a Canadian bank. I have duplicates of my identification papers and cards in a safe deposit box in Boston.

Hell, I even have to password-protect my Blockbuster account! Yes, imagine my surprise when I attempted to rent The Affair of the Necklace, only to find myself having to explain to Jenny the clerk in the blue shirt The Affair of the $356.21 Rental Bill. My mother apparently thinks that you get to keep the videos as long as you want, without charge, and that your daughter won't care her credit score took a twenty point hit because of it.

Well, after this morning, I'm done. There is no way, outside of a deep apology, that I will ever be able to face my mother again.

I hate her.

I hate Sharon Gellar, and there is no turning back from that opinion. She made it abundantly clear that I do not need her in my life, and she will never do another goddamned thing to ruin it ever again.

Nursing my wounds, I'm in a place I never thought I would be.  I would have never pictured two years ago that this is where I would be.

In Rory Gilmore's bed. Voluntarily. Not for a sleepover, either. As her mother keeps coming in to check in me, I feel deeply emotional, because this fine and funny woman actually cares about me.

Rory isn't even here. She's still up in Boston, fighting her own battle. For the Saturday before winter break, it's been about the most emotional day I have ever lived through. A whirlwind of emotions goes through me and I still feel like I'm in a dream and I'm going to wake up in my room. It's Monday, September 25, 2000, and the name Rory Gilmore have never been in my vocabulary.

But I'm here. Saturday, December 14, 2002. I'm her girlfriend.

And now, I'm going to be her roommate.

This is going to be tough. To think, four days ago I confessed what hurt my mother caused me fourteen years ago in the accident.

Nothing will ever hurt more than the feeling of a mother abandoning her child. This is going to hurt to recall, I know...

Paris's POV, 4:30pm

"Good morning." I was still waking up at 9:30 as Rory called me from the Acela as she went north to see her father in Boston. She had called me on my cell and interrupted a delicious dream I had of the both of us deciding to take a trip to Kitty Hawk and spending the day on the beach. "You awake yet?"

"I am now." I laughed as she told me about the excitement she felt riding on the train. "You nervous?"

"More for Sherrie than anything," she admitted. "My dad, I can sweet-talk him. But you know her, she'll be so nervous when I come out. I think I'll be fine though."

"Rory, you psyched yourself up for this Thursday night and I'm sure you were practicing last night too." I broached the nervous topic. "How was it...last night anyways?"

A deep sigh. "Unfamiliar. Like there was a hole in the evening. Even Mom is so used to Friday in Hartford and I could tell Luke was sort of discombobulated to see us both in there at 7pm, eating dinner. It's not the same."

"She'll come around eventually," I told her. "You know Emily. She's a proud and stubborn woman."

"Yeah, I know. I just don't want it to be for sixteen years like her and Mom. A month, maybe?" I nodded. "But...you have plans today?"

"The Yale library. Have to do research on that syllabus I have planned for psychology. I want to get it just right so it sparks the right notes when I present it in a month." I smiled into the phone. "I was planning to do Franklin work at school but..." I paused as Rory filled in the line.

"Babe, Angie is not even going to be there today."

"I know, but when Elise came in on Wednesday afternoon, it was odd. I think she was looking at me." Suffice to say that being out to those two has indeed been interesting. Ms. Salmon in fact seems to have an actual jealousy about my hair and spent some of the time after school trying to dig out my secrets. "I still feel a little weird about them being together."

"Trudy's a cutie pie though." Yes, that day they also brought in their daughter. "Really, I see why they're together."

"Well...I suppose." I smiled; indeed, Trudy is a chip off their old block. "You're good with your homework though?"

"Yup, almost done into holiday break," she proclaimed. "So I just have to visit Dad and I'll be back home Sunday night."

"I'll miss you," I said, feeling really happy. "Take care of yourself, hon."

"I will." I could hear her rustling some papers. "Shoot, gotta go. Almost time for the coffee cart to roll by. Damn me for not getting Luke's this morning." A pause. "Love you, Par."

"Love you too." It's as natural as breathing now to say that.  "Have a great weekend." We said our goodbyes, and thus, I would be Rory-free, sadly, for the remainder of the late fall weekend.

This is something I used to enjoy, but now it doesn't feel right. Not having a weekend with Rory isn't right any longer. I mean, we sometimes don't see each other, but there's still the texting and IM'ing. We couldn't do it because of her visit so this was all I was going to have. It made me feel down a bit.

But the research would make up for it. Even if I loathed Yale, I still loved that the resources of their library were but an hour away from me. I had made my arrangements with them last night to have everything ready for me that I requested. Soon I was showered and dressed. A cold day, I chose an argyle sweater vest paired with dark corduroy pants, under a dark blue blouse. I wanted to scream intellectual, and I certainly would in this. I felt great. All was good with the world and the push towards vacation would begin at a rapid clip.

And boy, was I psyched. Since my eighteenth is coming up, it's going to be a fun one. Voter registration first of all, allowing me to finally have the ability to throw the bums out if I wanted to. Then, I was going to file my Selective Service registration.

"But Paris," you say, "that's only for males. You don't have to do that." Yes, I don't have to. But it sure helps with the feds when they give out grants. Besides, this is a country where us ladies beat out the gents, and damned if I'm going to let something slide by because it's 'just for guys'. I'm getting that card and I'm gonna have it proudly. And if I get drafted, I'll suck it up and get my Private Benjamin on.

Besides, as my good teacher shows, everyone loves a military woman.

So many plans. So much to do. There was nothing that could stop me as I threw my messenger bag over my shoulder and headed down the front stairway towards the garage to start my journey.

At least that's what I thought. Until I saw my mother waiting for me at the landing.

My first observation as our eyes connected was that this was very rare. My mother never was up on a Saturday morning. She either slept in or was already gone on one of her society jaunts.

Secondly, she looked displeased. Angered. And upon seeing me...

"Good morning, Paris. I have something I must discuss with you." Her lips were pursed in a defensive manner. "Come downstairs to the parlor."

First strategy with Sharon; evade. "I'm sorry Mother, Yale is expecting me at the library. I must go--"

"Young lady, they can wait. Please come downstairs." Now I was growing nervous. She was never this abrupt. "You will not leave until we talk about this matter."

"OK." I gathered myself and finished the steps downstairs until I hit the bottom landing. "What's wrong, Mother?"

A grimace. "I'd rather not discuss it out here, Paris. Please accompany me to the parlor."

I wasn't going to let her do this. Francisca was out in the dining room, a couple of butlers in the front. If she got me alone in a room she could lock she could heap words of hate upon me. At least if I'm out in the great room it has to be muted. I crossed my arms defiantly over my chest, facing down the woman who only had a couple of inches on me.

"No, Mother. Whatever is going on, we can discuss it here. I have to get going soon--"

And then, I was stilled. "You will not be going anywhere at all. Paris Eustace Gellar..." I flinched as she invaded my personal space. "If it was up to me, you would have been in that boarding school in Colorado Springs that is associated with Focus on the Family. However, your insolent father voted me down because your friends would miss you." She sneered at me. "What friends, exactly? That blonde slut and her lackey?"

"Excuse me?" I didn't know what to say. "Where is this coming from?"

"Oh, lovely. You're a smart young lady deciding to play stupid with me!" She began to pace the room. "From the moment you were born you were a pain in the ass, always wanting to learn and find out new things. I tried to keep you away from things but you and Harold would always find a way around me! It infuriates me that you can be such an insolent little bitch and I cannot do a thing in controlling you." She began to head over to a table near the door. "I have provided you only the best in opportunities to be social and raise your standing in life, Paris. Found you the best men to date--"

"Mother!" I scoffed. "You told me to take my cousin to Winter Formal a couple years back! My social standing almost died!"

"Jacob is your second cousin and you would have--"

"Absolutely not! Come on!" I groaned. "Look, I know the end of this conversation already. I promise I'll try better to be social and make more friends, Mother. I promise you. Now if you'll excuse me--"

I was ready to leave, get out of this nonsense conversation. I could just leave right away and ignore her easily.

But then...

"When I told you to make friends, Paris," she stated haughtily, "I didn't tell you to become a dyke to do so."

The word came out of her mouth like it had barbs upon it.  I turned around to see her with a manila envelope in her hands and walking towards me. Then she gave me the envelope with a shove of it towards me. I was completely silent and stunned.

I could feel my world coming down upon me.

"Tell me, Paris. What the fuck possessed you, an intelligent young woman, to consider Rory Gilmore an acceptable sexual partner? Or even to be your best friend? You know her mother, her reputation. Please, regal me with why you would spend one minute pursing the girl you're trying to make sure never steps foot anywhere Harvard." She gave me a stern glare. "Please, open the envelope."

I did, nervous about the contents. I felt everything seem to spin around me. There was nothing I could do, at all. No warning. My phone was in my bag. It was just my mother and I, five feet between us as I opened up the envelopes as she told me she knew.

How did she know? There was no hint at all. I had my hand completely closed and there was no way for her to find out...

However, as the contents of the envelope came into view, there was no doubt that she knew. Or how she knew.

Remember how I said I thought I was being followed and that there was someone watching over me, even if I couldn't pinpoint it?

There, in living color, via the finest telephoto lenses Nikon can offer, was proof that there was someone following me. My stomach immediately sunk down against my abdominal cavity as I examined what exactly what it was.

I could recognize exactly when the pictures were taken. Throughout the entirety of the last two weeks, since the call from the school office telling them I was late after our visit to the forest. My one slip-up in attendance in fifteen years of schooling had come back to bite me in the ass.

The pictures were arranged chronologically. None within Chilton grounds, thank God. But plenty from the parking lot of Rory and I just talking. Going around town. On Thursday night in Stars Hollow as we were at Luke's, a zoom into the plate glass window.

None of Formal or the Gilmore home. But there were more of the last couple weeks at school and out in public. Many of them in moments we thought we were in complete privacy. And then the night we came out to the Gilmore grandparents...

Irrefutable proof. I grew angry as I looked at one of our most private moments on their front drive, Rory and I kissing before we left, violated forever. I began to boil over as I paged through more pictures of us together in the car on the way to and from school, stopped at various intersections with the picture zoomed into the cabin of the Jag.

In any other context, the private investigator would have been the main target of my anger. But at this point they were just the hired shutterbug. I didn't give a fuck about them right now. Besides, you look past the invasion of privacy, and many of the pictures got my good side. Some pictures like the kiss in the driveway and a few in Stars Hollow I could strangely see framing them for decorations, like a studio photographer got us in a moment unawares.

But there was nothing cute about this at all. My mother had so little trust in me that she hired someone to follow me?

"So...what do you have to say for yourself?" she sneered. "Are you proud that you're dragging the Gellar legacy through the mud to pursue this...thing?" I kept looking at the pictures, quaking in fear and feeling violently ill. "What the fuck is wrong with you, Paris? How could you do this to me?"


"Shut up!" I looked straight at her. "You hid this from me. You think I'm happy with you right now?"

"No ma'am." I was going to hold back on a shouting match. "Mother, I meant to tell you--"

"Tell me what? That you're fucking your so-called best friend?" She made her way to a table where she had a rum and Tab made up off to the side, and took a swig from the glass, slamming it down hard. "How am I supposed to explain this to DCW? I was ready to offer you up for initiation, but I can't now. How can I do so when the rest of the girls have to be afraid you'll hit on them?"

"You don't understand, I love her--"

"You can't love her, Paris! What you two have isn't love, it's disgusting!" She came towards me, heels clattering hard against the parquet floor. "Now that Jamie boy, he was more than acceptable. But he called me angry the day after. Something about how I made up the last four months."

"That's because you did!" I said clearly. "I did not want any further contact with him at all. He was mortified to learn that you've been trying to set us up against our wills!" I paused. "Boy, did I think that was the worst thing you could have ever done to interfere with my life. Now I'm very mistaken!" I began to feel my anger boil over. Despite running my fingers on the inside of my palms like I had been taught to calm myself, there was no way it was going to work. "You followed me, Mother. You violated my privacy--"

"You have no right to privacy," she stated angrily. "You are my child, and as your mother I must be concerned for your welfare. And obviously I have been slacking, because you decided you don't want to be a proper woman and take up a relationship with a man." She moved towards me and I felt intimidated. "Well, that shall end, now. For until January, you are grounded to your bedroom, and you shall take the final week of school off."

"No--" I shook my head.

"You have lost your computer and cell phone privileges, so hand me your phone, now!"

"I will not," I said firmly. "I told Daddy, and he was OK--"

"Fuck him. He's not your parent right now!" She moved closer. "And you might as well say goodbye to Chilton. You will be finishing your education at Blackwell Hall in Milo, Maine." I knew exactly what she was trying to do. "It's a wonderful boarding school with a good Christian point of view about how you should live your life, and corporal punishment swept under the rug to keep DCFS off their asses through plenty of good bribes. Well away from that corrupt cunt you call your girlfriend."

"You can't do that! You have no control of my education," I reminded her. "The divorce settlement--"

And then, she did something I never expected from her. At all. Even in the worst dreams I had about coming out, this was never in the picture.

Sharon grabbed me roughly by the ear, making me immediately wince, and then with her other hand open, she slapped me hard across the face. I dropped the envelope to the ground and immediately cried out in pain.

"Right now I don't give a shit what anyone says at all, Paris." She grabbed me by the neck of my blouse, popping the top button and winding the collar tightly so that my breathing was inhibited. "You have disobeyed me for the last time, and no amount of smart talk is going to change that." I tried to grab for her hand but then found myself subdued as she put my hand behind my back. "All I wanted was a good girl to raise in my image, but it's obvious you won't be that. I can't believe my daughter ended up a dyke. Not with a pretty girl at least. Instead, she got with a small-town whore who lived in a shed for the beginning of her life." I could see her eyes burning with so much hate for Rory. "That's who you wanna fuck? That dirty girl?"

"Mom...let...go...of me..." I felt my windpipe begin to compress. She was in a place where I couldn't cry for help as she pushed me into a corner of the room. "I'm sorry!"

"There's no being sorry!" She spoke so harshly that spittle flew into my face. "You went behind my back and befriended this girl. I told you to stay distant from her, but God forbid you do that, you lonely little bitch."

Oh God! I felt that pain from when she beat me over the contract picture return. She was holding my wrist, hard, and it was beginning to flex towards breaking. "Mom!" I was deeply sobbing, barely able to form words. "Stop it!"

"No, I won't." Her voice deepened. "I knew it was a bad idea for you to room with her in Washington. You never did show interest in any guy but Tristan. If he wouldn't have fucked up--"

"It...would've never worked!" I gasped out. "We tried...it failed."

