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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

GG Fic: Sometimes You Do 10/40

A/N:  I really love hearing from you guys--and there's some interesting thoughts on Rory and where she's headed, which really makes me happy to know that some of you are invested in Rory's journey here.  Should we see how her date pans out?  Do you think she's going to get lucky ;)  Previous parts here.

CHAPTER TEN

It hadn't happened before, but it was going to happen now.

This was the guy who had kissed her out of the blue at Doose's.  The one who had wandered through endless bookstores with her.  The one who had jumped on a bus and paid the toll just to say hi.

Needless to say, restraint wasn't really one of Dean’s strong points, at least not when it came to love.

So, the fact that they'd made it this long without doing something was rather remarkable.  A streak that would end, Rory could only be sure, tonight.

To be sure, though, she wasn't taking chances.  A nice long walk home would do it--letting the stars and the cool night air do what Rory Gilmore's sexual wiles could not.  Dean always had been keen on ambience.

And these days Rory was awfully keen on Dean.

Keen on Dean.  That rhymed. 

That had to be a good sign.

So Rory was going to play it all for what it was worth.  The ambience, Dean's laid-back nature, and the rhyming.  "You know, taking walks here is so much nicer than in Detroit."

"Not a fan of the city lights?" Dean asked.

"City lights, yes," Rory said.  "But not so much the pollution and high crime rate."

Dean just shook his head.  "You act like big cities have nothing going for them."

"No, they're very nice," Rory said.  "Very busy.  Much more to write about."

With a roll of his eyes, Dean smiled a little.  "There's a certain romance to big cities," he said.  "They're so spectacular in a way, not like mountains or oceans or anything, but human marvels.  Things we've done.  And there's so many people. I guess some people feel like you could get lost in all of them, but I always found it kind of reassuring.  To look around and know I wasn't alone in the world.  That I could look at a stranger on the street and see something of myself in them.  It made me believe in people more.  When everyone knows everyone you lose a little of that, I think."

That was a rather serious thought, a bit more serious than Rory had expected.  A little bit more introspective than she had thought the mood had suggested.  She was hoping for fun and frolicking at this point.  Philosophy could come later and with much less solemnity.

Still, she couldn't very well ignore it all now.  "Did you like Chicago then?" she asked.  "You know, when you lived there."

A grin eased across his face, easy and wistful.  "I did," he said.  "Still do.  It's been a long time since I've lived there, but I've always kind of felt like part of me is there.  Even if Stars Hollow is my town now, Chicago is sort of like a dream.  That time and that place in my life where things were simple.  Simple things aren't always the most exciting or even the best.  But they mean something because of that simplicity.  I thought about going back there, you know.  After graduation."

"You could have gone to Detroit," she offered.  "Big car city that it is."

"I had an offer there," he said.  "I was looking forward to visiting it, to checking it out, but--"

But then his father had a heart attack.  She knew.  Everyone knew.  She swallowed.  "Yeah, life can happen," she said to fill the awkwardness.

They walked a minute more in silence.  Restlessness itched on Rory's skin, tickling the back of her throat.  To do something, to say something, to grab the moment, seize the day, carpe diem and all that.  "Well, it seems to me that if you're here, then Stars Hollow really isn't all that bad."

He paused at that, pulling his lower lip between his teeth.

"Rory," he said slowly shaking his head.  "I don't want you to get the wrong idea."

"Wrong idea?" she asked, blinking innocently.  "Wrong idea about what?"

"About us," he said.  "About what it is we're doing."

"We're hanging out," Rory said with an indifferent shrug, or at least the attempt at one.  "Catching up, that kind of thing."

The look on Dean’s face was one of patient resignation.  "Rory--"

She looked at him quite seriously, matching his eyes with her own determined stare.  "Dean."

Sighing, he looked toward the sky.  "Is that what you really think?"

"That's what it really is," Rory said.  "I mean, maybe not everything it ever will be, but, you know, for now--"

"That," Dean said, his attention stirring.  "That right there.  I don't know where this is going."

"And neither do I," she said.  "That's why we're just playing this as it goes."

He shook his head.  "I don't want to just play it as it goes," he said.  "I don't--I mean, I can't.  I'm not ready for a girlfriend."

"I'm not asking you to be my boyfriend," Rory said, feeling a little hurt.  "We're not sixteen anymore, Dean.  I think we can just spend time together as two adults and just let things happen as they happen."

His jaw clenched--it was a look she recognized.  A look where he was trying to say something, but trying to say it right.  Like he didn't want to.  "I'm not sure I can do this."

