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Gilmore Girls fic: A Great One (1/1)

January 7th, 2014 (09:50 pm)
energetic

feeling: energetic

Title: A Great One

Disclaimer: I do not own Gilmore Girls.

A/N: This is for sendintheklowns who is celebrating her birthday today. A little cute Dean is always fun, so I hope he brightens your day a bit :) Unbeta’ed, and set during the series (season 1 or 2, anything before Jess).

Summary: Rory tries to be a good girlfriend. It doesn’t go quite as expected.



-o-

“Hockey,” Rory said, furrowing her brow. “Isn’t that just football on ice?”

Dean laughed, shaking his head. “Not exactly.”

“Figure skating with pads?”

“You’ve never seen a hockey game before, have you?”

She smiled, trying to be just a little sheepish. “I’ve seen it while flipping channels because ESPN is totally next to HGTV and TLC.”

“Do you even know one famous hockey player?” he pressed.

“Does Emilio Estevez count?”

He chuckled fondly again. “You don’t have to come.”

“No!” she said, eyes going wide. “You invited me to watch you play hockey! I may know nothing about hockey, but I am a very fast learner.”

“So I’ve noticed,” he observed wryly.

“Besides,” she said, inching closer to him. “There will be other hockey girlfriends there, too, right?”

Dean shrugged. “Maybe.”

“Is there like a cheering section?” she asked. “Do we get to do special cheers?”

“Ummm…”

“Oh!” she said. “And there’s food, right? I’ll get to buy food?”

Dean’s smile widened. “Yeah, there’ll definitely be concessions.”

“See,” she said, squaring her shoulders and leaning into him. “It’ll be great.

“Great,” he said, bending down to kiss her. “Great is good.”

She kissed him back. “Great is very, very good.”

-o-

“It’s going to be horrible.”

Rory flounced back on the couch in utter despair.

Her mother quirked an eyebrow before shoveling another bite of takeout into her mouth. “I assume we’re not talking about my choice of Friday night programming?”

Rory pouted. “Planet of the Apes?”

“The original version,” her mom said with a sparkle in her eye. “Because it is one of the few films that highlight man’s stupidity.”

Rory frowned. “I’m not sure why that’s appealing.”

“Of course it’s appealing,” her mother said. “Because men are stupid! And we get to watch them be ruled by monkeys! And who doesn’t love monkeys!”

“You do know they’re the bad guys…”

Her mom glared, taking another bite. “So you are complaining about the movie.”

Rory sighed. “No, it’s Dean.”

“Do we need to raise up an army of apes to conquer him?” she asked, very unhelpfully.

“Only if they can use ice skates.”

Her mother nodded, far too seriously. “One ice skating army of apes, coming right up.”

“I need them by tomorrow,” Rory said.

Her mom made a face. “That might be a little tight,” she said. “All the ice skating monkeys live in Canada.”

“I don’t think there are monkeys in Canada.”

“You’re using logic?” her mother asked, indignant. “Now?”

Rory groaned, lifting a pillow to cover her face. “It’s going to be horrible!”

“Well, I’m failing to see how a tall, attractive young man who thinks you’re amazing is horrible--”

“He invited me to watch him play hockey,” Rory admitted, letting the pillow fall back to her lap.

“Hockey?” her mother asked, as if she didn’t know what that was. Which, to her credit, she might not. “Like football on ice?”

“That’s what I said.”

“And I take it not so much,” her mother observed.

That was an understatement. The understatement of understatements. “I don’t even know what they do at hockey games!”

“Well, presumably play hockey--”

Rory glared.

Her mother held up her hand. “Okay, okay,” she said. “Clearly, we’re not at the joking point with this.”

“Mom, he’s my boyfriend!” Rory exclaimed, because that was the heart of the issue. That was the crux of it that made this so difficult. She didn’t like hockey; she didn’t care about hockey; she never wanted to have anything to do with hockey. But she liked Dean; she cared about Dean; and she wanted everything to do with Dean. “Isn’t that what girlfriends do? Go to hockey games and be all cute and cheery?”

Her mother snorted. “That’s not what I did--”

“Yes, well, you got knocked up in high school, so I’m not sure you’re a good role model--”

“Hey!”

“I’m sorry!” Rory exclaimed.

Her mother looked a little mollified. “You’re stressed out,” she said. “I mean, I would be, too. I hadn’t realized you two were at the hockey game stage of your relationship yet.”