"Because that slut dressed you up in her mom's clothes!" I shuddered and then felt another bit of violence as she used her foot to stomp on mine to punish me further. "You're always gonna be a loser if you go this way."

"Hellllp..." My voice was small as I felt my chest compress. "Fran..."

SLAP! This time the left side of my face. I cried harder than I ever had in my life.

"You know what I should've done with you when I found out I had you?" I had no way to defend myself. Even with my self-defense training, she had me cornered. I felt scared as she kept the blouse collar so tight against me that I struggled for breath. "Disposed of you. Never told your father. I knew for a week before I told him and that would've given me time to go to New York for 'surgery'. He would've never suspected. If there was a way to find out you were going to be gay, I would've never had you!" Her words were getting to me.

"Mom...no...please!" I felt my vision fogging from tears, and then suddenly she pulled me back by the front of the blouse.


"If only that accident had taken care of you," she told me, nothing but disdain in her features. "If I knew what I did today, I would've added a little more speed when I rammed that van."

She then let me go.

By shoving me into the wall. Hard. I collided with it at the corner and my head whipped forward as I slid down it in a heap, my breath heaving as I began to feel air fill my lungs again.

I screamed out deeply in pain. That was finally enough to get the staff out, Francisca running into the room like a light. I was wailing by the time she came in.

Every word she said was meant to damage me more than the abuse she had heaped on me in those mere two minutes. To shear through the walls I built up to defend myself from her barbs through the help of my father and Dr. Birnbaum.

It had worked, and as Francisca came in I was compressed in a little ball, looking up barely as I was afraid Sharon was going to kick me while I was down, literally.

"MRS. GELLAR!" she shouted. "AWAY FROM HER, NOW!"

"This does not concern you, Francisca, please tend--" That didn't stop my nanny at all.

"The fuck it does not!" The older woman got right between her and me as I tried to hope my rotator cuff still rotated. "I heard you just now proclaiming Mistress Gilmore was a slut. I am afraid that is incorrect, for she is a kind girl who loves Paris with all of her heart."

"So you knew too." Francisca nodded. "Get out of here, you're fired!"

Fran tilted her head and squared her jaw, as if to challenge her. "I'm in your ex-husband's employ. And as Paris's nanny I am asking you to leave her alone, now!"

She pushed the woman out of the way, or tried to, as she purposefully fell to keep protecting me. I sniffled and cried as I tried to avoid my mother from beating me further.

"Get away from us, this is--" Everything became a cacophony as bless her, Fran defended me with all she had. The proud woman widened her arms to keep me protected.  She gave me a glance once she fought off the woman far enough to give me an escape berth.

"Minha menina, ficar lá em cima! Trancar a porta! (My girl, get upstairs! Lock the door!)" I immediately took her advice and limping on the foot which was quite in pain, fled up the stairs and ran down the hall until I was able to get back into my bedroom and quickly locked the door.

It was just in time; my mother made good time in heels as she quickly began to try to open the door. I felt extreme pain in my face and in my arms as I made a grab for my bedroom phone. First a quick call to the police with the basics of the situation; I knew the address would flash up right away at HPD so I kept it short and sweet.

I was breathing hard as I slumped down on the bed. Thankfully I had a second lock on the door, more to ward off burglars and rapists more than anything. It was going to be hard for Sharon to get through that second lock, triple reinforced with tempered steel.

There I was in a full panic as I tried to figure out who to call next. But I knew one thing.

It couldn't be Rory. No matter how awful this coming out was, I had to hold back on turning her into an emotional mess. She already had one thing to worry about, and it couldn't be what was happening with me.

So it was a call to my father. I shivered as I waited for the phone to ring. Three rings later I was incoherent as I described everything to him in as much detail as I remembered. My head throbbed as I tried to make sense of everything and I ripped off the blouse and sweater, stuffing them under the bed as I knew I never wanted to see those articles of clothing again in my life. Thankfully I had on the tank top Rory gave me a couple weeks ago on beneath; that would suffice just in case Sharon wanted to try to choke me again.

Daddy tried to work me through it. "Paris, don't panic. Just try to keep calm--"

"She tried to kill me!" I shouted. "God knows what she'll try with Fran! She had me followed, even to your apartment!"

"Unbelievable." He didn't know what to do. "Honey, I want you to gather some things and get out of there."

"What about...about the school in Maine? She told me--"

"And I was warned well in advance," he reassured me. "There is no goddamned way you are leaving Chilton, not by her hand. That awful school knows you will not be there in January, or they will be sued." I shuddered, thankful that was fine. But I knew I was in danger right now.

"Where am I gonna go? I can't stay here."

"I know." I heard him leafing through papers. "I'm going to get you a room at the Capitol Hilton. I know it's not the best, but there's no room here for you to overnight." He paused. "I'm so sorry, Par. So, so sorry. I never knew she was going to do all of this to you."

"I didn't even know!" I cried. "I had no idea." We talked more as I heard her curse through the door while Fran tried to push her away. This was a nightmare I never had pictured in my mind. I could feel the old tics I had before I went into counseling come back, including biting my nails. I was scared she was going to break in and kill me.

"Come out of there, you hateful mistake!!" she shouted through the door, pounding on it as hard as she could. She still didn't make a dent however as I desperately scrambled for my largest suitcase and threw in every piece of clothing that I could fit into it, then packed up my laptop bag and everything else I'd need for at least a week away.

It was getting rough, to the point I threw on my headphones and blared music as loud as I could to muffle my mother's judgments against me. I could only hope that the police could come for her soon. The sad thing is I knew that there was no way she'd be staying in jail for too long. I was shaken as I knew her big-money attorney could manage to get her out on any charge with only an overnight stay at the latest.

I wasn't going to stay in the Manor. I had to leave. I whimpered, protectively doing what I hadn't done in years and years.

I held my Grumpy Bear as I hid beneath my computer desk, crying deeply. The stuffed toy that kept me protected from the dark and sadness when I was younger had been up on a shelf for years, collecting dust as memories of my distant childhood. But now the purple animal my father had bought for me when I was three was shielding me again a few days outside of eighteen, trying to help me through the worst half-hour of my life. My body was in pain, my head throbbing, foot pounding. I hadn't even been able to bear a look in the mirror, knowing Sharon did a number on me.

"Please come," I pleaded to myself, hoping the police got in. My father stayed on the line. I was no longer the mature girl well beyond her years and able to use a witty aside to push aside confrontation.

I was defeated. Hurt. Crying. I would not wish this experience on anybody. I struggled to breathe, wheezing from the stress of having my airway closed off for at least a minute while she tried to knock me out.

But despite all of this. All of the abuse. The hurt. The hateful words from my mother.

There was not one thought of taking my love for Rory back. At all.

Not even to ward Sharon off did I think to lie and say I'd break up with her. I faced up to her and tried to tell her I was a lesbian. If I got bruised because of it, it would still be worth it. That girl will be the love of my life, my mother be damned.

Soon I heard a rustling against the door, and then rough voices. I took off the headphones and heard people trying to subdue my mother. Cursing from her.

"Arrest her!" she said. "If that bitch hadn't come out as a dyke you wouldn't be here! Get the fuck off me, now!"

It didn't happen. It took at least two minutes to finally subdue her. Somehow her drinking had numbed her to any attempt to spray a chemical agent to subdue her, so I think they had to resort to some other means to calm her down. I heard the sound of handcuffs.

I held the stuffed toy tightly. I wasn't ready to come out until she was gone. I didn't say a word, letting the police do their work. I felt powerless and hurt.

Eventually, I heard a knock on the door. Then, the words I had wanted to hear since this nightmare began.

"Paris, ela está no carro da polícia. Você pode voltar para fora. (Paris, she is in the police car. You may come back out.)" I was still averse to leaving the bedroom, but eventually my shivering form made its way across the room. Slowly I opened the door, whimpering as I opened it up, hopeful not to see my mother ready to attack.

I did not find her. But I found my nanny outside, her uniform torn and looking like she had just taken Sharon to the limit. She looked deeply exhausted and I really felt for her, as she opened up her arms and welcomed me in for a very thankful hug as I wept openly, thankful it was all over. I clung to her, hurting and feeling in extreme pain.

She asked me if I needed to go to the hospital before going to the hotel. Usually I'd probably be stubborn and let my wounds heal.

After what I had just gone through, I couldn't do that. All I could do was nod as a friendly officer took me aside and took my statement as Henrico prepared the town car. I sat down in my room describing everything that had occurred, including the pictures and her threat to send me to Maine before her abuse. The woman nodded and took down every detail as I spoke precisely, calming myself to say what I needed to while one of the butlers offered me a thankful cup of wintergreen tea.

"Miss Gellar, I will have to take pictures," she told me. Though there was a side of me that still wanted to defend my mother somehow that was pushed aside by all of this pain I felt. I slipped off my shoe and sock, expecting only a bruise.

Both the officer and I were taken aback. I had held back the pain of the stomp until that moment, when the mental block dropped down. If not for my disdain of heels or 'feminine' shoes, I knew I would've faced much more injury that I would have imagined. I almost had one of my toes smashed in, while the remainder of it was an angry purple color which I knew would leave me to walk differently for the next couple weeks.

I continued to tell her details as she took pictures of me. Profile, side, every possible position and injury. It was mortifying and hard to get through, and in that moment I knew that I was damned lucky I had the staff I did. If not for them, I wouldn't even be conscious enough for these pictures, much less standing.

Soon, it was all over. I was given Officer Clayton's card to keep in touch with her, and it was highly suggested I seek an order of protection from Sharon. Even the police knew they wouldn't have a lot of time to have my mother there once her attorney arrived. They left, and I was alone with Fran, trying to recover as a butler voluntarily packed two more bags upstairs for me before my unexpected departure.

My first stop before the hotel though was St. Francis for a quick check-up. Fran held my hand all the way through as I spent an hour being looked over by my personal physician, Dr. Merton, who actually brought me into this world. Her reaction when I came in was utter shock, and she spent plenty of time going over everything.

"She could've done worse," she told me as she examined my wrist. "All this because of..." I nodded. "That's unbelievable." The woman concentrated as she then examined the injury to my foot. "I would not have done this to my daughter at all. Who you love is your business and nobody else's."

I sighed deeply. "I didn't even expect it. If I had time to explain, maybe she would've been easier on me." I could only really listen to myself for now as Dr. Merton told me I came through all of that abuse better than it appeared on first glance. I would have to take it easy on my foot for the next week, but thankfully there were no fractures to the bones at all. However I could feel that my face was swollen and was advised to ice it constantly and take some pain killers until it calmed down.

My next step before I left was to call Dr. Birnbaum's emergency number and ask for an appointment on Tuesday. I expected a machine, but was surprised to hear her voice.

"Paris." She was shocked herself; she had never been called by me on a weekend before. "What happened?"

"Sharon found out," I said in a whispered. "She had a PI tailing me for two weeks and confronted me with everything. Just getting out of the hospital now."

I could tell immediately that this went beyond the usual relationship between therapist and client as I could hear her push down her anger at hearing that I was in danger in any form.

"How exactly did she abuse you?" I took a deep breath and repeated what I had gone through in detail once again, feeling like it was becoming a sad sort of folk tale at that point. It was a struggle to stay composed as I had to relive it one more time. By this point I wanted Rory's microcassette recorder so I could just record the damned thing once and move on from there.

"So...that is what happened," I said, finishing it up. If I thought Dr. B couldn't get angry at all, I was mistaken.

"As this doesn't go any further than between us..." A pause.  "How she treated your coming out is appalling. You were taking the right course by easing into it, but she obviously did not want that. Following you?" She sighed deeply. "Paris, I'm going to ask you right now; are you OK?"

I nodded, remembering the conversation I had with my father. "I...I don't know." I stumbled, the waiting room seeming to spin around me. "My father assured me that the PI would be dealt with, though they can't really face charges because of public right-of-way rights and all of that. But I'm not pissed at the guy, it's just his job and he did what was required of him. I'm not worried about being followed at least. But Sharon..." I grew quiet as I felt the tears begin to wring out from my eyes. "Can't be around her. I hurt."

She took in some more of my observations, including about how I felt alone. Dr. Birnbaum processed everything and gave me what she thought I should do as I fretted about Rory up in Boston.

I had forgotten one option though. "Your friend, Madeline. You have told her, Paris, is that correct?"

Of course. I took in a relieved breath. Though I couldn't stay overnight because she had a date escape planned with Brad to a theater in Stamford later in the evening I wasn't about to interrupt, I knew I could go to her. "You're right." I was grateful she was the first friend I came out to now. "I just don't want to weigh everyone down--"

"Paris." Brusquely, she cut me off before I could formulate yet another self-putdown of myself. "You aren't a drag on anyone at all! Especially not today. After all of the strings Sharon has pulled to try to make you hew to only her, I still find it unbelievable you didn't have a hard rebellion against her." The woman then set me straight. "I want to see you Monday evening. With Rory."

"With Rory?" I was surprised. "But you're not treating her for anything."

"You need her support and I don't want the appointment to become a '101 Reasons We Hate Sharon Gellar' rehash. We know your mother is not good right now, but your girlfriend will keep you calm."

"But..." I paused then, realizing that if I didn't have Ror there I probably would not make much progress to fix the trauma I've gone through once we got to the end of the appointment. "Well, I suppose I can agree to that." A quick thought about my schedule and then...

"6:30 Monday evening?" We talked a little more and made the official arrangements as I felt relieved that I would be able to get some good therapy in this week at the time I needed most. I thanked Birnbaum for being there for me when I needed her at my worst.

"Please take care of yourself, Paris," she implored. I nodded and wrenched myself, knowing I would have to go back out soon.

"I will." Saying goodbye to the doctor I then got up, wincing from the pain I felt in my foot and groaning as I knew I would have to get used to this. I was in no condition to go to Madeline's, but I knew I had to talk to someone, anyone who could understand what I was going through.

As Henrico gingerly guided me into the towncar with Nanny following behind me, I still had in the back of my mind how Rory would react. But for now, I had to figure out where I stood. I called for the destination and knew she was going to be surprised.

But if anyone could cheer me up it had to be Madeline.

Well, as long as it didn't involve watching one of those odd cheery Japanese anime series with too much pink she invests way too much money into purchasing.

Madeline's POV, 7:00pm

I can say I'm usually a very happy person. I've always been an optimist. There always has to be good in people.