"I don't understand the problem," Rory blurted finally.  "I like you.  You like me.  I mean, I can still feel it, you know?  And we've always gotten along so well together.  So, no, it's not like I'm looking for a steady boyfriend with plans for 2.5 kids and a house in the suburbs, but I just think we can enjoy each other's company.  For now."

His eyes darted away, and they looked suspiciously bright.  "I don't think I'm ready for this."

"Ready?  Dean--"

"Rory, please," he said.  "Not everything in the world is just about you.  I have a lot of respect for you and yes, I'm attracted to you, which is exactly why this is a bad idea.  Why we can't be anything more than friends."

The words weren't cruel, but they weren't nice either.  They were blunt and honest and for some reason Rory felt like she'd been slapped.  Dean had never hurt her like this before--Jess, all the time.  Logan, yes, as an unfortunate side-effect of his personality.  But Dean--Dean had made her sad, before, but not like this.  Not in the way that she'd actually just been rejected when she was trying so hard for something.

Part of her wanted to crumble.  To cry right there.  But she wasn't sixteen.  She wouldn't play the part of the desperate damsel in distress, which would get Dean faster than anything else.  She would be the woman she knew she could be. 

"Dean," she said softly.  "The things in the past--the things we've done in the past--they're a part of us, sure.  But they're not what makes us now.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't attracted to you.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to take this to the next step.  But I can be your friend."

It was pathetic almost, the sound of her voice, the sheer desperation of it.  How much she wanted him, how afraid she was that he would walk away and close the door between them forever and for good.

It was so irrational.  Because she'd never needed a boyfriend.  She was smart and successful and her life didn't hinge on a boy, much less Dean, but--

Feelings were pathetic.  Feelings were irrational.  She would just have to figure that out as she went along.

When Dean nodded, Rory felt relief blossom in her chest.

"Okay," he said.  "I just need to make sure you get it.  Where I'm coming from with this."

She didn't get it, not really.  She didn't know why he was so hesitant, why he seemed so afraid, why the last four years were like an anomaly that he didn't want to share with her.  She didn't get why he was working a job he didn't like in a town he didn't want to be in and why there was so much between them that he seemed completely willing to overlook.

She was smart, she was "special," and she didn't have a clue.

She was also, she supposed, a rather skilled liar.  "Yeah," she said, smiling.  "Of course."

And though Dean was different, he was still as trusting as he'd ever been.  "I'll see you later," he said.

Rory didn't doubt that.  She couldn't.  Because she was going to make sure it happened.

-o-

The recipe was a success.  As much as a recipe could be a success.  Though there was no byline on it (because who bylined recipes anyway?), everyone still knew it was hers. 

God bless small towns.  Because after last night, she certainly needed the morale pick-me-up.

Ned was so thrilled to see her that morning, Rory was suddenly afraid the man might hug her.  While making her employer happy was certainly a plus, she did not wish to be hugged by relative strangers.

Still, the man was overjoyed.  "People love you," he said.  "We even sold out this morning!  And that was just a recipe!"

Rory brightened.  "Well, I'm glad it's working out so well," she said.

"I think we need to bump you up," he said.  "I mean, give you more to write."

This was exactly what Rory wanted to hear.  "I would love to," she said readily.  "I've been wondering about editorials, or maybe more investigative type writing, something more--"

He waved a hand dismissively at her.  "Think bigger."

Rory's mind swirled, possibilities swarming.  As crappy as life could be going on other fronts, the thought of her journalism career taking off here was rather invigorating.  Bigger?  A column?  A consistent ongoing feature?  Undercover reporting?

"I want to make you my main writer," he said, rubbing his hands to together.

That stopped her.  It sounded good and all, but, "What does that mean?"

"You'd be the voice of Stars Hollow," Ned said, making a random gesture with his hand.  "The one that everyone would see out and about, covering things.  The name people would come to associate with the news.  I mean, I've tried it with other reporters, but they're so hit and miss."

Again, it all sounded good, but the voice of Stars Hollow?  "Would I get to pick my own assignments?"

He shrugged a little.  "More than now," he said.  "I mean, I'd still need you to cover the staples. Major events, you're the one who's there.  Important games, contests, city meetings.  All that stuff is you.  And then the features, too.  About people who stand out.  People like to read about that.  And they like to read you.  It's a can't-lose proposition."

"But I'd get more say in things, right?" Rory asked.  "I mean, for feature ideas."