“I know, right?” Rory asked. “I mean, I thought we were just going to keep going to Luke’s and going to book fairs and watching movies together….”

She trailed off.

Her mother looked sympathetic. “You thought you’d just do stuff you’d like to do.”

Rory’s eyes widen. “I’ve been totally selfish!”

“To be fair, he’s been pretty happy to do that stuff with you,” her mom offered.

“Because he likes me!” Rory realized. “He does those things because he likes me!”

“That is the nature of relationships…”

“Then I have to go to hockey!” Rory said, sitting up now. “I’m going to go to hockey and be the best hockey girlfriend there is. I’m going to cheer. I’m going to start chants. I’m going to do the wave. That’s a thing, isn’t it? The wave?”

“Umm.”

“I think so,” Rory said, chewing her lip. “I can do this.”

“You can do this,” her mother encouraged.

Rory grinned. “I can! It’ll be great!”

“Great!” her mom said.

She turned to her mother with wide eyes. “And you’ll come with me?”

Her mother’s face went blank. “What?”

“Please,” Rory said, latching on to her arm. “I need you there with me.”

“This is your relationship--”

“He’s going to be on the ice!” Rory said. “And I’ll be all there, alone in the stands.”

Her mother’s expression turned a little desperate. “But I thought you were going to cheer and do chants. Do the wave!”

“Together!”

“But--”

“Relationships!” Rory said. “I’d do it for you.”

Her mother’s mouth closed and her eyes narrowed. “That’s low.”

Rory gave her best wide-eyed look of innocence. “Please?”

“But I know nothing about hockey,” her mother protested.

“Me neither,” Rory reminded her, because that was the point, in the end. Alone and stupid was one thing; together and stupid was entirely another. She nudged her mom. “Come on. I’ll watch Planet of the Apes with you.”

Her mother tried to hold out, but only lasted a few more seconds before groaning. “Fine!” she said. “But just this once.”

Rory clapped, delighted. “Great!” she said. “It’ll be great!”

Her mother took a sulky bite. “Yeah, yeah,” she mumbled around her food. “Real great.”

-o-

Rory had never been to a hockey game before, so she wasn’t sure if it was the kind of event that you wanted to be early to or one where being fashionably late was the way to go. She attempted a few internet searches to clear up her confusion, but she came back with few answers. Apparently, most people didn’t worry about when to arrive at a hockey game.

Ultimately, she decided to arrive early, if only because she couldn’t handle pacing anxiously around the house anymore. She didn’t want Dean to think she was blowing him off, and she had never been particularly gifted at being fashionably late anyway.

Her mother fussed at the mirror. “Am I overdressed?”

“Um,” Rory said, looking her mom over. “You’re wearing jeans and a shirt.”

“I know,” her mother said. “But this is a sort of nice shirt. I don’t want to offend the other people in attendance.”

“You think they’ll be offended by a shirt?”

“Maybe,” her mother said. “I mean, isn’t hockey sort of a rough and tumble crowd?”

“Rough and tumble?”

“You know,” her mom pressed. “A less desirable sort.”

“So what do you think they’ll be wearing?” Rory asked.

Her mother frowned, tilting her head. “Overalls?”

“They’re not farmers,” Rory protested.

“Cut-offs?”

“It’s in an ice rink!”

“Ripped t-shirts?” her mom asked. “I can totally go for a ripped t-shirt.”

“I think you look fine,” Rory said in exasperation.

Her mother shrugged, finishing with her primping. “You’re acting surprisingly calm about this.”

“It’s just a hockey game,” she said nonchalantly.

Her mother gave her a wry look. “That’s not how you felt last night.”

Rory glared. “I had a moment of weakness.”

“You freaked out.”

“Well, you didn’t help!”

“To the contrary,” her mother said. “I was the one who gave you perspective. You should be thanking me.”

“I might thank you if you didn’t continue to torture me,” Rory said. She looked at her watch. “Come on, I wanted to leave five minutes ago.”

“Oh, we’re going to be early?”

Rory’s face fell. “You think we should be fashionably late?”

“I’m not sure fashionable should be used in conjunction with hockey,” her mother said.

“Ugh!” Rory said, throwing her hands up in the hair. “Hurry up! I’m going to be in the car!”

