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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

GG Fic: Sometimes You Do 16/40

A/N:  I hope you all are still reading!  We're approaching the halfway point here in a few chapters and thing will pick up a bit by that time--I promise :)  Thanks!  Previous parts here.  And for my scant readers here, forgive the lack of italics.  I am just so lazy!

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Her latest assignment, should she choose to accept it, was to cover the Stars Hollow High softball team.

As she still had no other means of employment, she readily accepted.  The fact that she knew nothing about softball did not matter.  She had seen a softball game or two in her life and had once even held a bat, though there had not been much actual playing of softball as she'd never managed to get the bat to hit the ball. 

Besides, that was the point of being a journalist--of doing the research and figuring it out before presenting it to the public.  All she had to do was sound marginally competent and she'd be fine.  Not to mention the fact that she knew her readership--the basic facts were fine and all, but if she could add in sensationalism about someone stealing some base for a winning run or whatever they did in softball, she was pretty sure people would be head over heels.

So, all she had to do was show up, look professional, and hope that she could just keep her eyes focused on which team she was supposed to be watching.

And really, just showing up was half the effort.  Her reporter’s notebook was quite a hit, and she had over-zealous parents sidling up to her all night, pointing out which girl was theirs and talking the strengths of the team (which undoubtedly was almost always each's own daughter).

Which worked to her advantage, really.  She learned the players' names and she was able to follow a bit of what was going on.  And it hadn't even required any research. 

Stars Hollow High won, much to everyone's delight, and all she had left to do was interview a team member or two, talk to the coach about the glorious victory, and get home and write her piece.

She was nearly done, finding all the girls enthusiastic to help, and was about to leave, when she realized one of the girls was staring at her.

They'd all looked at her, somewhat eagerly, but this one just seemed to be figuring something out.  What, Rory wasn't sure, and since she had everything she needed, she wasn't sure she wanted to waste the time.

But, apparently the girl had other plans.

Rory supposed that was a side effect of being one of the closest things this town had to being a celebrity.

"Rory?" the girl asked, sounding like she couldn't believe it.  "Rory Gilmore?"

Rory just cocked her head.  It was not an uncommon experience to be known by people she did not readily recognize, though she had to admit, usually they were older than this girl.

The girl then proceeded to remove her baseball cap, pushing her long strands of blonde hair away from her sweat-soaked forehead.  "I've been wondering when I'd see you!  Dean's talked so much about you."

That was all Rory needed.  The blonde hair was longer, her slim body was taller and more defined, but the smile and exuberant eyes were all Clara.  "I hardly recognized you!" Rory said.  "You've grown!"

She smiled.  "You've been gone a long time," Clara said, repositioning her hat on her head.  "And I do believe last time you knew me I was still in that awkward pre-teen stage."

"Awkward for all of us," Rory said.

"I can't imagine it was awkward for you," Clara gushed.  "You always seemed to know exactly what you were doing.  Well, most of the time.  But that was why you were so good with Dean in the first place."

Rory’s heart twinged a little.  It was hard to think about, the promise that she and Dean had had.  She'd not believed it then, really.  She'd taken it for granted.  "So, how are you?"

Clara's face fell a little.  "It's been hard lately," she said.  "With Dad and all.  And I swear, my mom is about ready to freak.  She's always been anal, but now it's just ridiculous."

"And Dean?" Rory asked, hoping she sounded nonchalant.

The smile on Clara's face told Rory that she clearly wasn't succeeding on that front.  "He's Dean," she said.  "Actually, it's pretty sad.  He worked so hard, you know?  All the years at college and he didn't have any help at all.  He had an offer from two major automotive companies.  And he turned them both down when Dad got sick."

"Two job offers?"  Rory was surprised.  Dean had mentioned options, a career, but he'd never said specifically.

"Yeah," Clara said.  "GM and Nissan, I think.  He was awfully excited about them, not that he let most people see it.  He always has had this way of downplaying things.  I think he doesn't want people to get excited for him.  It's like he doesn't want to be complimented.  It's so weird."

"Yeah, weird," Rory said.  "How's he doing now?"

Clara chewed her lower lip.  "He's so busy," she said.  "He can't even make it to my games anymore, but that's my mom's fault.  She practically obsesses that he stay at the store all the time.  By the time he gets home, he's so exhausted that he pretty much just goes to sleep.  He wakes up at five just so he can work out, but it's like he never even eats or relaxes.  If I ever had a chance to talk to him, I'd just make sure that he was still sane."