"Sure, sure," Ned said quickly.  "You see, I get how this works.  You're a journalist, Rory, a real one.  And this?  This is a sham of a real paper, and I know that, too.  But the thing is, it's just what I do to fill the time.  Someone has to run this thing, someone has to report on the town, because in a place like this, all we have is our own glory and no one else is going to promote it, so we have to do it ourselves.  This is a way to benefit both of us.  You can get your writing, your name in print.  I can sell copies.  With any luck, I'll get to retire early at this rate.  Win-win.  All around."

Okay, that did sound good.  And logical.  She had clearly underestimated Ned.  Not that he was a stellar journalist, but that he was actually fairly perceptive, something his chubby belly and pit-stained Hawaiian shirts hardly suggested.

Really, what did she have to lose?  Being a staff reporter was good and all, but there was no doubt she wanted more.  Needed more. "Okay," she said finally.  "Okay."

Ned stuck out his hand and Rory grasped his back, holding on while he shook it vigorously.  "Fantastic!" he said.  "I'll have the contract brought up so we can put you on full time."

-o-

It was a day of good surprises, she decided.  A fact that would surely persist.  After all, she believed fully in fate when it was working for her.  It was only when it was running contrary to what she wanted that she disowned it.  And, certainly, her promotion (yes, she could call it that) was a sign of good things to come.

However, good things didn't just happen.  She needed to be proactive.  Her luck was hot, so she was going to use it while she could.  Which is why going to Luke's wasn't just about food.  But information, too.

Luke was at the counter, wearing one of his typical plaid shirts, that baseball cap backwards on his head.  It was such a typical sight that Rory found it vaguely reassuring.  Something that could never change.  Years away, promotions, all of it, and Luke was still Luke.

Which still meant he knew more than he liked to let on.  If the man was ever inclined to gossip, he could probably blow Miss Patty out of the water.

However, Luke was not inclined to gossip, but Rory had special skills to draw him out.  Because she was Rory Gilmore.  And she knew for a fact that Luke Danes was nothing but a teddy bear in desperate and sarcastic denial.

"So," she said, sitting at the counter.

He eyed her suspiciously.  Perhaps he was onto her wily ways.  Not that it mattered.  Which was why he replied, "So."

There were many things she wanted to know about.  She wanted to know if that was the same hat he always wore or if he rotated them.  She wanted to know if her mother truly was losing her mind to middle-age or if it was just a passing phase.  She wanted to know if this thing called Luke and Lorelai would actually ever get together in a way that made sense. 

But there was something else.  Something bigger.  Something Dean.  And given what she'd seen between the two, she knew there was something there worth probing about.  "Have you seen Dean today?"

"Do I look like Dean's father?"

She thought about that, probably more than she should have.  "He's a little too tall to be yours," she said.  "And his hair is far softer looking.  I haven't felt yours, though, so I guess I can't comment."

"That was rhetorical," Luke said.

"Really?  I hadn't noticed," Rory replied with a slight smile.  "Do you know where my mother is?"

"Have you tried, oh, I don't know, the inn?" Luke asked. "You know, where she works."

Rory considered this.  "I suppose she could be."

"And you graduated from Yale?"

"I just figured you would know," Rory said with a shrug.  "What's up with you two anyway?"

"Maybe you could ask her that."

"But I'm asking you," Rory said, a bit insistently, leaning forward with her elbows on the counter.  Luke was being his typically evasive self, but he wasn't offended.  She still had wiggle room.  And she was going to exploit it.  Her mother was oddly tight-lipped when it came to Luke, and Rory still couldn't figure out why.  It had been four years since their not-quite wedding.  Four years and her mother still wore the necklace but showed no signs of any deeper commitment.

"She's your mother," Luke said.  "We get along well, but we'll know when we're ready for more.  It comes and goes."

Vague, yet true.  Which made it more annoying.  "What about Dean?"

Luke didn't even look up at her.  "I really do prefer women," Luke said without missing a beat.

"I meant, what's with you and Dean?"

Luke sighed, looking up at Rory, this time his exasperation was evident.  "I don't remember you being this annoying before.  Did you develop some kind of deviant personality while you were gone?  Or is this just what happens to all journalists?"


"Side effect of my day job," she admitted sadly.  "A Gilmore as a journalist is perhaps a scary combination."

"No kidding," Luke said.  "And I thought I had the difficult one."

"You're still not answering."

"About Dean?"

"No, about the consequences of a career in journalism.  Yes, Dean."

