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GG Fic: Sometimes You Do 38/40

A/N: Okay, so one more chapter without Dean and then I promise, we'll get some resolution about where Rory and Dean end up. But there are a few loose ends that I wanted to tie up in this chapter, so hopefully you'll all bear with me. Thanks! Previous parts here.

CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT
It sounded well and good to have a party. It really did. Kind of sweet even, despite the utter over-the-top-ness that had followed from the initial idea. It sounded good to think about the food, and even the decorations and the guest list.

It sounded good--until they started actually having to put it together.

Rory had been instructed, quite clearly and multiple times, that it was not her responsibility. Her party; therefore, her day to relax.

Celebration did not involve work for the one who was being celebrated. That was Lorelai Gilmore logic and Rory was hesitant to dispute it.
However, sitting back and watching felt vaguely like watching a train barreling forward on an inevitable course right off a cliff.

Which was really rather an odd image and she realized she needed to watch a western sometime soon.

It didn’t make matters any better, she supposed, that she had nothing to do.

She didn’t have any outstanding assignments to work on--Ned was, after all, in the throes of his last fling with the Gazette. Which basically meant there was more doughnut consumption than ever and he had actually taken to doing nearly all the writing himself during the last days of his ownership.

The deal was set to close on Monday. In two more days, Rory would own the paper.

Today, however, she was a lowly freelance journalist who was bumming off her mother and stuffing her face full of cheese puffs watching other people work.

“You’re eating cheese puffs,” Sookie observed as she bustled through the living room.

Rory looked at the tub, which was still two thirds full. “You want some?”

“You know, I made, like, fifteen kinds of snacks for tonight.”

“Only fifteen?”

“Yeah, I’m slipping,” Sookie said, moving into the kitchen. “Davey was up all last night after Jackson let him watch Godzilla.”

“Godzilla would like cheese puffs,” Rory called after her.

“Which is why it’s a horror movie,” Sookie said as she reappeared empty handed.

“You sure you don’t want some?”

“I’ve got to go bring in the rest of the food and then help your mom set up the chairs and I think she’d probably freak out if I stained all the table covers with cheese.”

Rory looked critically at her fingers. “Table covers?”

Sookie turned back to her, face aglow. “They’re made of newsprint!” she exclaimed. “Only we folded them and taped them and made edging--”

“You made edging?”

“Sort of like Oragami.”

“I thought we agreed simple,” Rory said.

Sookie was moving back toward the front door. “You’ll love it.”

“There’s no ice sculptures, right?”

“You’ll love it,” Sookie said, opening the door. “You’ll love it!”

As the door closed behind her, Rory shook her head. “Newsprint table covers,” she muttered. “And they’re worried about cheese stains.”

Then she thought of her mother setting up table, of Sookie cooking food, of Luke unloading chairs. Of Dean behind the counter at the stereo shop.

And of herself, cheese stained fingers, in the Gazette. It wasn’t about being spoiled. It wasn’t about getting everything she ever wanted. It was about belonging.

-o-

And belong she did.

If she’d ever had doubts, seeing their yard fill up with neighbors and friends, old men from the coffee shop and little girls from the dance studio made it pretty clear. These were her people. She was one of them.

Either that, or they were all here for the cake.

Perhaps a little of both.

Nonetheless, the party was a good idea. Not because she wanted the attention, not because she needed the food, but because it sort of made her feel like she’d made the right decision. And with twenty thousand bucks tied up in the whole thing, the validation was pretty important.

Good food, good people, good times...and Nancy.

Who had invited Nancy?

Of course, they had invited Nancy. She was one of Rory’s coworkers, probably one of her employees now if she thought about it hard enough.

But Nancy.

As if seeing her scowling face wasn’t enough at work, now she had to face her in a social setting at well. And the woman was moving through the crowds straight for her.

Rory looked from side to side, hoping for an out. Her mother was off trying to cool a heated dispute between Luke and Taylor. Sookie was trying to wrangle Martha from flashing her backside at the Beckett boys. Lane was being attacked by all three of her children. All friendly fallbacks were preoccupied.

In short, there was no way out. Except maybe to interject herself into Kirk’s animated conversation with Babette’s latest kitten, but she wasn’t that desperate.