That's why I'm friends with Paris in the first place. Even when she was younger she was quite intense and targeted on nothing but her studies, and there were so many other kids who told me to stay away from her when I got to Chilton Country Day. They'd tell me she was scary, freaky. A couple of kids had a rumor that she actually emigrated from the Soviet Union when she was three already at an eighth grade reading level, honed on lessons from parents who drilled her until she knew the material.

Once I got to know Paris though, somehow we ended up good friends. Not in the way where I was required to be her friend...

Actually, that might not be true. When I got there, the principal had her give me a tour of the school to find my way around. She showed me everything and barely let me talk in any way. I tried to ask a question about what she'd like and she'd go into a lecture about some boring teacher she fawned over like Socrates. Then her mom made her befriend me so she could be more open and social.

It was in the sort of way that suggested she tolerated me more than wanted to be my friend. Lesser girls would probably try to ditch her and talk behind her back. Louise even does that.

But if I can be truthful, I have not an ill word to say about Paris Gellar. Once you do finally get to know her like I do, you get to know her as more than Le Pitbull. Behind her iron heart and steel will, lays a young woman who is just like you and I. You have to find that vulnerability in her within the little moments that others can't find. With Louise they were raised pretty much the same and found their nits and nicks in preschool; those two are always gonna bicker and fight, but come back and hug and comfort each other when they feel at their most friendly.

Paris and I though are more complicated, but somehow it works out. If anything, being with Paris has helped me to prove my own in the world of Hartford society. Her demeanor makes any Chilton bully look like they're playing house. Without her expressing her finding me annoying at times, I don't know if I would be the happy girl I am today.

But I also balance her out. She always compares herself to Louise unfavorably, for instance. Always thinking she's not that much of a looker, that she deserves the fate of dating the Vances and Jamies of the world, the ones who are 'acceptable' only in appearance and not in talking or...other things that should not be mentioned in polite company. While Lou can proclaim all of her attributes in checklist form, Paris thinks of herself only as a researcher and someone who has to stay away from relationships. She saw what the divorce did to her father, and you can't blame her at all for just finding the entire concept of romance something she didn't want.

I've done a lot of thinking about her in the last few weeks and how she's been. She's still confident and headstrong as always and you can count on her to scare the wimpy and the stupid at Chilton, no matter what.

She's also scared, though. The vote almost undid her once Louise voiced her nay and I could tell that she was still in shock over it. I could tell it took her all she had to get through the vote. Every little thing lately has affected her, and she has moved around judiciously, her every move designed to avert that her and Rory are in any kind of relationship beyond that of best friends. She keeps looking around, scared there are spies ready to report back her every move.

Paris should just be able to be happy. I always wish that for her, to find a little bit of relief in the world to be who she wants to be.

That relief didn't come today.

I was getting ready for Brad to pick me up around six to see a road show of Aida in Stamford. It was a little farther than I'd usually go for a date, but I kind of had a feeling that he really wanted to impress me this evening. He was apologetic for not getting me tickets for the show in Manhattan, thinking I preferred that, but I had to remind him I was just glad he was a thoughtful gentleman in the first place.

"I mean...I know how excited you are, but it's just not the same." I shook my head as we both got ready on the phone and I played with my bra, frowning as I felt the black push-up wasn't showing me off just right.

"Hey, I don't care!" I smiled and laughed. "Brad, you're taking me to a show like this and putting in the effort with the dinner beforehand...it's very nice! You're not doing everything at once like some guys I've known and just easing into things. I can relax in Stamford because it's not 'the big date'. It's just us in a small movie palace taking in a show that's just as damned good as what they're putting on in Broadway." I keep shaking my head as I scoffed silently at how I looked in my mirror.

"I...I know. I just didn't want to come off as, well..." A pause. I sighed as I knew exactly what he was thinking about.

"Sweetie, I know how tempting it is to use your name to score us free tickets, but I don't need that. You're not a gloater at all. You're just a sweet guy being chivalrous and kind. Really, I'm gonna love it."

"You are?"

"I am, I promise." I kept hearing his 'sex voice' in my head, whispering some things into my ear when we had nobody looking around at us. Bless his heart, he's proving to be a fun guy. I mean last night, we were able to 'accidently' meet under the bleachers at the basketball game and have a little alone time since he works on the sports crew that cleans up the gym after the game. It's like this small little space where nobody usually goes, where the old uniforms and balls are put when they get taken out of service. He snuck me in and we...

Well, he actually helped me out with some tough chemistry homework to start. We got to some steamy stuff later, but to have that boy hover over my shoulder and breathe on my back somehow kept me on a little bit of a fun edge. He would occasionally nip at my shoulders and whisper my name, clasping his hand around mine while we figured things out with my work.

Our dates have been so small. We don't do much in public. But the way this boy is making me feel...it has my stomach all twisty. He is still the same little nervous guy most of the time, even when we're alone. Always nervous, hoping the night goes right. That nobody pops out and all the sudden, he realizes I've been dating him as a big joke.

Mmmm, would last night be a joke at all though? Getting to see your guy cleaning up the discarded cups, popcorn bags and nacho trays from the top tier of the bleachers in the balcony and giggling because he has a different way he walks that night because his lovely cock got a little bit of fun attention back in the equipment room. I think I really enjoy how I get to play with and tease him, do a little playing with my teeth and how he just gets off to me holding him back. A little sweat builds on his brow, he makes this cute little whimper and a funny face as I make him feel like he should actually be treated...

"Madeline, are you still there? Hello?" I suddenly realized that I was blanking out on him over the phone and...well...

Yeah, it was obvious my underwear wasn't gonna work now for certain dampening reasons, and I was cherry red in the mirror.

"Oh, I'm here," I seductively mentioned. "Just thinking back to last night."

"You moaned my name, I could tell," he observed. "Still a little tender, to be honest."

"So worth it though. Can't wait to present my report on Monday from what I learned and adapted into my paper. You really did a good job on helping me and I feel that there should be positive reinforcement for that." I sat down on my bed, bouncing a little. "You get to help me out a little more with theater tonight."

"Like you did last Friday by shopping for me? I still feel weird about actually knowing my true sizes for clothing."

"You actually enjoyed it though. I never thought I could take a guy out shopping, but you were amazing, just being patient, even if you were checking on your Game Boy sometimes." I softened up a little, remembering how Paris's 'evil plan' to distract Sharon from knowing she was going to come out to Rory's grandparents worked just as well for Brad and I. "Though it was strangely put away once we got to a certain little store..." I heard him cough a bit.

"Madeline, um, I'm taking you out in one hour. A proper gentleman does not think about his girlfriend in that matter at this time!"

"You're flushing right now, Braddy. I can tell." I walked into my walk-in closet, shrugging off my ruined undergarments. "A gentleman you are, but a boy with hormones you are too." I slid open the drawers lined with velvet where I kept my intimates (not my choice; my stepmother says silks and satins should never rub against wood). "Your girlfriend needs a little help though."

"I don't know..."

"Remember, you helped me out plenty that night, eager beaver. What would be proper attire to go to the theater with? I want to feel comfortable, yet have you wandering your eyes occasionally my way."

Other boys would ask me to surprise them or argue that they didn't care what I did wear. But Brad is particular. A few meetings in the quick change rooms with other actors and actresses has made him very familiar with what girls wear underneath their costumes, and he always seemed to be impressed with how prim I looked, even in jeans and a t-shirt.

"The...violet one with the thin straps?" I nodded, finding it right on top, along with its matching sister. "You don't have to--"

"Good choice, my dear. An eye to detail because you know it flatters that cute mole above my left breast." I lit up as I heard him gasp. "The rest shall be a secret until you get here though. A woman never ruins the surprise any further." I hummed as I slid right into the seductive boyshorts with a wonderful material which really flattered my tummy, then tightened them against my bum. "That does feel nice. You know how to choose well."

I heard a cough over the phone. The poor guy really is shy about way too many sexy thoughts. "T-thank you, Madeline." I chuckle as I slithered into a cute skirt and paired it up with a sweet pair of kitten heels before sliding on the bra and a top which matches well with the skirt.

We continued to chat on the phone as I got ready before he finally had to take off and pick me up. It took a long time for us to hang up, but eventually the phone was put down and I was applying the finishing touches to my makeup around 5:30pm, making sure I was both seductive and relaxed. Fancied up enough for the theater, yet comfy if we hit the Lakeside Diner off the Parkway for pancakes and doughnuts beforehand, which was what I was looking forward to more than the musical.

I had just finished up plucking my eyebrows when I was startled by a sudden squeak from the intercom. I popped up in my seat and squealed as my stepmom came on and I began to feel a scramble. Did Brad speed through town to get here? I worried. It was still a bit odd to know that my stepmom somehow liked Brad and considered him a good guy like my father did also. Usually we can't even agree on most stuff, not even fashion.

"Madeline, your friend Paris is here to see you," she said. I didn't pick up the worry in her voice at all as I looked for my jacket. "Should I send her up?"

"Can you tell her to come back later, Terri?" Another thing that would never be reconciled; my stepmother was never going to be called Mom. I just could never do it at all, and my father and her understand that.

I responded as I stumbled around the room slightly. "Brad's coming in a half-hour. If it's about the exam, I'll make time for her tomorrow!"

"She says it's important. Too important."  My stepmother's voice suddenly went to a whisper. "Mads, please take her in. I don't know what happened but she doesn't look well."

"Huh?" I didn't catch the clue right away. "Terri, what's going on? This can wait, right?"

A nervous pause. The woman and I share a relationship where we may not be Rory and Lorelai, but we get by. But I knew when my stepmom was using her serious tone of voice regarding Par, it was scary.

"It can't. Prepare yourself, please." It was short, and to the point. Terri never told me to prepare for Paris. And not in the tone of voice she used except for the gravest of circumstances.

I didn't know what to expect at all. I clenched my fist slightly, prepared for some conflict. "Send her up." I finished getting ready, thinking I was probably going to meet Paris in some kind of wound-up panic about scoring a 1599 on her SATs or another smaller issue, like what she was going to do on winter break. I expected something small, something silly that would I could just soothe her back to normalcy with a pep talk and move on.

She knocked on my door and I prepared for her usually dramatic and blustered entrance. I opened the door wide, preparing for her to sweep in.

Only she didn't. I stood off to the side waiting for her to come in for a few moments, surprised that my cheerful "Hi, Paris. What's up?" wasn't answered at all. Another few moments.


Eventually I turned around into the doorway to face her...

"Paris, my room isn't that appallingly mess..." I suddenly paused. Froze in place. Her eyes met mine.

As best friends there was nothing to say. There was nothing that we had to communicate to each other in words.

My 'protector', as I called her when I was ten, needed protection herself. I reeled back to see Paris Gellar, the strongest girl I've ever known in my life. A girl who I swear to God could slay Hitler in head-to-head debate, at the worst moment she has ever faced.

She was unrecognizable. Her face had a hounddog gaze upon it, as if there was nothing left for her to contemplate. Her impeccable sense of style, no matter how dull and practical it was, was not there. She was in a pair of jeans she only wore during Rebuilding Together and a grey worn-out tee over a tank top I didn't recognize, but even in the awful situation, actually flattered her.

The blonde hellfire I knew was a lost soul in that moment of time. Her eyes were filled with deep emotions, tracks below them suggesting tears that hadn't ceased for awhile. Her posture was off, her hair was out of sorts...

Her face. And then her neck. I finally found myself looking at them. They burned an angry and deep red, and she blinked in front of me, afraid to talk. I saw what I thought were imprints of hands in both spots.

Then her hand was grasped deeply against the side of my door.

"C-c-can...I...c-c-come in?" she asked, just before another crying jag began.

This wasn't a panic over a grade. Nothing silly. Harvard hadn't rejected her.

Paris was there in my bedroom for only one reason. One I knew.

One since that evening in the Armory, I had been dreading with everything in my soul, and in other forms, for years. With Rory in Boston, there was no doubt.

My mood went from cheery for Brad...

...to wanting to beat the shit outta a certain woman who we all disdain so deeply.

"Paris?" I needed to know. Even if she couldn't say it, I wanted to have that confirmation.

"Sharon?" A minute. She stayed still in the doorframe. Then I saw the slightest nod of her head, confirming it.

When that bitch of a woman forced her and the guy from Princeton together for Formal, I was mad. Never would Terri have done that to me, at all. She knows there's no way Brad is being pushed out of the picture anytime soon.

I had expected the worst Mrs. Gellar would deal out. I expected some fireworks. Some anger. The post-coming out Paris I had expected would have been infuriated, fired up, determined to make this all work, Sharon be damned, coming into my space for a half-hour rant and my nods of her points to fire her up to keep the flame burning.

But I would have never guessed that Paris would be at my bedroom door, in tears, having survived being on the brink of death as her own mother tried to snuff out the flame of her life for a second time.

I might not be the smartest girl. Hell, I'm most definitely not going to be competing with Dr. Birnbaum for Paris's services, ever.

But I'm a damned good best friend. I don't give a fuck who you are. If you're even Paris's idol. Doesn't make any difference to me.

You fuck with Paris, you fuck with me, and I will defend her to my death. I would deal with those feelings later though.

At that moment, I had something else to focus on. Paris was hurting. My best friend...

Oh God, I hate recounting this, but I must.

All I could do was hug her. Offer up my hand. She didn't say anything at all. She walked around the room as if she had just been surprised tactically at the last minute. She was half her height as she felt completely lost while I got what I could about the morning out of her.

It wasn't fun. I was patient, but coming off that, there's no fucking way you don't have an extreme reaction to what happened.

She was just five days off her biggest impact ever in Chilton's government. Five days earlier, she had spearheaded us into adding RTS funding. Without a single word about her sexual orientation, she helped that horse into the stable.

Now off that excitement? Her mother had found a way to take the wind completely out of her sails. To see her in that state, that crushed, pushed out of the closet in a way that was just offensive in every way possible, I couldn't handle it.

She wasn't just pushed out of the closet by her mother. Paris was blown out of it, completely against her will. As I heard her go on about those hellish minutes where her mother attacked her for the mere crime of loving another girl, I cried with her. I hurt and clenched at her shoulders, holding her against me and feeling the relaxation she had felt the last few weeks after releasing the burden of her love of Rory to me leave. Her back was tight all over again, the pain too much for her to bear as she continued to process that her mother had in all but words disowned her as her daughter.

Disowned. From what Paris told me, she had no chance to even build a defense or have a neutral situation like she had with her daddy. At least with Lorelai there were the funny things like the slinky top failing her and her Oz fears. But there was nothing but bad here. Being followed, almost forced to give herself up to a guy who had been hoodwinked into dating her? Paris never had a chance at all.