"It's that bad?" Rory asked.  "I mean, I knew he was busy, but--"

"But nothing!" Clara said.  "It's just too bad.  I mean, I heard that you'd asked him out and I'm amazed he actually said yes."

"Oh, well, we're just friends--" Rory tried to explain.

Clara grinned.  "Right.  Just friends.  Dean's always wanted to be more than just friends with you.  You should hear the way he talks about you."

Well that was news.  Good news.  News she wanted more of.  "He talks about me?"

The girl's eyes sparkled.  "Not a lot, but he doesn't talk about a lot of things," she said.  Then she leaned closer, her eyebrows knitting.  "But I think he's afraid to."

Rory leaned in to her as well.  "Afraid to?"

Clara nodded seriously.  "He's worked so hard to get to where he is," she said.  "He'd kill me if he knew I told you, but he was so messed up for awhile.  After the whole thing with Lindsay, it was almost like having a stranger for a brother.  He was depressed, though he wouldn't say so and I was too young to make a difference.  I don't know why my parents didn't seem to care."

"How did you know he was depressed?"

Clara just looked at her.  "Seriously?  At first he was angry and bitter.  Nothing made him happy.  And then...he just shut off.  Like there was a switch.  He just lost all his confidence and just, like, accepted it. My mom would tear into him and he took it.  He said he probably deserved most of it.  Even when he went back to school, starting doing stuff with his life again, it didn't change how little he stood up for himself.  Which is why I was so hoping he'd take a job far away from here.  Stars Hollow is bad for him, not that my mother recognizes it."

"Bad for him?  It's bad for him?"

"The memories," Clara explained.  "He's surrounded by them.  His mistakes and all that.  And then his whole habit of ending up in the hospital each summer hardly helps."

"Yes, well, ambulance rides can be quite demeaning," Rory said.  "Not that I know from experience, but I can just imagine."

"Well, yeah," Clara said.  "Which is why I think it's so cool you're here."

That was a train of thought she didn't quite get, even in her Gilmore-like way of thinking

"I mean, you can help Dean," she said.  "Since he's making time for you, and all."

"Oh, well, we're just friends," Rory tried to explain again.  Not that she didn't want more, but she couldn't handle getting Clara's hopes up as well.  Her own disappointments were hard enough to swallow.

"But you two are perfect for each other," Clara said.  "Now more than ever.  He's grown up so much.  And he needs something good in his life."

"Well--"

"Don't you want to try again?" Clara said.  "I mean, I thought you did.  I can, like, see it in your eyes."

Rory's mouth opened, a little stunned.  To lie or to tell the truth, she couldn't decide which was better, which was easier.  But Clara was looking at her and suddenly Rory could not lie.  Not about this.  "Well, I mean, I'd like to try--"

"And that's all it would take!"

"But he doesn't want to," Rory tried to explain.  "He's made it clear that just friends--"

Clara rolled her eyes.  "He's just scared," she said.  "Can't you see that?  I mean, come on, surely you get that.  You broke his heart time and time again.  Breaking up with you is probably what got him into the mess to begin with.  He was so desperate to feel happy again, he married that blonde bimbo.  Then he was so desperate to be happy after her that he went back to you when he wasn't ready."

Well, that was blunt.  Rory's mouth snapped shut and her jaw tightened.  "Then why do you want me with him to begin with?"

Clara sighed, her teenage ways melting away.  "Because you're good for him.  My parents never told him things like he could go to college, that he could do better things then they did.  And you're the only thing that really made him truly happy.  He's worked his butt off to get his life back and he's doing so well but he's still missing something.  He's missing you.  And that right there is enough to make me want you back in his life, even if sometimes it's hard to forgive you for letting him walk away when his self-esteem was so awful.  You screwed with him and it nearly cost him everything, but despite all that, I know he still loves you--or wants to, anyway."

And this kid was eighteen?  She'd just psychoanalyzed Dean and Rory's relationship with Dean as though she'd spent years as a therapist.  It was rather disconcerting.  And painful.  To think about what it'd done to Dean, thinking about how Rory had let him walk away when he was so clearly not okay.

She'd never really thought about it before.  She had, a little, enough to know that she'd hurt him.  Enough to know that he was right to be angry, right to want out of her life, right for all of that.  But that didn't change the fact that she'd always felt she was more right.  That she needed to go with Jess.  That, later she needed Dean more than Lindsay did.  That she was somehow right and he was somehow hers and she'd never stopped to really think about the fact that his tailspin could all be traced to the fact that he'd loved her too much.