“Quite a party you have here,” Nancy said when she got close enough.

“My mother--you know her. Never does things halfway.”

Nancy nodded absently. “Looks like the entire town is here.”

“It is amazing the number of people who can fit in one yard,” Rory agreed. “I’m glad you could make it, though.” It sounded like the afterthought it was, and Rory was reminded why she’d never gone into acting.

Nancy's mouth flattened. "I only came for one reason," she said.

"Sookie's rum cake? It is pretty spectacular. And you know we get a great discount on her services," Rory said, almost out of instinct. She knew that wasn't the reason. She knew the reason exactly. And she knew her answer.

Nancy wanted to know if she still had her position. For all her snooty behavior, she had needs and wants just like everyone else. Rory could respect that.

And in the grander scheme of things, she'd need Nancy to keep the paper up--she couldn't write it all herself, no matter how much time she was willing to throw into the thing.

Still, that didn't mean she wouldn't enjoy tormenting the woman a bit. It was Nancy after all.

"I was just wondering if this change in ownership was going to precede other significant changes," Nancy said, her voice tight.

It would have been so easy to say. Even somewhat gratifying. After the way Nancy had treated her, treated everyone on the staff, it wasn’t like the woman didn’t have it coming. With her sparse experience outside the Gazette, it wasn’t like Nancy had fail-proof credentials.

But. There just had to be a but.

But Nancy was part of the paper. She was a part of the town. She may not have been the voice of Stars Hollow, she may have been a conniving, self-absorbed bitch half the time, but everyone had their place, oddly enough.

Sure, Rory could change that in her small corner of Stars Hollow. But it occurred to her, now that she held such power, just why things always seemed to stay the same in small towns.

Because there was no place else for people to go. Perhaps that was a bit simplistic. Yes, people came and left. Families moved in and moved out. Kids went off to college, settled elsewhere. But, the real thing, the overall vibe, was constancy. It wasn’t about small town values or something enigmatic. It was about predictable. About things being the same from one day to the next. There was comfort in that, and it wasn’t Rory’s place to disrupt it

People would miss Nancy’s writing. They would miss her uppity presence at town events.

Worse, Nancy wouldn’t have anywhere to go. She wasn’t ready to move on like Ned had been.

Therefore, Rory could never fire her. Torment, yes. Fire, no.

“I was considering updating the mast head,” Rory said with a shrug. “Though I am partial to the current fonts, even if we might benefit converting to an eleven column layout. The nine is just giving me a headache of threes.”

Nancy stared at her, a little dumbfounded. “No other changes then? No...personnel changes?”

“I couldn’t really let Conrad go no matter how often he ends up in debt. I think there’s a certain section of Stars Hollow that’s fond of him. Besides, without us, who would subsidize his gambling habits?”

“Well, if you’re keeping Conrad, then is it safe to assume that you’re keeping me, too? I know I’m not nearly as sociable as Conrad--”

“Conrad? Sociable? Perhaps lovably ridiculous, but--”

“Rory, you know what I’m trying to say.”

“Yes, I know what you’re trying to say,” Rory said with a sigh. “Look, Nancy, we haven’t really gotten along and all, and while I think that was mostly instigated by you, it’s not like I ran away from it either. We were both playing for whatever top position we thought there could be in a paper like this. You had thirty years’ experience; I had youth and charisma. And I guess you could say that I won, since I am now owner, but that wasn’t really a contest. I mean, I bought the thing. So, even though technically I can do whatever I want now, it wouldn’t really be very sporting just to fire you. Not to mention that it wouldn’t make much business sense.”

“Did you even understand anything in school when they told you that the first paragraph should have all the relevant information and the details come later?” Nancy asked, her brow thoroughly furrowed.

Rory couldn’t help but grin. “Hey, that’s the most journalistically sound thing I’ve heard you say since I’ve met you.”

Nancy rolled her eyes. “My textbooks may have been from the seventies, but I did read them.”

“You do know that the inverted pyramid is not the favored method of journalistic writing these days, right?”

“You’re still avoiding the question,” Nancy persisted.