"I don't know what to do," she said as she wrapped herself into a hoodie I gave her when I saw her shivering. "I'm pretty sure I passed out. It was like the night of the accident all over again." Her tears kept coming. "Except I'm almost an adult. I could've stopped this, but she got to me."

I shook my head and stated my side. "Par, you won." Before she could respond, I told her why. "You were stepping around her. You were ready to come out on your own terms. I remember what you said a few days ago at school, that you were willing to get out there before your birthday and gather your courage. But that woman did the worst thing a mother could ever do; she violated your trust."

Paris shook her head. "No...no. I was asking for it, you're wrong. I was getting too cocky. I didn't say a word, but I was begging for a confrontation and...and she was justified--"

I had to step in. I knew when Sharon's fucked-up psychology was rooting in Paris, and this was just about the time. "Paris, she had you followed! She had a skeevy guy take pictures of you from a distance and was too chicken to even ask for a heart-to-heart with you like regular mothers do!" I groaned deeply and cringed. "What kind of mom does that?!"

"She was just concerned for me." I was taken aback as I knew this was her time to punish herself. "I...I should--"

"Absolutely not!" I was stern with her, my gaze cold as had a feeling about what she was going to say. "Your mother beat you for being a lesbian, Paris! There is nothing you can do to fix it yourself! If she is so fucking backwards that she needs to take you within an inch of your life to send a message..." I paused. "And think about Rory. Your girlfriend who loves you deeply and gave you the most treasured thing she can ever give to another person!" I became impassioned as I got up from the bed and threw my arms around to make my point. "So you and Rory are unbreakable and there's no turning back now. You are a girl in love and Sharon needs to understand that!"

"Madeline..." Her voice broke, hard. "She's in jail 'cause...'cause of me." I nodded.

"Not because of you. Because her heart is closed," I said in a whisper. "You were going to tell her. On your own terms. And she broke that single trust you demanded of her." I settled her down with a hand on top of hers. "Paris, listen to me. This is not right."

"I know...I do." I saw her mussing her hair and playing with cuffs on the hoodie, retracting her fingers in to pick at cuff pills. "But now Rory's...gonna leave me 'cause I broke her trust like that. God forbid if she had the guy follow us into the park and took pictures of that!"

"But he didn't. He stayed in public. Maybe he did give you as much privacy as he could get, but had to hit a certain point to get paid by your mom. He was paid to do what he had to do, but judging from the pictures you told me about, he went nowhere near Chilton." I thought more about the clues. "And the driveway? It was within sight of a public road. So really, he stuck to public places where he could blend in. The guy wasn't stupid enough to ever follow you into the park or onto Manor grounds, and the Gilmore's neighbors are always suspicious about cars they don't know."

"I suppose you're right." She though back to the pictures. "And despite the privacy infringing nature of them, they were all innocent shots, really. From what she told me, that's all she got." A pause. "Still sucks she didn't trust me at all though."

"I know..." I felt a pang in my stomach as she went over the day, which was very tough for her to do. Recounting everything I just wanted to hug her forever. She even grabbed my plush Mr. Plufflehuffle hippo just to have something to hold onto and cuddle.

The poor girl. With Rory distant, she just didn't feel like herself at all. Par was so deeply sad that I didn't know of anything to lift her spirits. She kept saying she didn't want to call Rory and burden her on her big weekend with Mr. Hayden, though I had a feeling she'd be fine to hear what ailed her girlfriend. But she dealt as she could the way she knew;

Silence and calming. She looked over some of my homework on the desk and nodded as she went over it, then unexpectedly called me over. I awaited whatever she was going to say about the formulas I had done.

Instead, she turned to me with a smile and pointed at one of them.

"You did this worksheet all by yourself?" I looked it over again, awaiting her usual lecture.

But it never came. Instead she got up and gave me a glance I usually saw directed more at a lab partner or Rory. A glance which made anyone feel accomplished.

"Amazing." That's all that had to be said.

"Really?" I lit up, feeling relieved to have a little push-away from the big elephant for a bit. "I mean--"

"You do still need to cut the hearts over the I's and J's, get the cursive writing a little less...Judy Blume and dear diary, and maybe write in something other than pink, which doesn't photocopy well at all. Other than that, this is a fine example of scientific formulae. I'm impressed."

Yes, that is what in my world you would call Paris complimenting me. I squealed happily that she was able to check my work and didn't find an actual error. "It's actually going to be part of my big report I'm going to do in a few months. I actually had someone from the University of Washington look over my studies. She said if I get a nice-sized project done, I could be considered for scholarship at their environmental college. It's something I really want to go for, you know?"

"They came up here?" I could tell Paris was glad for the distraction.

"Actually one of my old friends in Seattle helped me get a contact in the registrar's office. At first they were apprehensive because, come on, I'm just jumping into this and I'm not like you with a three-ring binder full of references. But I was able to plead my case and near New Year's, my father and I are going out to look at it." I was glad to get this out to someone besides family. "I'm also getting interest from Evergreen State in Olympia. That might be nice, but I know you have concerns with non-traditional campuses. Plus, Olympia, a little far down the Sound from Seattle."

She gave me a glance and listened carefully to clues that I'm not serious about this. But I truly am. I want to do this and all my cards are in the Northwest right now. A few blinks. I was relieved to get her distracted from her mother.

"Look at U of Seattle too," she told me. "I'm not usually the type to look into those private schools but you might do well in a smaller setting. UW of course, if you can get it, go for it. But there's so few schools out in Washington State you have to at least give a consideration to them all. My Uncle Ira went to Marquette in Milwaukee and swears by it despite the Catholic roots it has, and Seattle is just about the same as they are."

There was just those kinds of thoughts, batting things around as I took a few notes from her. I looked up occasionally to note she was having a nervous glance, but this was the best thing to do to get her mind off things. I was still stewing in deep anger about what that...that...that meanie did to my friend though and wondered how there was a way to keep her from further interfering with them.

Yes, I said further. I wasn't about to say anything to Paris at all about it, but I knew she was about to be pushed out even further. I felt it in my gut. Just the fact that Sharon knew meant that I had to figure things out behind the scenes before they set foot in Chilton on Monday. If I even hinted to Paris and Rory about what could happen that day, there would be panic.

I had to be careful. Figure this out. If I went ditz-brained on whatever I had planned, I could never forgive myself.

While I tried to calm down Paris though, I had managed to somehow forget a very important detail as we talked to keep her mind off everything. Around 6pm I heard a knock on my bedroom door and then...

I stilled as the door opened. I knew who it was. Paris stilled on the bed as the door opened up and made its weird squeak.

I was darning my 'open door' a little hard right now as I somehow forgot about my big date.

Enter Brad. My lovely guy walked into the room looking as if he was yanked right out of a Frankie Valli backup band. The guy knows how to dress and his hair was gelled back slightly to keep it in place. A nice suit with a green tie he picked out to match my eyes and a blue dress shirt.

He was expecting to walk in and sweep me off my feet. Which he still did. But as he greeted me, he darted a glimpse at Paris.

"Madeline, are you read--" He cut himself off as he took in Paris, reeling back as if she was discovered to be impure.

Usually, her anger would come out full-force at poor Brad. This is a girl who jokingly suggested she'd knock his rabbi out 'cause Brad wasn't man enough and who did all she could to keep him away from our projects. I cringed, wondering what she would do to lash out.

Brad already had his fight-or-flight on within moments. "Uh, Paris...ma'am." He noticed the bruises along her neck. "Are...are you OK?" He looked towards me. "Obviously there's something wrong, I should leave--"

But at that moment, Paris did something I never would have thought she'd do. She got up and moved towards Brad. He moved back and thought he was about to be reamed out.

"Brad," she said softly. "I...I need your help too." She took a few unsteady breaths. "I am not going to do anything to you. I couldn't bear it."

"Paris? What's going on?" Some more silence. I could feel the fear in her heart.

"Something...scary." Her voice broke slightly as she unzipped the hoodie and revealed the scars and bruises left in the aftermath of Sharon's reaction to her 'news'. She slipped out of it and began to feel emotional again.

"I apologize for you having to walk in on this and ruining your date, Brad. I just did not have Rory to go to and--"

He did another thing I never expected.

Brad interrupted her. "Paris...oh dear." He took in everything and when I thought that he should fear her in her condition, he dropped every preconception I had of him. "What's wrong?"

I knew she didn't want to relive this again, so I asked Paris if I could just summarize what she had told me.

Her usual non-answer was weary. "I guess." She slumped back down on the bed as I brought him into the closet and told him all he needed to know about the situation. I felt like my words paled in comparison to her description, but I knew it had to be done.

I found myself emotional repeating it. "...so, she found out about everything and her mother almost choked her out of consciousness." I cringed just saying it. "Wonderful, right?"

Brad shook his head. "I wouldn't say wonderful at all." He looked over towards her direction. "She got pushed out?"

"By her mother? Yeah." His features grew serious as he took in the sight of his biggest bully kicked when she was down. "Brad, I know you're scared--"

"Scared? You really think I'm scared right now?" He raised his hand up. "How the hell did her mother get custody of her again?"

I reeled back, a little stunned by my boyfriend using what to anyone else was a mild swear, but to me was like hearing Buzz Lightyear programmed with curse words. "Hey, I know it's shocking."

"Madeline, we grew up with each other, you know? We weren't really in the same circles, but I know of what she went through. I remember the accident, my parents taking me to visit her to give her time with a 'friend', even if I wasn't at all." He shook his head and his hands were shaking. "That woman never treated her well at all. I went off to New York for theater after third grade and came to Chilton sophomore year, but I knew her back then and...she never recovered from it. And this? To be almost beaten to death and nearly shuffled off to a school that would've spanked her back into the Paris we knew before Rory came into her life?" The boy was deeply emotional as he went on about how he felt for a girl who needed all the love she could find right now.

We never talked about the accident. I only knew about it from Louise, and what little I could get out of Paris. But I knew enough that it took her through trauma that she is still trying to get over, all these years later. I can't imagine what she's going through right now, how it feels to be so blindly hated by your own mother for choosing a way of life different from hers. Brad held my hand as he continued to react.

"Remember how I told you we have to support her, no matter what she goes through?" I nodded, knowing the promise we made after Paris told me it was OK to tell him after the Formal, albeit of course with the usual silly body part removal threat. "She's going to need both of us more than ever. I know she has Rory, but if there's one thing that I don't want, it's for her to end up back with that woman. She's going to be out soon, right?"

I nodded. "That's her biggest fear right now. She's scared to death that an order of protection won't stop Sharon from making any kind of contact." I looked back in the bedroom, where Paris sat blankly on the bed, continuing to play with the hoodie sleeves. "She says she's got a room at the Hilton because her father isn't allowed to have her overnight."

"What?" Brad was confused. "He never did anything wrong."

"Money talks. She got full custody in the divorce settlement and Harold only got an apartment big enough for himself since he can't get back into the Manor until Paris turns eighteen. Technically, Paris could be considered a runaway right now." I still was boiling angry about how much of an advantage the judge gave Mrs. Gellar thanks to the influence of her attorney. It was so screwed up, despite how much Paris plead for the judge to be even in his ruling. "She's got plenty to live on, so I'm not worried about her financially. Just the thought of her living out of a suitcase is making me sad."

Brad looked back out into the bedroom himself. I could tell that no matter what Paris did to him in the past, it wasn't real bullying, just being a thorn in the side, like she was with Rory. Francie is a bully, period. But I've known Paris so long that I could never see her being so cold-hearted. I mean yeah, she's competitive and of course, the file thing when Rory got in. But she never has threatened physical violence on the girl, and I never expect her to do anything to Rory ever again.

It's the same with Brad, and with Par, it's more to build his character than anything else. And it worked. Hey, we're a couple now; if not for her challenging him all the time he would've never taken the risk at homecoming of going with me.

We kept looking at each other and back to Paris, wondering what to do. Brad nervously ran his hand through his hair to straighten it back out.

"Does she have other family she can go to?" he asked. I thought for a moment before realizing she really didn't.

"Just relatives on Sharon's side. We don't want her to go there at all. And her father would've been able to line something up if he could, but most everyone's in Florida, the Apple, or Illinois at this point for their Hanukah trips." He gave me a glance. "I can't take her in since we have Seattle family coming in Monday and she wouldn't ever accept it. Burden thinking."

"She isn't," he confessed. "Her mother is the burden right now." That was pretty much the sad truth and we hugged close together, hurting for our poor friend. "Nobody should ever have to face this," I told him.

"I know a lot of friends who have," he whispered. "The theater scene is so close-knit and insular, when someone doesn't accept you, we all feel it. We're family." I nodded, calmed by how Brad was about as calm as could be faced down with something like this.

"You're not mad, are you? I mean, the date, the theater. I probably ruined it." He kissed my forehead and softly let out a few tears.

"Madeline, you're the best friend any girl could have. You did what you had to, and we have many more nights to go see a show." He took me at my shoulder to bring me back out. "Come on though, Paris needs us much more." I looked up at him and let him lead me back out, as Paris moved up her eyes back towards us. She looked so defeated, it seemed like she was a ghost of who she usually was.

Brad stayed to the side, knowing Paris needed me more as I took her into my arms. "I told him what I needed to." She nodded and clutched at my hand like a fist. "You sure you're gonna be up to going to a hotel?"

"Wh-what else can I do?" she told me. "I can't go to Louise. You've got your relatives coming and I hardly know Brad. I can live with it; I've got three square meals coming."

"Yeah, but it's a hotel room. Par, I think--" It's like she knew me, because she cut me off.

"No, that option isn't open. It can't be." She looked down at her hands. "It's enough I'm her daughter's girlfriend, the last thing she needs to worry about is having me live there and worry. That's a closed venue." I bit on my tongue, knowing it was the only option still open outside of the hotel. For two weeks this was going to stay a problem, maybe even longer. "I...I hate this."

Brad put in what he wanted to say. "Paris, if you need anything, you know you can call both of us, any time of day or night?" Another shaky nod.

"I ruined your date," she said, scolding herself. "I'm just the biggest date ruiner ever."

"Hey...nothing was ruined. Nothing was even started. We'll probably have to run off someplace locally, but Brad and I create our own fun. We're cool." I looked up at Brad's suddenly violent blush at the wording I used. "You know what I meant!"

"Um, well of course, but you say that and..." The boy could sense some dagger stares from Paris's direction, even if her eyes were too weak to shoot it far. "I apologize, Paris."