-o-

As it turned out, they were still early. Not as early as Rory would have liked, and she felt somehow vindicated that they weren’t the first ones there. In fact, there seemed to be a lot of people milling about, taking their seats and talking.

This was reassuring.

It was also somewhat unnerving. “Did you know this many people liked hockey?” she whispered.

Her mother leaned close, eying a man wearing a jersey. “I didn’t even know that this many people knew what hockey was.”

Rory looked at her mom. “You know, you do look a little overdressed.”

Her mother scoffed. “Told you.”

Rory studied the crowd, trying to make sense of it.

“Oh, look!” her mother cried. “Food!”

Rory glanced toward the concession line.

“I’m getting some,” she announced. “If I’m going to be overdressed at a hockey game, I might as well be overfed, too. Do you want something?”

“Um, I think maybe we should get a seat first.”

“Seating before food?” her mother squawked incredulously. “What has happened to you?”

“I’m not here for the food,” Rory said with an air of exasperation. “I’m here for Dean.”

Her mother stared at her.

“Just pick me up something!” she concluded finally.

Her mother grinned. “There’s my girl.”

Rory scowled. “I may regret bringing you here.”

Her mother punched her arm lightly. “Just remember,” she cajoled. “It’s going to be great!”

-o-

While her mother got waylaid by the concession stand, Rory made her way to the stands. It took her a minute to get her bearings, but a quick glance revealed that the fans were segregating into groups, mostly by team. Although she no longer attended the high school, she still recognized the colors and even a few of the kids gathering together in the stands. They looked happy and raucous.

Rory promptly moved away from them.

Staying within the right section, she gravitated toward the other part of the stands, which seemed to be populated by parents and other well-wishers.

Well-wishers wasn’t the right word. These weren’t people politely clapping. These were people stuffing their face with hot dogs and talking loudly.

Which wasn’t really so bad. Rory liked talking and sometimes liked talking loudly. She also liked hot dogs, which meant she had a lot in common with these people.

Except they were ready to watch hockey.

Rory wasn’t even sure what she was doing.

She took a seat as close to the ice as she could, tightening her scarf as she tried to look normal. When she finally turned her attention from her fellow attendees, she saw the people on the ice.

They were geared up, with heavy pads and oversized jerseys. It was hard to tell if she recognized anyone, since they were all wearing helmets. It was for safety, of course, but it made cheering someone on a bit more difficult, she reflected.

Until she saw--

“Dean!” she called, too excited to realize what she was doing. She waved stupidly, grinning. “Dean!”

The jersey said Forrester across the back, and he was using his stick to do something with the black chunk on the ice. He made a graceful move, darting around a few other people, before sliding it into the goal and gliding around the back.

“Dean!” she called again. “Hey, Dean!”

He slowed, looking toward her and even through his helmet, he could see her grin. He skating up to the side of the rink, lifting his facemask. Being seated just a few rows up, Rory grinned wider, scooting out of her seat and moving down the stairs until there was nothing but a few inches and a panel of plexiglass between them.

“Hey,” he said. “You came.”

“Of course!” she said. “I wouldn’t miss it!”

“I sort of figured you’d be freaked out,” he said.

She scoffed. “Me?”

He raised his eyebrows.

“Well, maybe a little,” she admitted. She pointed behind her. “But my mom came with me.”

“Let me guess,” Dean said. “She’s getting food.”

“You did use that as one of the selling points,” she reminded him.

He laughed. “The food’s good.”

“And so is hockey!” Rory said, enthusiastically. “You look good. Not falling. Hitting the ball.”

“Puck.”

“Whatever,” Rory said. “And you don’t even trip on the stick.”

“Generally they make sure you aren’t going to kill yourself before they let you on the ice,” Dean joked.

Rory laughed. “That’s good,” she said. “I mean, I know hockey must be the best sport ever, but it’s not worth dying over or anything.”

Dean shook his head. “Why are we talking about dying?”

“I don’t know!” Rory exclaimed apologetically. “We can talk about something different! Like, why your jersey spelled your name wrong.”

“Processing error,” Dean said. “They don’t have money to get me a new one.”

“Well, that seems unfair,” she said. “Given the prices at the concession stand.”

“We’ll have to bring it up with the PTA,” he said.

“We will,” Rory agreed. “Next meeting; first thing.”

Dean laughed again. “I should go,” he said. He lingered a moment. “But I’m really glad you’re here.”

He sounded surprised, almost. Like he hadn’t expected her.