“And you say I’m a little slow for a journalist,” Rory said. “Yes. You’ve still got a job, assuming you want it. I mean, I can’t say it will be the same, because I am not a 60-year-old man in a Hawaiian shirt. But I couldn’t think right now of trying to replace the staff. You and Lyman and Dewey and Meredith--you’re more this paper than anything else.”

A hint of gratitude and a touch of relief colored Nancy’s face, but she composed herself quickly, lest she be caught actually showing real emotion. “Well,” she said. “I have worked there forever. I can’t imagine life without it. Besides, it looks like you may need someone to keep you on your toes.”

Someone, indeed. It had been Paris for years on end, a presence that had been sorely missed after college. Rory needed someone abrasive, someone endlessly conniving, almost immaturely competitive. It offered a strange sort of sanity and a real kind of focus. “And there’s no one better than you for that role.”

Nancy looked pleased. “And truth be told, I think you frighten Dewey,” she confided. “And Lyman? He doesn’t know whether to be attracted to you or to piss his pants when he sees you coming.”

“Really?”

Nancy laid a hand on her arm. “Trust me,” she said. “Not that he’d ever do anything, of course, because he feels the same way about his wife. Only whereas you still show restraint not to slap him upside the head, she definitely does not.”

At that, Rory had to laugh. It was an image to consider. “So, I’ll see you Monday?”

“Bright and early,” Nancy agreed. “The copy on the Presbyterian church ice cream social will be ready to go. Pictures and all.”

“Great,” Rory said.

“Now,” Nancy said. “Is this rum cake everything they say it is?”

“And more,” Rory told her seriously.

“I refused to make it out of principle,” she said. “But now that you’re my boss, I figure it can’t hurt to try it.”

“Second table to the left and straight on till morning,” Rory advised.

Nancy flashed a grin at her and made her way through the crowd.

-o-

Part of the advantage of the multitude of people present was that Rory had plenty of people to mingle with. True, that could be overwhelming--the sheer reality that she was the reason for the occasion obligated her to a certain level of friendliness and she was compelled to greet and thank each and every one, which was no easy task, especially considering that to properly do the job without seeming fake required a great deal of time and sincerity. Talkative, she was, but maintaining appropriate small talk with the entire population of Stars Hollow in one self-contained evening was a feat, even for her.

Nonetheless, the pros probably did outweigh the cons. Even with the exhaustive nature of the evening, she was sure to never be alone and she always had ample reason to excuse herself from any guest she did not wish to linger with. Given her mother's overzealous mailing list, that was truly a very good thing. Minimal time with Miss Patty, even less time with Taylor, a brief hello and a perfunctory nod to Kirk (because anything more was far too dangerous). Making the rounds without exposing herself to prolonged insanity, something which she likely already had and didn't need more of.

So to see a friendly and refreshingly sane face was, well, refreshing.

So much so that she nearly wanted to hug Clara Forester when she saw her. She’d already had hugged the entire South Side Bridge Club, so she was kind of in a hugging mindset, but she stopped herself just short of attacking the younger girl and settled for a wide smile instead. “You made it,” she said, rather obviously, but it was a party, a party for her, so she was well beyond worrying about stating the obvious.

Clara beamed. “Of course I came,” she said. “Why wouldn’t I?”

Rory shrugged. “The desire to avoid the crazies, who I can promise you, are all here. Worse yet, by invitation.”

Clara laughed at that, and held out a small bag, which was decked out with blue and green curled ribbon. "For you," she said. "Stars Hollow's latest business mogul."

"Thank you," Rory said, taking it. "You weren't supposed to bring gifts."

Clara shrugged. "Maybe," she agreed. Then she leaned in. "But it made my mother so angry to go shopping for it that I couldn't resist."

"Well, who am I to get in the way of great mother/daughter bonding?"

"Exactly," Clara said. "Oh, and be on the lookout. She wants to talk to you."

May wanted to talk to her? That could never be good. They had had few conversations, even before their blowup at the hospital.

"I know," Clara said, reading her features. "Though she's been asking a lot about you lately."

"Asking about me?"

"Yeah," Clara said. "About what you do, what you're hoping for."

Okay and that wasn't a bit stalkerish. Perhaps Rory needed to invest in window bars.