Paris shook her head, letting out the slightest of smiles. "No need at all, Brad. I...I actually did want to say thank you for being here, if only to view me crying my eyes out like a fool. You and Mads have made it work and I can't begrudge that at all." She shifted slightly towards the pillow. "At least I can trust you two. There are Chiltonians I wouldn't even trust with my student identification number."

"Not a word," he promised. "And for what it's worth? I'm glad you faced down Francie on Monday, even if you didn't say much. That is going to be what everyone will remember you for. Your legacy. I...I'm proud of you...ma'am."

"Thanks." Her voice was weary as she felt another tingle on her face which signaled a new icing while she cringed at her neurons sending pain throughout. "Fuck...I wish they could've given me some Novocain to numb myself whenever this happened." She reached into her bag and pulled out a fresh and cool cold pack she kept in a thermal lunch bag and applied it beneath a towel to her cheek. "SUCKS!"

I sighed for a moment before thinking of something to calm Par's nerves. "Want me to order out Berlin Fish? I could get you a large mac and cheese, extra burnt. Since we're not going anywhere for now." Brad nodded and Paris thought for a moment about my offer.

"Might as well. Going to be my last true meal until Monday at lunch." I nodded excitedly and prepared the order as Brad tried to calm her as best as he could. We both knew it wasn't going to come easily though, and she spent most of the time picking off more pills on the hoodie and trembling as we waited for Terri to bring up the food order. I sat down next to Paris and kept trying to keep her spirits up, but I knew it was going to be a long time before she returned back to normal.

When Terri came up she found Paris was calm, but solemn. My stepmother surveyed the scene and shook her head, knowing that Sharon was indeed, a woman with a dark soul who had gossiped about her as a harlot who took advantage of my father when they married five years ago. Which isn't true. My brother and I knew my father couldn't stay unmarried forever, and we can both handle Terri and my stepsister Valerie, who attends a boarding school in Pennsylvania (her own choice).

The rest of the time was quiet. I was thankful Paris ate most of her meal, only leaving aside the coleslaw based on a gut reaction it probably wouldn't settle well inside of her while Brad and I made sure that she would be all set to go.

But I could read Brad's thoughts. He was still unsure of how Par could handle living at a hotel. I could just read it in his eyes that he thought it not a very good idea. I agreed with him and tried to communicate that, though we weren't going to argue with Paris about it before she left, which came about a half-hour later after more commiseration about the next school week.

The both of were deeply concerned as we saw her back out to her town car. She was still in deep pain, but at least she could smile in the little moments before she left for the evening to head to the hotel. I hugged her close and told her to get out of her mind, at least for a little while.

"You'll have Rory to talk to when she gets back," I promised her. "And you can sort everything out with her. It's going to be OK, Paris, I promise." I let the tears fall freely, glad to have this small time with Paris to sort things out. She nodded at me and chattered in the cold, her jacket in the car.

"Thank you both...I-I-I don't know how to repay you both. Besides new tickets."

Brad shook his head. "I received them at a discount and I'm sure if I talk to one of my friends up there we can get in one of their later shows in the year. We'll be fine, I promise." A small little pause though... "If you could get the rabbi to ease up a little though on me--"

Paris smiled as much as she could. "Yeah, I suppose I could do that for ya, Langford." She held out her hand towards him. "And...I can't believe I'm doing this, but because of what you did..."

She cringed as she said the words. "In two months, you get first chair against Hotchkiss." She rushed out the words as if she was about to be forced to consume a rice cake, but there was still sincerity behind them. "It is a big one, but I think you can take it."

Understandably, Brad was floored that he was going to actually get to do something for debate. "You're...you're sure? But I know how you rule the roost, and--" Paris held up her hand to make Brad pause before he could begin a long ramble.

"Langford, please. Don't make me change my mind because of that. Get your diction up and be ready on February 18th to take those smug sons of guns down. I have a true feeling you can do it." She got in the car as Henrico opened it up for you. "I'll see you both on Monday. Hopefully by then I've healed up a little bit." My friend winced as again she had to apply the cold compress against her face.

Brad thanked her for the opportunity for the debate and we saw her off, the both of us still worried about what the future. He held my hand as we went back into the house, where Terri was waiting for us. She didn't need much of an explanation, but she was quite angered at Sharon for what she did and would hold Paris's sexuality in complete confidence.

She complimented me on putting aside my night for her. "You did good. Your mama would be proud of you," she said, and from how much my mother did love Paris from the short time she knew her, when my young friend was curious about cancer and death and she told Paris what she went through, I knew she was looking down at me and thankful that despite all I've gone through being Par's friend, I'm sticking by her through thick and thin.

Still, I cried, away from Paris and able to show my pain after she departed as my guy and my stepmom did all they could to calm me. Bless them both for keeping me away from the real dark thoughts I had in my mind at that moment.

I have seen Paris suffer under the thumb of her mother for so long. Saw her having to push off so many fun events and thinks just to go impress some old fuddy-duddy fundraiser at a boring society party. Told to push herself towards a guy who had nothing to offer but a fancy name and generations of inbreeding that would've screwed up the Gellar family line something awful. Even...

I still remember the dent in the drywall I made in Louise's entertainment room when I threw a remote at it after she told me her mom wanted her to reduce her boobs and get a nose job. Louise didn't even flinch, but that's one of the few times in my life I've shown so much rage. I scared Paris so much that it took a week to say sorry for how I behaved.

Though I never was. And now that bitch has the audacity to nearly kill one of my best friends and intrude so deeply into her personal life just because she loves someone who can do so much good for her?

I swear to God, if any one of Sharon's cronies in her club comes up to me and asks me to 'turn' her and encourage her to go back to boys? I will not be kind little Madeline Lynn at all. They will know how I feel and there will be no getting in the last word. I support those two lovely girls, and nothing's gonna come between them.

As for Sharon? She better keep her distance. If I ever see her again, she is in for a world of hurt. I hope her skinny and fake ass is shivering in a holding cell right now, and that whoever's in there with her sharing her cell is giving her hell.

Even better, I hope she's all restrained up by the staff and unable to move, just like she did to subdue Paris before she did her worst.

Brad shares a look with me as we finish up dinner, and somehow? I know he's thinking the same thing, even if he's the 'nice guy'.

Sharon Gellar made three new enemies tonight in this household. Somehow, I think Lorelai Gilmore is about to become her fourth whenever she finds out.

Paris's POV, 8:30pm

I hate feeling lost.

This is so odd for me, not having a home to go back to. I could, but I can't. Having to depend on a hotel to have a roof over my head and instead of grabbing a random box of Chinese from the fridge when I feel like it, calling for room service to sate a sudden midnight craving deep in a cram session.

It's a dreadful thought. All the way to the hotel I felt like I was being selfish just for wanting this relationship. It was wrong and uprooting so many things that I had taken for granted for years. It seemed like Hartford was darker than usual as Henrico drove west from Manchester, where Madeline lives. It didn't seem to have its usual dignified sheen as we drove in on Route 384 towards downtown. I held the icepack close with the layered towel between my cheek and the compress, still feeling a bit of anguish and knowing I would need more than a PM to get through the night. Thank God for my Lunesta prescription.

I wasn't ready to be alone. I felt a pressure on my heart which seemed to not want to let up. To be stuck in some hotel room in the middle of town, afraid to go out because I had to face the sights and sounds of a holiday evening in Hartford. The Wolf Pack are playing at the Civic Center and I'm sure there are carolers out. I should have been finishing my research at the library, on my way home for the homestretch before winter break.

Now I was alone. Rory couldn't come to rescue me this night, and I did not want to inconvenience Madeline any further on. I took in a deep breath as the merge onto 84 came up.

Even before I got to Madeline's there were thoughts that I should back out of this. Sudden thoughts that I was acting like a bitch and asking for too much and that perhaps, I should break up with Rory.

Madeline put those thoughts to rest as we talked things out. I wasn't asking for much from my mother. In fact, I was asking for too little, for so long. I mean, I've been forming myself around what she wants for my image for so many years, to the point where I thought 'what would my mother think' before I ever decided anything. She also reminded me that no good mother would pay somebody to ever tag them and follow them around.

In that moment though I was completely down. Looking down at my hands I sure didn't feel like myself. If only the other members on my dad's side of the family could take me in. But besides the many on vacation it couldn't happen; most of them were in small houses and a few made the choice not to have children. They had no idea what to do with me. I would also not go to Jacob's house. It still gives me the chills that he hit on Rory during that one Formal.

I thought about things as I brought out my cell phone, wondering how to break the news exactly to Rory. I kept laboring under the doubt that she'd want to hear from me. That's the last thing I want to do, leave 45 messages like Dean did and use up her text allotment. Besides, they're my problems in my life. They shouldn't have to be hers by proxy. I pawed at the device, staring daggers at it as I flipped it open and closed a few times to check the hinge. I did some controlled breathing techniques to keep myself calm, frowning as I looked over everything. No calls at all. Not a shock, really.

I scrolled down to Rory's entry, hesitating. I pushed the button to go to her entry in the directory, scrolling past her mobile to her home number. I began to build up a plan in my mind as I thought over things. Rory wouldn't be back home until Sunday, and I'm sure I could keep this as close as possible. If Lorelai could call her and I could tell her in few words that I was the Hilton, she could just let Rory know I wouldn't talk to her until Monday.

I mean, I had to say something. At least something. I didn't want to lay anything on Lorelai at all. It's enough that she has to tolerate my relationship with her daughter. I can't do anything more than that. Finding some courage, I dialed out the number and called out to Lorelai.

There was a small part of me that was hoping I just got a voicemail, that way I could just tell Lorelai not to call back at all. The phone began to ring as I looked out passed the Rentschler Field stadium site over in East Hartford. One ring...two rings...

I hoped there would be four rings. A third. My fingers were crossed, and I could begin to relax.

Yes! I reacted silently at the fourth ring coming and began to prepare for whatever insane thought Lorelai called an answering machine message this week...


And then my hopes were dashed. I heard a pickup...and then about fifteen seconds of silence.

"Um, hello?" I wondered why I wasn't being greeted.

Surprisingly, the innkeeper was a bit confused. "Err, hello Paris. Sorry about that." Her voice was friendly and bright, which is what I really needed right now. "When I saw your name on the caller ID I assumed that you wouldn't even let me get in a hello before going off into a three-minute tangent about how Ava has wronged you this week. So I didn't even bother."

I cringed; this woman and her daughter were growing to know me wayyy too well. "Well...she did, of course. But that's not why I called you this evening."

My mind focused on trying to make this as short as possible. "Could you tell Rory, if she calls that I'll talk to her on Monday morning next? Just pass along the message."

"Ahh, of course I can do that. You gotta heavy weekend of studying going on, don't you?"

I thought for a moment. "Not studying, really. Some unexpected circumstances have come up, so I can't get back to her until I pick her up. Sorry...I'm sure you understand."

"Yeah, I guess." I thought I was pretty well home free. Surely there wasn't anything I had to do further. "Hey, is there anything going on? Surely you could've just texted this to her."

I shook my head. "I didn't want to bother her, Ms.--Lorelai." Still having problems being 'chill' with her, as she called it. "She has a busy enough weekend with her father."

"But she wouldn't mind hearing from you." She took a few moments before bringing things further. "Are you sure you're OK, hon?"

I paused for a moment to compose myself. "Of course," I stated neutrally. "Just let Rory know, please." I thought I had told Lorelai enough and that would be it.

"Paris, what is going on?" I tried to hide what I was feeling by covering up the mic. "Seriously, I don't usually hear from you at all unless you're very insistent that Rory gets a message from you." I heard her grab a paper and some kind of instrument to write. "I'll give her what you need to pass along, but I would think she would want to know why you aren't seeing her until Monday. Which isn't a big deal, because that's when she usually sees you after a weekend."

I could feel myself beginning to wear down. "I insist--"

She stopped me suddenly. "And I hear something," Ms. Gilmore insisted. "You're not General Pattonette today. Something's off with your voice. Usually it's all Joe Friday and asking for the basics, but I'm hearing A Charlie Brown Christmas in it, like you just delivered the disappointing sapling to the class."

"I insist that I am fine," I said in a clipped tone. "I...I have to go--"

Then I didn't expect what she'd say next.

"Paris?" I heard her 'mom voice'. The one she used in New York towards the girls when she found them in that party with the 'future of America' keeping the Solo Cup Company in business single-handedly. "There's something wrong. You sound like I did when my friends at school found out I was 'with child'. Though I know you're so not at that step, but something happened. I can just sense it."

Then she made it clear I was pretty well trapped. "My next call is to your dad if you don't tell me what's up. You know we talk through the PTO email list so he can keep up with stuff, so I'll find out one way or another."

"Damn it," I whispered away from the phone. She was right; she passed on what my father wanted to do when he couldn't get anywhere near the regular meeting. I couldn't really hide it much more than that, and when I had been caught after the bell-ringing ceremony Daddy somehow thought it was a good idea for her to become my emergency contact in case he was gone, Sharon was on some tropical island and Fran was off-duty. Lorelai readily agreed because 'your daughter is a fine role model, Lorelai', he told her at the time.

Drop four of those words and stretch out the fifth one? Yeah, those are words I think about telling her, but never will under threat of beheading.

"Paris..." Soon I was back to the phone, resigned to defeat.

"I...I..." I struggled for words. "I'm gonna be at the..." I whispered the last words. "The Capitol Hilton for awhile."

She took in what I said and wondered what was going on. "Why are you staying at a hotel? That doesn't make sense, even for you."

"Because..." I really felt myself bending to claim it was exams and I needed quiet.

However, if there's one thing you can't do in your life, it's lying to Lorelai Gilmore. It's enough to do that to her daughter, but behind Rory is a Momma Bear raring to protect her cub. By nature, both of those women are curious about everything. If I brushed it off with an excuse, I would have never been able to forgive myself.

I let it out, and without even knowing it let out an emotional whimper. "I can't go back home. My mother...she...she..."

My throat clenched at the thought of having to let Lorelai know I was fucking up her daughter's life by telling her she was followed. "She put a...a tail on...Rory and I. She..." I shriveled in the seat, ashamed. "...knows." I mouthed the last word, not wanting to get it out there.

I could tell there was confusion on the other end. "A tail? What's going on?" There went that thought that Lorelai was about to blow a gasket at me. "Paris, tell me."

I stayed silent for a minute longer. This was awful. Rory didn't deserve this at all. Lorelai certainly did not either.