"Dean's Dean."

"And he's a regular."

"So he likes to eat out," Luke said.  "Most people do."

"But you seem to know him."

"So do you."

Rory just sighed.  "But you seem to know him better.  He's so...distant, almost.  I mean, polite and all because he is Dean, but just not totally Dean."

"Well, you haven't been with him for years."

"But it's Dean!"

Luke stopped and studied her.

"What?" Rory asked.  "Why do I get the feeling that I suddenly grew antlers or something ridiculous on my head?"

"I'm just trying to figure out why you think it wouldn't be different."

"Because it's just been like I've always known Dean.  We were on again and then off again and each time we came back to each other, it was like nothing had happened.  But this time it's like something really has happened, something big, and I just can't quite figure it out."

"Rory," Luke said, leaning both hands on his side of the counter.  "You know I'm crazy about you.  I think you're smart and funny and I like having you around.  But I think you need to figure this one out on your own."

"Why do people keep telling me that?" Rory said in exasperation.  "I mean, this whole you're-an-adult-figure-it-out thing is really highly overrated.  I just want to know what's up with Dean."

"You talk like he's still the same kid you were with," Luke said. "He isn't.  Not all change is dramatic and seen around town.  And I say this carefully, but you can't expect him to open up to you just like that.  I mean, do you think he's just sat around the last six years pining?"

Well, that was something to think about.  It's not like she thought Dean had done nothing in these past few years--after all, she knew that he'd been to college, that he'd had job opportunities.  She knew that his disposition had mellowed a little, that there was a new seriousness about him.  And clearly, he'd taken up exercise on a much more vigorous level.  But she'd always sort of thought that he'd been Dean.  That he'd be hers when she was ready for him.

"Look," Luke said.  "Dean's been through a lot.  Just...remember that, okay?  I don't want to see either of you get hurt."

Luke's protective side was underplayed but clearly evident.  She knew he had quasi-fatherly feelings toward her, despite his best efforts to deny it and avoid it, and at this point was entirely possible that she saw him in the role ever so slightly.  So, that wasn't that unusual.  And she could only guess that her mother's continued presence in his life had heightened that sense of connection.

But he wasn't just worried about her.  This wasn't just another one of those Rory's special kind of deals.  Luke--he was worried about Dean.

And that wouldn't be all that surprising either.  Luke's heart was big under that gruff facade.  She'd seen him try hard with Jess.  She'd heard about him trying hard with April. 

But Dean?

Something had happened.  Something had changed.  And she still had no idea what.  And for all she could ask questions, the only answer she got was that she just needed to figure it out.

She sighed.  "If you see him, just tell him I said hi, okay?"

Luke's eyes narrowed.  "Do I look like your messenger service?"

Rory considered this.  "And if I say yes?"

"Just go away."

With a grin on her face, Rory stood.  "Going," she said.  "You don't have to threaten me twice.  Well, maybe you do, but I think you get the idea.  Right there is why cliches are dangerous things.  They come out--wham, just like that--before you can even think about it and realize that it actually doesn't make any sense."

Before Luke could growl, she was already out the door.

Next

Comments

Posted by: ChristianGateFan (cgf_kat)
Posted at: August 5th, 2009 01:05 am (UTC)
pic#89712014

Well, I'm glad to see the career opportunity going on here. I hope that works out for Rory. I love seeing again Luke's new protectiveness for Dean. It's nice enough having Lorelai be like that about him, but with Luke it's just so much more fun. :P

The Dean part made a lot of sense--how he feels, I mean. I think anyone would be scared to get into 'any' type of relationship after all the crap he's been through. Whatever happens in the end here, I'm just as concerned, of course, about where Dean ends up as I am about Rory.

Thanks again! Looking forward to more!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: August 7th, 2009 07:02 pm (UTC)
cute dean is annoyed

I definitely think given that Dean went way to quickly with Rory and Lindsay in the past, that he'd be pretty hesitant to jump in again. He's been hurt quite a bit in his past by relationships, so he needs to approach them correctly, which is easier said than done.

Thanks!

Posted by: Dani (pinkphoenix1985)
Posted at: August 5th, 2009 08:47 pm (UTC)

I'm happy about the new job for Rory but she still has got a lot of growing up to do re: Dean.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: August 7th, 2009 07:03 pm (UTC)
cute!dean water bottle

Rory has a lot going on for her--but the question is, will it be enough? She's sort of the type who doesn't know how to appreciate what she has, I think. In many ways.

Thanks!

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