Then Clara shrugged, her conspiratorial tone lifting. "But everyone is talking about you," she said. "They all thought you'd be going someplace far away and do something super exciting. So they've been trying to figure out why you bought the Gazette."

Rory could only smile at her. “Well, I guess I already did the big and exciting stuff, so I figured it was time for a change. You know, if everything is big and exciting then it sort of loses its big and exciting-ness. And I certainly don’t want to have nothing big and exciting left to pursue, so I figured maybe simple was better.”

Clara looked a little skeptical. “So you’re just settling for now? But why all that money?”

“It’s not settling,” Rory amended quickly. “It’s just--maybe I appreciate it more now. After traveling and Detroit, simple kind of feels good. Being someone is kind of good. You have no idea what it’s like to move somewhere and just be so anonymous.”

At that, Clara offered her a sympathetic smile. “Sometimes I think I want to get out of this town just so I can be anonymous again. There’s nothing quite like being out past curfew one night with a boy and having your mom find out about it before you even have a chance to figure out your lie.”

Memory flared in Rory. Of Dean and the dance, Miss Patty’s dance hall, an all-night accident. “And how it always turns out more dramatic than it is,” she said. “Getting a cup of coffee by yourself turns into a depressive bout and an attempt to shun all company.”

“And you wanted to come back why?” Clara asked.

“I think you’ll understand someday,” Rory assured her. “It’s one of those things you don’t really get until you’ve lived without it.”

Clara seemed to accept that answer. “I don’t think I so much want to get away from Stars Hollow as I do my mother,” she admitted. “I love my mom, and I know things are rough for all of us right now, but I swear, sometimes she’s certifiably insane. The way she treats me like I’m ten, the way she treats Dean like he can’t manage anything.”

“Your mother is quite a character,” Rory agreed diplomatically. “Are you sure she wants to talk to me? I mean, I can’t think of anyone she dislikes more.”

“She really hates the afternoon cashier down at Doose’s. Says he’s far too self-invested.”

“The short one with the dark hair?”

“And the eye makeup.”

“Until Taylor made him stop wearing it,” Rory concluded for her. “He may be self-invested, but my money’s on him to become one of the next great emo-singers. He definitely has the look.”

“Yes, well, I think she hates him more than you,” Clara assured her. “But not by much. Oh, and here she comes. I’m going to get out of here before I get subjected to more scrutiny about why I don’t know what I want to major in during college. Best of luck--oh and congratulations, Rory.”

Before Rory could thank her, or better yet stop her, Clara had disappeared into the crowd, leaving Rory staring after her and ever so vulnerably alone.

Turning to find her own escape, she turned abruptly into May Forester.

Rory didn’t generally dislike people; that wasn’t in her nature. She was inclined to see the good in people, or at least be pleasantly bemused by their faults. Especially when it came to the townies. Being away, she had a fondness for the eccentricities. They were quaint and homey.

But not May.

Never May.

If the last few months back home had taught her anything, it was that May Forester should only be dealt with sparingly and only out of necessity. May might have played the role of doting wife and mother, but her methods were still up for debate, as far as Rory was concerned. About the only thing the woman had going for her was that she did manage to have two fantastic children.

And that was the catch that made all the rest something she would just have to deal with. She hadn’t talked to May since their blowout in the hospital. A blowout that had been justified, as far as Rory was concerned, but one that Dean had asked her not to repeat.

She didn’t like the woman. But she liked Dean. So she had to be civil.

Which didn’t seem like it should be that hard, but it was. It really, really was. Because of the way she still looked at Rory like a home wrecker. Because of the way she still treated Dean like a screw-up.

For Dean, though. For Dean.

“May,” she said. “Hi.”

May offered a polite smile. "I suppose congratulations are in order," May said, bristling a little. Somehow, Rory didn't quite buy the attempt as heartfelt.

Rory smiled anyway. "Thank you."

May looked at her and sighed. "I knew all along you were staying," she said. "The ladies at work all thought you would take off, but I could see it in your eyes."

"See what?"

May just shook her head, a reluctant smile on her face. "That look, dear. Everyone thought you wanted to go off and do great things. You probably even did, but what you really wanted was roots."