"What did Sharon do?" she asked again. "Paris, I--"

Finally it just spilled out, like it was dammed in and I burst suddenly. "She had us both followed, OK?! I'm sorry and I know you hate me, but I didn't know. I didn't fucking know a private dick was on our tails for two weeks taking pictures and giving proof to my mom that we were together." I ranted on, breath be damned. "I know this is the last thing you want to hear and you're going to ban me forever from seeing Rory and pull her out of school even though that guy won't follow her anymore because oh my God, it's like the PATRIOT Act come to life to invade your privacy and I wouldn't blame you at all, so if this is the last time I ever hear from a Gilmore before you depart for Borneo to isolate your daughter, I apologize that I ever put Rory in that position. OK?" Finally I inhaled, my face a painful red and dotted with streaks of tears. "So yeah, I'm an awful human being--"

"Paris, stop! Just...stop." I felt her voice rumble in my ears. "Are you telling me that instead of giving you time to come out in a rational manner, like you did with Harry and my parents, your mother decided to pry into your life...and my daughter's, to find out you were together? That's what you're telling me."

I nodded, feeling at my lowest moment. "I don't blame you for being mad at all. I know you want to rue the day I ever butted into your life."

She scoffed harshly. "What did she do? I want to know."

"I can't say, I'm...too...scared." I cringed deeply as she broke through my walls.

"Hon...if it's too tough, just summarize. Short hand story, please."

I shuddered deeply as I recalled it again. "I can't say much or I'll be in a dark place. She found out, almost beat me to death and sent me to the hospital, and now I'm going to stay at a hotel until I take the deed to the Manor on my birthday when we can get her out." I felt a grim pause as I prepared for her for sure to hang up on me.

After a moment to compose herself, she came back on the line, and her 'mama bear' tone was on full volume.

"Beat you...to death?"

I nodded. "She tried to choke me and I'm all bruised up." I didn't want to talk about it any longer and I heard a very harsh breath through the phone.

"So what you're telling me is that not only did your mother violate your privacy, but when she found out she not only confronted you, but instead of talking to you like a civilized person about your sexuality, tried to choke you because you didn't follow her life plan."

I was getting quite scared now. Lorelai was never this firm to anyone and I was scared that I had hit a certain trigger. "She...did."

Then with clipped precision, she asked me one more question. "She is in jail currently, correct?"

Whimpering, I answered her. "Yes."

I thought for sure I was on my own. This was it. I was all alone. If there was anything in the world that would ruin my relationship with Rory, this was it. Lorelai was sure to keep her promise to break my kneecaps.

Soon, she told me what she thought about it all.

"Good." She then paused, and then with a flourish I haven't seen since my father saw Hilary speak at a party dinner a few years ago...

"She should be glad she has steel protecting her ass right now. If she got off with a warning for doing all that shit to you, I'd have dispensed a little eye for an eye to that nasty bitch." Her voice was so raw I could feel the spittle coming through the phone. "I know she'll get out right away; that's how the fucking backwards thing this state calls the justice system works with the Hartford richies unless they torched the State House. But I'm glad you're safe right now." I trembled, feeling a little fearful of indeed, ever doing anything bad to Rory with this woman defending her. "However, you're not going to that hotel."

"No, it's OK. My dad--"

"You can't! Your father definitely means well. I know how that joke of a thing they called your parents' divorce agreement that was so lopsided towards your mother it's pathetic says your dad can't even maintain a second bedroom in his condo! What lawyer ever advised him to ever accept it, when he was clearly in the right with you? But you can't be stuck in a hotel for what...a month? All alone in the middle of downtown Hartford?" A gasp. "Paris, you can't live in a hotel!"

"I have before," I argued. "I do it all the time for exams when things get bad at home!"

"I hate to say it, but attempted murder is much more than 'things that get bad at home'! You're not going to recover from that, not after your mother shoved you outta the closet onto hard concrete!" I could hear her anger burn through. "I can't accept that you'll be fine alone in some hotel nursing your wounds like that." I heard her go over things. "I'm going to call Harry and ask if it's OK--"

"No, it's fine," I argued. "Ms. Gilmore, you don't have to take me in. It's enough I put your daughter in danger--"

"Of what?" I heard her scoff sharply. "Paris, the guy just followed you. That's all he could do and I doubt he took the job for more than taking a bunch of a cash from a rube who does her helicopter parenting from Chopper 3 with Power Zoom! You didn't have any idea that you two were being trailed and I..." She paused and took a breath. "Paris, please. I know this isn't a good situation in any way. But I cannot as a good person just let you be all alone at this time of year. You don't sound like yourself, at all."

I sighed deeply. I didn't want Lorelai to do this. She didn't have to. It wasn't her fault because I dragged her and Rory into all of this. No matter that Rory had to force my feelings from me in the first place after so many months, because this was all beyond the pale. I didn't want this to happen, and Lorelai shouldn't have to deal with what my mother did to me.

"You don't have room for me," I argued. "You really don't have to take me in. I can just stay in Hartford."

"Paris, I can make room. You know the house does have plenty of room," she told me. "If things get tight I can always clear up a bit in my sewing room to fit in an AeroBed for you. But for at least tonight you have a bed in Rory's. She definitely would rather see you safe in Stars Hollow this evening than stuck in a bed where who knows what has happened and those icky, icky remotes. You know I actually bring my own universal remote with a code book for programming so I never have to touch one of those germ-infested things?"

I quirked my eyebrow, a little surprised at something we shared. "Wait, you do that too? And I thought I was all alone in the world."

"Let's just say there was an experience in Dallas on a business trip with horrible housekeeping and what seemed like an orgy. I bolted outta that hotel like the Blitz was just starting and bathed my hand in rubbing alcohol!"

"Guh!" I was glad I could laugh, if only for just the smallest of moments. "So...I guess I really can't say no to this no matter what reason I come up with?"

A sigh. "Sorry, kid. The idea of you living out of your backpack after what you went through is something I can't do. I'd offer the same thing to Madeline and Louise if the worst happened to them."

I thought a little further; if it went bad, the worst that could happen is I just had to find somewhere else to go. But I couldn't deny Lorelai was going to take care of me more than any concierge could ever do. She's a hotelier and knows how to treat a guest. I even remember stories from Rory about how badly botched wedding arrangements for a guest meant her and Babette had to bed two families of four in their houses because the ditzy bride overbooked.

Finally, I had to admit this was the best I could do on such short notice. "You're not calling Rory after this, are you?"

"Everything is for you to tell her, hon," she promised me. "I won't do that to you. But I know you probably need to prepare her for this."

"Of course." I could let out a breath as I felt my heart feel tight. "You do have to clear it with Harold because with my mother under the order he's my current guardian."

"I will, next call is right to him, I have his number in my directory." A pause. "Just in case--"

"Hey, I understand. He's a good guy and I know he'll be relieved he doesn't have to put me up. I just don't want to worry him."

We talked a little bit longer before I found the Bulkeley in my sights and I scrambled as I realized I forgot about something else.

"Gotta go, Ms. Gilmore. I have to tell Henrico that he's not headed into downtown." I began to roll down the divider as I felt relieved everything, at least as far as shelter for the evening, was coming together.

She squealed. "See you in an hour or so. Oh, need something to eat?"

"No...no. Not right now. I'm barely keeping down my fish," I admitted. "Maybe later."

"Anything you need," she promised, her voice soft with the care I haven't heard from my mother since a long-passed thought of her holding me at the Central Park Zoo when I was fifteen months old. "See you later." The line clicked and I pulled away the handset, closing it in my hand as I told Henrico my plans.

"Hen! Change of plans. We're going to Stars Hollow instead, Rory's house!" I could hear him groan as he had to do a spin-around since he was past the exit to 91 south already.

"Could've told me at the Cross," he grumbled.

"I know...Ms. Gilmore convinced me at the last second to head to her house." I winced, feeling a little guilty. My driver was always a little annoyed if I was a little late in a change of direction. Strangely this time he was more relieved than anything as he recovered from his annoyance.

"Gracias a Dios, Paris." He turned slightly back. "I don't think any of us wanted you stuck in a hotel all alone." I saw him shake his head. "Stars Hollow it is."

I got a little more comfortable as he made the always fun turn at Market Street to get towards 91. Settling back for the 45 minute ride, I prepared myself for yet another bit of questioning from Ms. Gilmore as I just felt beyond exhausted and worn out.

It's been a long day. Too long a day. My face is still throbbing and I've been gulping water down my throat, thankful my mother didn't do anything to my larynx. My voice sounded a little odd, but I was sure to recover quick.

At least on that front. With my mother?

I don't think I can say I can ever heal from that.

Lorelai's POV, 10:15pm

I didn't think anything could top Emily's reaction to the girls coming out of the closet. Surely, that was the worst they would ever face, either one of them.
I still shudder at the disappointment I felt from Mom as she stated her case.

Still, I understood her side. It wasn't expected of Rory. She was angered that all of her well set plans were falling apart. It's so par for the course with my mother that she'd probably hit a hole-in-one through the entire club ticking off the disappointments she felt.

The important thing though was there was no abuse of either Paris or Rory by her beyond vocal, and they were able to fight back and meet her word for word. There was malice there, but it was more self-preservation and protectiveness between my mother's barbs.

Frankly, it could've been a lot worse. I did expect worse. But I know she'll come around.

Maybe when a woman gets into the White House, but she will. If there's one thing I know, my mother knows she needs Rory just as much as Rory needs her, and they'll come to an understanding one day.

As for Sharon, well...what I pictured was for Paris's mother to be as crazy as she ever has been. Make a few disaffected cracks about her daughter, terrify her a bit and ground her for a few months when Paris is pretty damned smart to find ways out of it. The usual bluster of Sharon Gellar.

But I forgot for the longest time what that woman did to her when she was younger. All I remember of her accident was when Mom mentioned it at the Christmas party, and by then little Paris was well recovered and back at school, probably scaring little Louise Grant into being her friend. I didn't really think of Paris beyond being another society kid, and there were only a few rumblings that Sharon was drunk behind the wheel when she crashed. Back then I was just trying to survive with my own daughter and I forgot about the situation with the Gellars quickly.

I knew there was something wrong though. Paris rarely speaks of her mother. When she does, it's as if she's an obstacle she has to bound over. Then I remember the 11 o'clock phone call I got a year ago asking where she was on a Saturday night. The words 'plowing a guy' were used.

Rory then got on and told her that Paris was of course, studying at Louise's. The woman is so out of her mind that when I told her about how well-behaved she was compared to Madeline and Louise were in New York after the concert, she was more annoyed that her daughter didn't sneak out.

Wait, what was the term she used? Ahh, yes. Regarding her daughter's fine behavior, she responded that she would'nt 'sit through those fucking Bangles if she was paid to sit in the crowd. How Paris actually enjoyed that shitty music is beyond me. I thought I trained her well on only listening to smooth jazz'.

Sharon Gellar made a new enemy that night. Talk crap about me all you want, but you drag Susannah Hoffs into it you've gone too far. Thankfully it just rolled off and until this evening, I had no reason to really hate her beyond amusement and happy mocking about her being 'Mother Robot' and over-Botoxed.

Those days are over. So fucking over. Right now I'm thinking of ways to tell that bitch to stay away from a daughter she does not deserve at all. When I talked to Paris earlier I had been prepared for maybe a few scratches and her being a little shaken up from her mother's reaction.

I didn't expect a black eye. Not a swollen face. Nor for having to help her up the porch because of a pronounced limp that made her walk so painfully it physically hurt for me to see this girl in pain. I saw her get out of the car and I could tell that this wasn't a reaction.

It was rage. Anger. Cold hate that Paris had gone off on her own and in turn, taken Sharon off her game of thinking the girl was completely compliant to her, and only her. I shuddered as I had my first look at what a simple statement of saying she was in love with my daughter had done to her.

"Oh God," I said, out loud, almost in a shriek. I felt my jaw firm up as I got on the other side of Paris, as her driver helped her up the porch on the other side.

It was worse than when Sookie had to help me into the house when I broke my leg after coming home from the hospital. At least there I was pretty damned injured. Here, Paris was just slumped against me as her driver held her at her back and she limped her way onto the deck of the porch and eventually into the house.

"I...I need a bit of my cody," she slurred out as her voice was harsh and biting. I nodded but had to ask her help.

"When was the last time?" She answered when she ate at seven and I knew she was still too early to take her second dose of pain meds. "I'll get an icepack and tea; you can't be overdoing it on the pain meds, especially only for surface damage." She nodded and soon we had her slumped on the couch as her driver slid back on his fallen hat and I gave him a glance.

"Thank you." I was thankful that if Paris's family was cold and distant, the help that was paid to help her in the world treated her like one of their own. The older man gave me a glance and I could tell his deep concern for his charge. "Please promise me you'll tell everyone else at the Manor that Par's in good hands here."

He nodded solemnly. "Of course. I do trust you, ma'am. You have no ill bone in your body, according to Miss Gellar." Paris nodded in assent and then he told her something else. "I'll have one of the guys bring your XJ-8 over tomorrow so I can give him a ride home in the car."

"That...that's good," she told him, and then after we got Paris to sit on the couch a bit slumped over he said his goodbyes and left after some of what I thought were assurances in Spanish that all would be good for Paris.

I could feel her wincing and hurt as I locked the door to give her just that little bit more security. She looked up at me shyly and I knew she felt as if I was intruding on a deeply personal moment, hidden hurt she didn't want to go out into the world. I could see her wincing deeply as she tried to get comfortable until she placed a pillow against her back.

I headed into the kitchen to get her the tea while bringing out the ice pack from the freezer. It was awful to see the number Paris's mother had done on her. It certainly could have been worse for her and I could only hope that I wouldn't have to see Sharon for a long time.

After everything was made up I came back out into the living room to find the girl of the moment slumped over against the arm of the sofa, hurt and hobbled. I set the tea down in front of her on the table and handed her the pack, which she took thankfully and applied to her wound as soon as possible.

"Thank you," she said softly, her voice still ragged from the pressure put on her throat. "You...you sure you're OK with me here?"

"Don't even ask me that. This door is open to you as of now, always," I told her strongly. "Paris, you have no reason to feel any guilt at all. You were going to tell her--"

"It doesn't matter. Never would, never will," she said in a weary tone. "I didn't know how to go about telling her. Every time I'd think about it...I'd have a panic attack."

"That bad?" Paris nodded. "So you didn't want to?"

"Just push it off to a distant dinner and hope it didn't end up a complete disaster. But it did, and here I am." She curled up, taking a thankful sip of the tea and savoring it as I glanced more at what I would have to do for caring for her through the weekend.