Which made perfect sense.  Why he came back so easily.  Why, the minute she showed interest in him again, he was willing to risk everything, even his marriage.  Because Dean was strong and manly and noble, but his Achilles heel would always be her.

Maybe that was why he was resisting her so much.  Because he didn't want to screw up again.  He didn't want to get hurt.

"He still loves me?" Rory asked.

Clara just smiled a little.  "Yeah," she said.  "I can't say I haven't thought that you don't deserve him.  But I want what's best for him, and I guess I've always sort of believed that was you.  You make him smile and it seems like nothing else does."

"But he wants to be just friends."

She shook her head.  "He's a guy, Rory," Clara said.  "Guys are idiots.  And Dean's the biggest idiot of them all.  It's like he thinks he deserves to be unhappy.  He just needs someone to go after him for once.  I mean, can you blame him for being a little gun-shy?"

Given the history, given the whole Lindsay mess, she really couldn't say she didn't.  "So what do I do?"

"Be his friend," Clara said.  "I mean, remember how he was?  How he was always there for you, no matter what?  How he did things you liked to do?  How he was willing to play whatever role you needed him to play?"

Yes, yes, and certainly yes.  That had been Dean's strength, all along.  From him kissing her at Doose's, to letting her set the pace for the boyfriend/girlfriend thing, Dean was good at being what she needed.  Maybe that was why Jess and Logan had never worked out.  Jess and Logan wanted more for them, and sometimes demanded it from her.  And that was hard to give.  She'd never considered just how hard that was for Dean.

"So, you do it for him for awhile," Clara said.  "And he'll come around."

"You think?"

Clara raised her eyebrows.  "I'm his little sister," she said.  "I know.  Just don't tell him I said so."

One of Clara's teammates called her name.

"Oh, I’ve got to go," Clara said.  "Think about it, though, okay?"

"Okay," Rory said.

When Clara smiled again, it was uncanny how much of Dean she saw in her.  "Good seeing you," Clara said.  "Bye."

"Bye," Rory replied, watching her bob and weave through the departing crowd to rejoin her teammates.

Rory just stood there, reporter’s notebook in hand, wondering how Clara could be right.  How Clara could still think she and Dean were so good for each other. How Clara could be so sure she was what Dean needed.

Dean wanted to be just friends, but the tension was still there.

He wanted to be just friends, because Rory had hurt him before.  Because Rory had been selfish before.  Because Rory had let him walk away and think he wasn't worthy of her.  Because he'd always been hers and clearly she wasn't the only one who maybe felt that way.

Too bad that only worked well to her benefit.  For Dean, not so much.

It would be different this time.  It would have to be.  Or Clara would never forgive her. 

Rory would never forgive herself.

But that still didn't change the fact that she needed to prove it to Dean.

All she knew was that it was worth figuring out.

-o-

At home, her mother was leaving.  Which actually surprised her.  With the gardening and the cross stitching, Rory had almost begun to think of her mother as a homebody.  But the nicely fitted shirt and capris and the tastefully done evening makeup suggested that Lorelai had not settled into middle-age-hood quite like Rory had suspected.

"You look nice," Rory observed as her mother scurried about the kitchen, putting away some dishes.

"Thanks," her mother replied.  "It's nice to know that I'm still capable of pulling it off."

"You going out?" Rory asked, sliding into a chair at the table.

"No, I just thought I'd get all dressed up for the fun of it," her mother said.

"Luke?"

"Is there anyone else?" Lorelai said, looking over her shoulder at her. "Yes, Luke.  We do need to spend some time together.  You know, if we didn't, it wouldn't be much of a relationship."

"I haven't been quite sure what kind of relationship it is anyway," Rory said.  "I mean, you call off a wedding but you've worn his necklace every day since.  A little weird, don't you think?"

Her mother gave her an impassive gaze.  "Weird?  Hardly.  Very appropriate, most likely."

"So, what are you?"

"You think we need the cute little term boyfriend and girlfriend?" her mother asked, sitting down at the table with her.  "Hardly.  I mean, he could give me his ring and I could wear it around my neck if you wanted to."

"That's very 70s."

"Of course--I always wanted to be Olivia Newton-John."

"I'm not sure John Travolta would be a good boyfriend."

Her mother shrugged.  "Lots of men aren't and yet we date them anyway.  It's a little masochistic, I suppose, but it keeps life interesting.  Especially when one's only daughter has flown the coop."