And the funny thing was that May was, well, right. All the choices in the world and the fact was that the one thing Rory really wanted was no further than her own backyard. Metaphorically speaking. She didn't really want to spend her entire life in her mother's house, but in this town, with these people.

With Dean.

May was watching her. "Buying the Gazette," she continued primly. "Quite a bold move. Ned Arlington's never been happier."

"Yes, well, I live to please," Rory ventured, unable to think of something else to say. Unable to really grasp what May was really going for in all this.

"Funny thing about love," May said. "It's about putting other first. It's the reason I followed Randy out here to begin with, all those years ago. I did not want to go. I was a Chicago girl, through and through. And this place? So small. So quaint. But he wanted it. He loved that damned stereo shop."

"It's important to have dreams," Rory said. "And someone to stand by you through them--well, Randy was very lucky."

"I know what you think of me," May said, looking at her firmly. "I'm not a perfect mother, but I love my son. I've hated to see all he's gone through. How much he fell apart--sometimes it was easier to predict his next disaster rather than to wait for it to happen. Made things simple that way, manageable."

That made Rory's skin crawl. Listening to his mother talk about love and sacrifice and then talk about how little she believed in Dean. "I'm sure for you it did," Rory said, and she didn't hide the bitterness in her voice.

Nor did May miss it. She pursed her lips. "You don't know everything, dear," she said. "It was you, you know. That started this. How my son, my confident, beautiful boy, simply trailed after you, I never understood. And then to watch you lead him on and let him go like an old toy--well, that was hard to swallow. So I'm not the only one who needs to sit back and think about how I've treated Dean."

The worst part was, the really awful part was, that she was right. May Forester was right.

Rory would never live this down. Not that she was going to tell anyone about it ever, but even in her own mind, she'd never live this down.

"We all use people the way we need to," May said. "It's not pretty, but it's true. Perhaps you and I are not all that different in the end." She paused and smiled, and Rory nearly shuddered, because it was a real smile. "Scary, thought, isn't it?"

Downright horrifying. And, she was right again. All that Rory had hated May for--for putting Dean in a box, for all her expectations, for the way she took him for granted, used him--Rory had done the same. She'd done the same and expected him to come running back to her. At least May had the mother card to play--pushing a child out of your body sort of gave you a certain in that ex-girlfriends didn't apparently have.

May's fingers touched lightly on her arm. "I never liked you for what you did to Dean. But I'm pretty sure I know why you stayed, even if no one else does. So, maybe people can change."

All of that was still made perfect sense but hearing it from May--May Forester, Mrs. Forester, Dean’s mother--was leaving Rory a little gob-smacked. At her own party, no less.

“Congratulations, dear,” May said, moving past Rory. “I’m confident that you’ll make the best of it.”

The only thing Rory could think to say was “Thanks,” which she did and it sounded rather pathetic, a little ridiculous and completely not enough. But this was like hell freezing over, the Cubs winning the World Series, and every other cliche impossibility Rory couldn’t quite bring herself to remember at the moment.

"Oh, and Rory," May said, turning around. "Just so you know, I quit my job completely so I can spend more time at the store. You know, to help Dean out so he could have a little more time off. So he could take more breaks and whatnot. To do, well...anything." She shrugged suggestively. "Just so you know."

Just so she knew. Just so Rory knew that Dean had more free time. That Dean was available. That Dean's mother approved.
She'd never seen that one coming.

Wonders never ceased. At least, that was something she could hope for.

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Comments

Posted by: Dani (pinkphoenix1985)
Posted at: November 14th, 2009 03:21 pm (UTC)

wow! May isn't as self centred as she appeared!

great part!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: November 17th, 2009 07:29 pm (UTC)
walking

It was an unexpected turn for May but I rather liked it.

Thanks!

Posted by: ChristianGateFan (cgf_kat)
Posted at: November 18th, 2009 01:33 am (UTC)

Holy frell on a stick. I didn't see that coming, either. Though I suppose that was the point. :P Loved the party; it was quite amusing, if I do say so myself, lol. And Nancy! Well, that was fun. I'd say I can't wait for more, but the next chapter's already here. I'm off to read it!

Sorry it took me so long! I got interrupted in the middle of reading this Friday, and never got a chance to finish.

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