I didn't know what I could really do besides being a sounding board. Mrs. Kim, despite all of her appearances didn't believe in spanking as punishment, and I've never had to deal with Lane running here after being punished beyond having a Foo Fighters CD discovered and smashed to pieces in front of her with a tenderizer. This was new, taking care of a kid after she's been abused.

I drew her out slowly, sitting next to her and finding out nearly what exactly happened. She held back some of the more vicious language used against her, but painted quite a colorful picture of what she went through as her mother punished her for her sexuality. That this could happen, in this age, was beyond shocking to me. I thought these kinds of things never happened these days, or in only the most religious of families. Certainly not in modern-day Connecticut.

But to hear this, I felt my heart sink so deeply. That a mother could distrust her child so deeply, as to invade their privacy in the way Sharon did through the detective...I just couldn't fathom it. That sounded like something my mom would have done.

Not really done, but thought about for a moment and stopped it because it was so absurd to even fathom carrying out in real life. If there is one thing Emily is, it's pragmatic. She only went to logical extremes to control me, ones she wouldn't be criticized for or vetoed by my father because they were too rash.

What I hated the most though was seeing Paris so broken. Usually she'd be making strong points, but her voice rarely even picked up over the television set playing an episode of America's Most Wanted that was hardly being paid attention to. Her hands were deep inside of her hoodie and I could see her wince as she recalled every sickening moment of those short five minutes. There was nothing I could do but sit there and listen to what she had to say, knowing it wouldn't get any better for her for a while. To see her in this way, a shirking little girl where there was usually this powerful girl who couldn't easily be contained, was a shock to the system.

Paris whimpered and wept as she told of how her mother tried to choke her with only the collar of her own shirt, and I clenched my fists in anger, shaking them together.

"I couldn't breathe at all. I can still...feel it," she confessed. "Like another few seconds and...my brain activity would have begun to wind down. I looked in her eyes and they were completely vacant. Not a hint of any kind of sympathy or motherly compassion."

"I don't know what to say," I confessed. I really didn't. My mom at least couldn't bear the thought of raising a hand to me. Obviously Sharon was a different woman altogether. "I really don't. Except that what she did to you was wrong, and there was no right on her part to do that."

"Lorelai, she is my mother. She has the final say on how I should act. I pushed my luck too deeply, and--"

"And what?" I gritted out. "Acted like a normal teenager with all of these confused hormones spinning around?" I shook my head, trying to hold back my true feelings that I wanted to see Sharon in the hospital. "Honey, you can't defend this. There's just no way. Even when my mother was spouting off everything she said, she wasn't about to swing a fist at anyone. She reacted badly, but she didn't take it to the level your mother did."

She lowered her eyes down and clasped her fingers together, the oversized shirt covering them to her knuckles as she rubbed at the cuffs. "I was going to tell her. I was, but I wanted to do it right. But...but she found out and she said the worst things to me."

"An example?" I decided not to coddle her through this; I had to speak as if I was a teacher coaxing out forensic observation.

"There were multiple insinuations that I was a dyke," she stated matter-of-factly, though her voice still shook violently. "Which, of course, I am. But I just don't use that term. I couldn't bear it." Another few breaths on her end. "That I shamed my bloodline for feeling male companionship was unacceptable, and that Jamie would have been willing to push aside that he had been set up by her rather than talking to me after what was that one date back in the District."

She shirked down, looking towards the blanket on the back of the couch as I nodded permission for her to wrap herself in it. "There were a lot of things said. Even a threat to send me to an ultra-religious school in northern Maine which would numb me to death with Biblical proof I was one of 'God's errors'." I could see that Paris was struggling to stay composed, wrapped tightly in the blanket as she curled a tendril of hair back and forth. "I wasn't ready to tell her. Not at all. It was supposed to be...be...I wanted...and it..."

Her voice finally gave out, falling to the sobs that had bult up as her emotions hit the wall. I cringed at her sadness and immediately moved in to hug her. She was hardly the girl she usually was at all, tangled hair and bruised like she was, almost dead out of the worst of gay panic.

I couldn't even say how long I held her and rubbed her back, but it was more than five minutes for sure. She didn't...couldn't say a word and I could just offer the barest of soothing words for her. I didn't know how she felt. I couldn't. Even at the worst moment of finding out about my pregnancy, my mother was never the type to lay a finger on me, and wasn't about to start at that moment.

She was finally settled down and calmed as I released her and checked the clock on the VCR to see it reading after 9 o'clock. I let her go and saw her eyes were closed, trying to deal with the horror of this day.

"Thanks..." Her compliment was wracked with a quietness I never knew from Paris at all. She still didn't speak and I slid up from the couch, knowing I had to let her go. Her head was bowed as I brushed back my hair and hummed a little, nervous about leaving as I had planned before she came over.

"Hon, I have to get to the market," I told her. "Doose's is open until ten tonight. For some weird reason he stays open late during the holidays because he thinks people will give the gift of...food. Like someone's going to gift wrap a ham and put it under the tree. But that's fine, I have to pickup some things there." She stretched out on the couch as I could tell she was wanting extra legroom to maybe have a nap. "Umm, you need anything?"

She thought for a moment, clutching the blanket close until it was draped to above her neck. "Nothing with food." She reached into her pocket and pulled out a $10 bill. "I...I'm definitely in need of Chloraseptic. If not, my voice will be...a...(cough)...mess by..." She struggled to speak and cleared her throat one more time to finish out the sentence. "....Monday."

"Spray or lozenge, and what flavor?" I held up my hand to have her put away her money; I wasn't going to make her buy medicine when she was my guest.

"Cherry spray." She coughed a few more times as I grabbed my keys and my phone and grimaced, feeling Paris's pain as she looked up at me. I left her, hopefully so she could sleep off some of the pain she felt, though I knew her dreams aren't going to be kind to her at all for a long time.

"Bye, kiddo," I told her. "You can take your codeine before bed in about an hour, but make sure to have one of Sookie's snickerdoodles with it. That stuff's bad on an empty stomach." She nodded to not strain her voice, and I left, for once locking the door out of a lingering fear Sharon could possibly get out of jail and make a beeline for here.

Right now, I wander through the tight aisles of Doose's, very quiet and not really wanting to talk to anyone as I pick out my items. That poor girl went through so much today and I know there's not much I can do besides give her a shelter, and hopefully a good takeout breakfast tomorrow morning from Luke's. Until Rory gets home she's going to be a lost duckling looking for her way back to the path, and it hurts to have her so quiet and to have lost all of her drive and ambition, if just for one day.

Yes, I admit it; as odd as it sounds, Paris is more full of life when she's on all cylinders, and when she brings Rory into that mindset, it's amazing. She's come out of the shell she was stuck in for so long going to school here in town, and I can't help but be proud of her, especially on Tuesday evening when she went on about how she planned to bring the vote of the gay-straight alliance towards approval and how she strongly argued against Francine Jarvis's attempts to not only shoot it down, but bully her into giving up the fight.

I never knew my daughter to be so strong before. But with Paris in her corner, I'm seeing her finally lighting up. Beyond just having dreams, she now truly wants to live her life in the way she imagines. I couldn't see that happening with Dean, really, and he always seemed to want to confine her life to serve him.

As I take the Chloraseptic bottle from the display and put it in my cart though, I know that she and Paris are right for each other. I've grown to enjoy how she does love Rory and that she's opening up on her own because Rory isn't a friend made through obligation, but warm humanity.

She has to know that she's loved. I don't know with Sharon around if she's felt that enough, but she just has to. I don't think any of us want her to go back to having a cold heart once again and convince herself that Sharon was right. If she did, Rory would be devastated.

I did know one thing though;

If my words about Sharon's behavior tonight were tough, they'd pale compare to Rory's. Somehow, some way, I know that this is going to bring out the temper she inherited from Mom and Trix, for sure.

Sharon better gird herself, because when Rory hears about how she hurt her girlfriend...

Well, Francie already knows how that feels, and she got the light treatment...

Paris's POV, Midnight

I can't get over this pain.

I'm trying, but it's not working. I feel paralyzed, trying to move, but it's impossible. I'm not chilled by an injury, but fear. Fear that Sharon will find out where I am after she bails out. Stumbling around the house and hoping to God my drugs take effect and knock me out, my stomach is a mess, churning around and feeling so thrown off rhythm. I hide under the blankets, feeling lost as I have to be doubly protected by the fear I feel. Colonel Clucker to my right, Grumpy Bear to my left. The chicken at least has been clean; I swear that Grumpy hasn't been washed in years, collecting layers and layers of dust and still carrying drool from fifteen years ago.

But old germs, I can handle; my mother coming back for me is too much.

Inside Rory's room, I feel protected. At home. But I still feel alone. It's not my bed, not my place. This is all Rory, clutter and balky boiler and drafty windows and all. It's just her bed and I'm laying in it for the night.

I've cried more today than I have in years. My gym grade is gonna be shot to hell thanks to my mother's attempt at 'reforming' me. I can't use my luxury shower.

But right now, this is home for me.

I can barely move my foot and I'm probably going to ask Ms. Gilmore to run me to the hospital tomorrow for a second opinion and maybe crutches. It got worse, and my face is still swollen tightly.

I'm so lost. I didn't do anything to harm my mother at all. Whom I love shouldn't affect her in any way unless they decide to harm her.

Still, she almost took me to the light I hope not to see for years and years. I could see it approaching when Fran got her attention and forced her to remove her hands from the collar around my throat.

I don't know how I can really describe it, beyond knowing what my mother said was hurtful and terrible. That she would think what she did of Rory, I will never reconcile.

Coming out of this evening, I do know one thing that I didn't going into this evening;

I don't have to be afraid of Rory's possible future stepmother.

Well, that is if she even gets there. Right now, I'm a little surprised at how parallel the tracks both Rory and I are on this weekend have been.

I was laying down watching the news on Fox 61 when somehow, I found the Gilmore home phone wedged between my rear and the couch. How I didn't feel it was beyond me. But it was ringing in that moment, Lorelai was still at the store and I didn't know whether to answer or not.

Then again, according to Rory, that someone found the phone in that house is a miracle in itself. There are times they have to use their cell phones to find it in the first place with an incoming call.

There it was though, ringing. As it was possible my father was calling, I decided to answer, just in case it was him.


A pause for a moment, and then I heard a familiar female voice that was a little jarred.

"Oh...sorry, Par. I guess I have the wrong number, sorry about that."

"Ror, no--" As quick as she was on the line, she had hung up under the mistaken belief she called my cell rather than home. "Oh, crap," I uttered, wondering if I scared her off.

Nope, as fast as I hung up the phone, twenty seconds later it rang again. I picked up again.


"Crap, what is wrong with this thing?" For once this evening I could have a little giggle at what was developing into the worst game of phone tag ever. "Paris, I keep trying to call Mom, sorry again."

"No, I'm--" (click) "--here." Again, another twenty seconds, another ring. This time I was just going to cut to the chase as I hit the talk button.

"Gilmore, I swear to God if you hang up again I'll submit a report to the headmaster questioning your IQ," I spit out in my hoarse (but slowly recovering) voice. "You are calling home."

"Are you sure?" she asked. "This time I dialed out the actual number manually...wait." A pause. "Are you actually at my house, on my home phone?"

I rolled my eyes; at least I could have at least one light moment tonight. "Why else would I pick up this line?" I took in a breath, a little lilt in my mind from hearing Rory's voice. "Yes, Gilmore, I'm at your house."

"Oh." She held a pregnant pause for a bit. "What are you doing there?"

"I..." Should I tell her? She's meaning to catch up with Lorelai probably. "Um, do you want me to have Lorelai call you when she gets home? She's at the market."

Suddenly, what was a fully formed conversation turned into a struggle to speak between us both. After a half-minute of quiet, she spoke up. "I...I actually don't know. I did mean to talk to her, but you're at my house." Another long pause as I could hear her biting on her lip (at least I thought so). "I...I wasn't sure if I should talk to you about this or not. I expected to wait until tomorrow night, but...you're at my house. Why?"

What was 'this'? I could tell something in her voice once I was able to shake from my stupor. Usually there was that sweet tone to her voice, but at that moment, there was a little harshness I had only recognized from our arguments and her in full debate against Francie.

I stayed silent for a moment wondering where to go with this talk. We were both unsure of where to go, that much I could tell. "Ror, talk to me."

"You sound different," she said, finally taking in my voice. "What's up with your voice?"

I felt caught; I didn't want to be the focus. This was Rory calling in, and surely she didn't want to hear my worries. "Do you want to leave a message for your mom or not?" I said, trying to remain neutral, but knowing who she really wanted to talk to. "Rory--"

Suddenly without warning, she unloaded on me. "I would, but I'm still too pissed to reconcile how I feel!" I felt myself coil up when she dropped the rare mild profanity. "I was ready to go into a long rant with her like I always do, but you're on the line, I didn't expect to talk to you and...crap."

"Feel about what?" I didn't know what to say. "Are you mad at me?"

"God, no! Of course not," she said in a rush, which immediately calmed me. "I'm mad though. Very mad."

"What happened, did Harvard email you something you didn't like?"

"I wish it was that." A pause, and then a sigh. "Maybe I should just tell you know. You can calm me down enough to talk to Mom without going into hysterics."


One more pause, and then a bombshell was dropped.

"My dad just pretty much disowned me." Her voice hitched. "The jackass paraded back into my life two years ago, and now all the sudden the idiot is blaming Mom for 'screwing me up'!" I heard nothing but unabated anger. No crying, no wounding.

This was hate.

"What?!" I felt the wind taken from my lungs. "The hell? Rory, what are you talking about?"

"I told him about us a couple hours ago. I came out to him. Thought he'd be supportive...but the first words out of his mouth after I explained my love for you were 'My daughter is a fucking dyke.' I went from elated to seeing him to wanting to..." She drew herself away from the phone for a moment. "I'm so sorry to be swearing right now, but after being told I was a 'regretful mistake' by him, I'm not exactly sunshine and goddamned flowers!"

"Whoa, hold on!" My voice continued to strain. "OK, Gilmore? Before you go further, pause and tell me. I...I'm surprised right now. Think, process, focus."

"Oh, I'd like to process alright...that I think of him as a mere sperm donor now! He's not 'Dad' any longer!"

I had to talk her through calming down, which for someone who had gone through what I did today was quite hard. Focusing on her, I was able to block out my pain for a moment and hear her tell me about her day. Not seeing anything on her end, I had to go with how she talked about the afternoon.