"So, you're with Luke so you're not alone?"

Lorelai lowered her eyebrows.  "That's rather low, don't you think?  I mean, come on, I'm more respectable than that.  Not by much, perhaps, but I certainly don't expect that kind of accusation from my daughter no less.  I mean, if it were just for the sex, sure, but Luke and I--"

Rory winced.  "I don't want to know."

"You asked.  Moreover, you insinuated an insult."

"Insinuated an insult?"

"So to speak.  You still asked."

"I was hoping for generalities.  Like, oh, yes, Rory, Luke and I are good friends or maybe we're contemplating a domestic partnership."

"A domestic partnership?"

Rory shrugged.  "Maybe a common law marriage if you two ever work up the courage to move in together."

"What sort of life have you been living in Michigan?"

"Well, what kind of life have you been living in Stars Hollow?"

Her mother smiled.  "It really bothers you, doesn't it?" she asked.

"What?"

"That life went on here and you don't know everything."

"It's not like that.  You're my mother."

"Oh, come on," Lorelai cajoled.  "All of it bothers you.  The fact that you don't know how to talk to Lane anymore, the fact that Luke and I have a relationship that you don't understand, the fact that Dean is different--"

"Hey, how is Dean different?" Rory said, pouncing on the mention.  "I mean, what do you know about him?  Because you are awfully sneaky with your subtle comments about him and I'm getting the sense that everyone here knows something about him that I don't."

Her mother leaned back in her seat with a mischievous grin.  "That's what you get for moving away."

"Are you really going to torture me like this?" Rory said.  "Your only beloved daughter?"

"Who freeloads off of me."

Rory threw her hands up.  "I give up!"

"Aw, don't be like that," Lorelai said.  "You really want to know stuff?"

"Please," Rory said in exasperation.  "I'm trying desperately to make sense of the world around me and all I get are evasive answers."

"That really kills you," her mother said with an amused shake of her head.  "If I had only known how easy this was--"

Rory began to push away from the table.  "I'm leaving--"

"Oh, sit down," her mother said.  "Luke and I are Luke and I.  We enjoy each other's company.  It's friendship and it's more but it's not quite domestic partnership.  It's not out of the realm of possibility, but I'm pretty sure I still need to finish growing up first before I'm ready to make that plunge, especially with someone as emotionally repressed as one Luke Danes.  We still have to find our happy medium before we subject each other to cohabitation."

"That's very mature of you."

"You sound surprised."

"Well."

"Yeah, yeah," her mother said, standing again.  "You may have mastered the art of cohabitation once yourself, but that was how long ago?"

"I've been advancing my career."

"That's what all lonely women say."

"At least I can easily define where I'm at in life."

"So, you can tell me what's up with you and Dean?"

Rory glared.  "I'm not going to miss you tonight."

Lorelai laughed, walking out of the kitchen.  "Don't wait up."

"Don't worry!"

And the front door closed.

Next

Comments

Posted by: ChristianGateFan (cgf_kat)
Posted at: August 29th, 2009 12:51 am (UTC)
pic#89712014

LOL, oops. A sort-of fight. But that's just Rory and Lorelai. Though personally I'm still wondering where this Luke/Lorelai thing is going.

Clara! Yay, I always loved her--especially the Clara in this series, who loves Dean and thinks the world of him and you just want to huggle her! I love her even more for everything she said to Rory. Wise for eighteen, she is. ;)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 1st, 2009 06:54 pm (UTC)
rory's dance kiss

Clara was pretty awesome--because she really did seem to like Dean. Of course, Dean was kind of an awesome big brother, so that's understandable. I like to think someone understood Dean!

Thanks :)

Posted by: Dani (pinkphoenix1985)
Posted at: August 30th, 2009 06:18 pm (UTC)

love the talk between Rory and Clara!

and your Loreli is perfect!

btw- I watched the S1 episode where Dean meets the Gilmores- please say that you've thought of a scene where he meets them again?

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 1st, 2009 06:53 pm (UTC)
cute dean first time

I have thought about Dean and the grandparents...enough to know that it's another fic entirely. This verse doesn't end here, and I have a LOT more ideas. I just need time to write them all. But a grandparent fic is probably 2-3 fics after this one.

I'm glad you're interested in the idea!

Posted by: Dani (pinkphoenix1985)
Posted at: September 2nd, 2009 09:07 am (UTC)
SQUEEE

SQUEEEEEEEEEEEE that's how interested I am in the idea! :D

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