Everything started great for her and Christopher, of course. But then they apparently got home and after sitting down to delivered pizza and chicken, she came out at the table after he noticed Rory had something to say. Sherrie was there, of course, seven months pregnant and on medical leave due to her pregnancy being a little rockier than she expected.

At first, Christopher thought Rory was joking, but as it became clear that she was telling the truth about being a lesbian, apparently it went downhill, and fast. Without warning he began to attack Rory's morals and her feminism, and asking how she could be attracted to a girl with a 'stick up her ass' like me. As she tried arguing her points, then it degraded to a hateful criticism of Lorelai's parenting and how he suddenly wished he would've been there to put a little masculinity into her life. Rory had eventually been backed into a corner of the apartment and was scared for her life as her father whined about trying to be a good provider and proving himself through his many dot-com and working failures, telling her that Lorelai was a 'stupid bitch' to have turned down his marriage proposal two years before.

However, where I had always cringed about Sherrie, it soon became clear that she was the reason that Rory escaped from having actually fists thrown at her.

"I was about to take a hard slap to the face and be told that I was an awful human being for becoming gay..." A deep sigh.

"Thank God for Sherrie Tinsdale. Thank...God."

"Wait..." I paused. "The woman who we've been annoyed at for months? Who keeps bugging you? That woman?"

"Paris, she stopped him. Chris forgot that Sherrie's brother Devon is gay, has been in a committed relationship for twelve years and has two children. She waddled out of her seat, stood up, and just...man, I still can't get over it!"

The perky and hyper lawyer I thought of as an Ally McBeal reject suddenly was as big a hero to Rory as Fran was to me earlier. Even pregnant and deeply incapacitated, that woman told him where he could stick his homophobia and made it clear that he's probably out a girlfriend, as he refused to take back repugnant views I know his awful excuse for parents share with him.

"You should have seen her. He was shouting in her face, and she never even withered. Even when I told him to stop shouting because it was stressing Gigi out, Sherrie just shrugged it off. 'I can take it, and she can take it', she said. She stood up to him for me, got in front of me and told him if he wanted to beat me for my sexuality, he had to abuse a pregnant woman first."

"Holy crap." I couldn't believe it. Eventually, she chilled Christopher out completely.

"She told him to apologize or find a different place to sleep for the night. He laughed at her threat at first, but soon she had the phone in her hand and was ready to call the police to have him arrested for trespassing. Isn't it funny that after all this time, my father still has never contributed a cent of rent? The lease is in her name."

Christopher tried to pull out the last card in his deck and as Rory described it, I was in awe. Trying to play the new father/man of the house card he tried to claim that if he left, poor old Sherrie would be left alone in her apartment and not have anyone take care of her without a big, strong man.

I could hear the smugness in Rory's voice as she described her put-down. "Cut the bull," she told him. "You really think I'm that stupid? Without your dumb ass not realizing that you should never trust a condom machine in a Southie bodega, you would've never given me a glance again if I didn't have your child." She said she refused to raise a kid with a homophobe and threw him out until he could spare an apology. "So right now he's with one of his bar buddies in the South End laying on a horrible couch and hopefully regretting what he just lost."

"Wow..." I was shaking my head. I always found Christopher Hayden a smug son of a bitch (literally; Francine Hayden rivals my mother in pure cuntiness) and wondered how Lorelai could have ever imagined having a relationship with him. He's like Tristan, only more insufferable and with less consideration of his female lovers; at least Tristan always had a fresh Trojan on-hand before instigating a conquest. "So Sherrie? Not a...blocker?"

"She's on our side, Par. Her brother and his guy are coming by tomorrow to get some chores and errands done with me. She um...had this kind of odd squeal about having her intuition right. Heck, she even apologized to me for ruining our victory night and feels terrible about getting in your way!"

"Past is the past, what's done is done," I answered. "I'm...I'm just glad you're OK. You are, right?" I hoped she hadn't taken any harm at all.

"Outside of the idea I won't have my father joining PFLAG any time soon and my dream of Mom and him as a couple is completely dead, I'm just fine. Really."

There was a bit of silence as I knew what was coming to a head. I girded myself, clutching the phone tightly and sliding beneath the blanket. Taking a few steady breaths I played with my palm, hoping to remain calm. I'm sure that I could, but still...this was tough to get through, no matter the circumstances.

"So I guess the question I should have for you is..." A purposeful pause. "Why are you at my house? And why does your voice sound like you went through a carton of Newports?"

Here it was. I audibly cringed, took a deep breath, and despite all the warnings I might break down in my mind, went forward. "Not for fun, that's for sure." Immediately I knew I wouldn't get through this without tears. "Rory...um, I don't know how to tell you this. Or how you'll react. But..."

"...I'm going to be here awhile."

A few seconds of silence. She could hear the hurt in my voice, I knew. "What's going on. Awhile?"

I looked around the room, hearing the beat of my heart in my eardrums. "Par, tell me."

"I...I knew this was...I should go..."

"Paris, what's wrong?" I began to feel the anger and hurt well up all over again. "What--"

"Sharon found out," I said, my hand forming into a fist beneath the blanket. "She found out and..."

Then for the third time that day, but the first time in true detail, I told her. Everything. All I could remember, of being hurt, the photos, the slurs against her. I could feel my voice going, breaking up, and I spent the next ten minutes on the phone just repeating the day. Just like when I told her about the accident, she had no interjections, letting me go on and on until I had everything out. I could feel my cheek swell up once again and had to grab the ice pack in the cooler lunch bag next to the remote to calm the pain down.

I had to tell her. To have her come back tomorrow evening angry was something I couldn't handle.

"...and now I'm here," she said. "And I'll be sleeping in your bed tonight. That is, if you don't mind. Otherwise I can just--"

She finally broke in. "Damn straight you're staying in my bed." I darted back suddenly as she let herself go. "If that woman lays the merest glare of hate upon you when she gets out of jail, she's gonna find herself without a functioning gallbladder when I rip it out of her with a rusty knife."

"Oh my God!" I was flabbergasted by her reaction. I would've gone more with a 'that's horrible, I hope she stays away from you.' "Rory--"

"I mean it. She hurts you, she hurts me. I might not be known for inflicting much pain and being a nicey-nicey Mary, but when it comes to that bitch..." the word fell like acid from her lips in that cute voice. "She just made a very pissed off enemy."

"Calm down, I'm out--"

"I can't calm down! My father's ditched me and your mother almost killed you for being in love. With me! Jesus, Par, I'm less threatening than a poodle! Sharon really thinks I'm a corrupting influence?"

"Well, you kind of are," I said wryly. "Obviously though she would've done this even if I fell for Megan Mullally."

"I...I can't help but feel bad I wasn't there."

"Don't. I'm glad you weren't. If you were there I'm sure it would've been a lot worse." I couldn't even fathom her double-teaming us. "I'm glad you were in Boston, even if you still ended up with the worst result possible. I'm really sorry."

"We've taken it on the chin from three relatives," she said. "Surely the Chilton gossip mill will be nothing if we managed to get through those three." I nodded, clenching my teeth, knowing that the big one was the classmate reaction soon to come. It was undeniable; the moment my mother got out of jail, her first stop was to spread dirty gossip about Rory and I.

The worst thing was Madeline would be powerless to stop it. But to save on the already overwhelming angst of the night I bit my tongue and averted away from the topic, asking how our new surprising friend was holding up.

"Until my dad blew up, just fine. She's very obsessive about pre-natal vitamins and beta-carotene. And she has this idea that if she plays nothing but classical music Gigi's going to have more brainpower than Hawking and Einstein combined. But anything to be the best."

"I can tell you from experience it can't hurt." I gulped down a little water, still feeling down but somewhat better. "Can you apologize for anything awful I've said about her in the past? I...I didn't mean it. It was just all lost opportunity and all that."

"I will let her know. I think she'll be relieved," she said. "I think she's a little glad to be stuck in the apartment, actually. Her friends wanted her to gloat up to the last day about the pregnancy and do plenty of showers, but she's a little bit different. Scarily calm. She's doing pregnancy yoga too."

"How is that possible?"

"Paris, Paris, Paris...have you forgot the lessons from our marketing unit and the locker kit already?"

"In the wise words of your grandfather, 'everything has a market. Everything.' How true that is, even with exercise during pregnancy." Finally we were moving away from the ugliness and towards the destination we wanted to be at.


"Are you sure you don't want me on the next Acela south? I can do it," she insisted.

"No, no, I'm good." I shook my head. "Get to know Devon and recover. We can catch up tomorrow night when I begin to sleep on the couch--"

Her voice suddenly turned a little stern. "Paris?"


"You're getting an air mattress, at minimum, and you will sleep in my room, even if I have to fight Mom on it. You're my girlfriend, not my cousin Trey crashing on the couch before heading for the Adirondacks."

"You have a cousin named Trey?" I asked.

"On Chris's side, we don't tend to talk about him that much. Mainly because he's ultra-weird."

"I don't even want to know."

"I haven't seen him since I was ten, that's all you need to know." After going off on the weirdest conversation detour I've ever known we went off on a small tangent, getting towards schoolwork and how I was pissed that I didn't get my Yale library time.

Yes, even after all I went through, I felt like a total fool for welching on my study time. I'd have to explain eventually to who I was able to book the time with, but for now, I was just glad to be safe. And breathing.

Soon, we were ready to close out the conversation as I desperately pined for my Chloraseptic and Lorelai to get back. I cringed as I felt the raw feeling return and couldn't wait for the numbness to return with a few throat sprays. But I had to let myself let Rory know how much she meant to me.



I closed my eyes, took a breath, and with the last of my voice this evening...

"I'd give it all up for you. I love you, Rory, and...nobody will stand in our way." Again, I cried. I'm sure my tear ducts haven't seen this much use since my terrible twos. I choked back deep sobs as on her end, Rory showed her true emotions for me, content to know she'd rather have me in her life than a man who could barely muster a thought about her unless it came to using her to score with her mother.

"I'm coming home for you," she told me, full-hearted emotions on display. "You better be ready to cuddle and let me comfort you when Mom picks me up from New Haven tomorrow night. And when we see your therapist on Monday night I'll be there to see you through."

"I love you, Par," she declared. "And I'm ready for whatever the hell gets thrown at us by Sharon."

She knew I could say no more, and wished me a goodnight before hanging up the line, telling me she'd call her mom back after I went to sleep. I said a soft and whispered goodnight myself, barely whispered, the comedy of our first phone conversation's goodnight pattern long gone. My heart hammered as I slid the phone onto the coffee table, wondering if it was going to be all worth it.

Both of us had seen the harshest of rejections by parental figures today. Truly this was going to be a day that would be my worst ever, even compared to if a certain place starting with the letter H would somehow mistakenly send a certain letter I would dread receiving. I had gone through so much, while Rory had the final sign that her father only cared about her in the white picket fence sense of fantasy, not the reality of her as a strong and independent young woman looking to turn the glass ceiling of journalism into glass chards with a baseball bat.

Eventually Lorelai got home, and was relieved that Rory and I were able to talk somehow, though I decided to just leave it at 'we talked' and not mention her troubles with Christopher just to keep my nerves calm. I thankfully took a few spritzes of Chloroseptic into my mouth and felt the pain in my throat subside, if only for a little while. I couldn't have asked for better support this evening, and was glad to check my cell phone for a response to my message for Madeline that I was safe at Lorelai's. She had been able to get a little time to respond.

Bless u & bless Lorelai 4 taking u in. B safe & OK P, TTY @ school Monday - Mads

For once, I was glad to read Madeline's horrid text speak. Even if she wasn't able to give me a room tonight, her and Brad are on our side and a true friend. I can tell that behind her teddy bear front there are claws ready to come out if anyone dares to tell Rory and I that we're wrong.

Soon though, I began to flag. The long day wore on me, and though I wanted to avoid the fearful dreams that were sure to come in slumber, my body needed it. I had already avoided Dr. Merton's advice to sleep right away when I settled down enough for so long, and thankfully it was time to get in a nice dreamless Lunesta sleep to send me deep into slumber. I eventually headed into the bedroom, feeling odd for being in Rory's space without her in the same state. I kept the room dark and slipped into a sleep shirt and shorts, hoping I'd be able to get some sleep without the comfort of my high thread count sheets--

OK, I need to stop. I can't be petty at all. Where would I rather be, safe and sound in Stars Hollow, or scared that one of Sharon's DCW cronies bailed her out and was ready to help her beat the gay from me?

There's absolutely no choice. I do have the protective order I filled out, but to the Hartford richies it might as well be on the same paper as Confederate money. I have to stay here. If I go back to Sharon, there's no telling what will happen.

I know I've set up an awkward living situation, and Lorelai is probably fretting about how she's going to take care of another girl for the time being (and with my long hair her water bill's about to take a big hit). Of course I'm going to help her and Rory out monetarily with my expenses, no argument there.

None of those extraneous items are important in any way though. All I know is I don't have a mother any longer, and for now I cannot go back to the Manor. I sigh as I look at the small pile of things I retrieved before leaving the house, thankful I'll have my uniform and other important supplies tomorrow, and that I have assurances that my bedroom door will be locked with an immediate lock change so Sharon cannot go Mommy Dearest on my belongings.

I slide up Grumpy Bear to my cheek, and somehow, I feel warm just for having Rory's stuffed chicken behind me. Even with all I went through on this day, I learned I am protected on all sides, and not alone in this world. Even my own therapist would take a bullet for me, Hippocratic Oath be damned.

I don't know why. But even in a cramped little twin bed far away from my own, in a small town I could have never imagined as my safe haven, and with my girl not here...

I feel at home for the first time in a long time. And even though I'm wise beyond my years, holding a blue stuffed bear with a raincloud on its tummy doesn't feel stupid at all to me.

I came through hell, and my intentions are to be happy, whatever the cost. I am Paris Gellar, not Sharon Gellar, Jr.

Hopefully in that jail cell tonight, Sharon realizes I'm done playing her games. I'm done living for her.

She will not strip this happiness away from me like the other countless times she has, nor will her new scars hurt me like those from the past. Her words of wishing for my death will bounce right off, and hopefully one day I can look her in the eye and tell her straight to her face that she lost. She lost me, but also a whole lot more the moment she laid her hand on my neck.

I guess that chestnut of wisdom is right. Home is where the heart is.

My heart, for now, feels right in Stars Hollow. And hopefully my heart will be able to beat against Rory's tomorrow evening, as she calms me from the rages of this weekend.

Part 23

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