Was that the way they were, then? Was she that poorly attentive?

Not today.

She smiled back. “Me, too.”

-o-

Despite the fact that she was at a hockey game, Rory felt much better by the time her mother returned from her sojourn to the concession stand.

As it turned out, her mother felt much better, too.

“They sell nachos!” her mother exclaimed, shoving a food tray in Rory’s lap. “I mean, it’s just the fake liquid cheese--”

“Which is the best kind!” Rory said.

“I know!” her mother agreed, sitting down with a tray of her own. “And footlong hotdogs. I mean, who actually still makes footlong hot dogs?”

Rory picked through her tray to nab a chip. “Apparently hockey fans.”

“We’ve been missing out!” her mother enthused, taking a drink from her soda. She shook her head with a contented sigh. “Hockey.”

Rory munched on another chip, drenched in cheese. “Hockey.”

Her mother ate for another moment, watching the ice. “So, wait, what’s going on?”

Rory raised her eyebrows. “You mean on the ice?”

“Where else--”

“Well, we’re at a hockey game--”

“So this is hockey?” her mother asked. “Isn’t there supposed to be more...hitting? That’s a thing, right? They fight?”

“I guess,” Rory said contemplatively. “But I don’t think the game has started yet.”

“Then what are they doing?”

“Practicing?”

“Huh,” her mother said, picking up her hot dog. “Sports.”

Rory took a drink, nodding. “At least the food is good.”

Her mother grinned. “The food is great.”

-o-

They had finished most of their food by the time the game started, and Rory sat up eagerly. People started clapping, and the boys on the ice seemed to arrange themselves into some kind of formation.

“Oh, hey,” her mother said. “This is like the Mighty Ducks.”

“I wonder if they’ll do the flying v,” Rory said.

“For Emilio Estevez, I’d do just about anything--”

Rory smacked her.

“What?” her mother protested. “If you prefer Joshua Jackson, I’m fine with that. He does have that connection with whales.”

“Whales are freakishly large.”

“So no to Joshua Jackson?”

Rory huffed. “Are you trying to be impossible?”

Her mother smirked. “I don’t have to try.”

Rory ignored her, watching the ice as she tracked Dean’s position. She was so intent on watching his stance that she didn’t see the referee drop the puck.

Then the ice flew, and the game began.

-o-

For two minutes, they were silent.

Then, her mother said, “They’re really good.”

Rory nodded, wide-eyed.

“Did you have any idea?”

“That hockey took skill?” Rory asked.

“That your boyfriend was not only tall, attractive, sweet, generous but athletic, too?” her mom asked.

Rory found herself gaping. “I always knew he was a good boyfriend…”

“Hon,” her mother said, patting her on the knee. “I think he’s great.”

-o-

The shock wore off after five minutes.

Which was also when the coincidentally finished their snacks.

That was when they got into it.

“Get the ball, get the ball!” her mother yelled.

“I think it’s a puck,” Rory offered.

Without missing a beat, her mother amended. “Get the puck!”

Dean skated around, locking sticks with another player.

“Hit him!” her mother yelled. “Smash him!”

The other player shoved, and Dean slid back, the puck going wide.

“Come on!” her mother yelled. “Foul! Are there fouls?”

Rory made a face. “Dean didn’t really explain more than the puck.”

“You’re killing me here--”

Dean was already going after the puck again, scooting in and disrupting the flow of the other player’s movement. In a swift motion, Dean took control and the other player fell.

“That’s how you do it!” Rory yelled, standing up with a raucous whoop. When she realized what she’d done, she looked around self consciously as the other hockey parents eyed her curiously. She smiled primly, tucking her hair behind her ear. “I think anyway. I actually have no idea.”

Her mother chuckled. “Hockey.”

Rory grinned, her cheeks red. “Hockey.”

-o-

After a while, Rory still didn’t understand hockey. She didn’t know why players were allowed to do some things but others warranted a trip to the penalty box. She didn’t know how they kept their balance or managed to keep track of the small spinning puck at any given moment in time. She didn’t know why anyone would play goalie, when the only purpose of the goalie seemed to be to incur wrath from every other player on the court.

Field.

Rink.

Whatever.

But the more she watched, the less she felt she needed to know. This wasn’t about hockey.

This was about Dean.

And what she didn’t learn about hockey, she learned about her boyfriend. She’d always known him to be good and nice and sweet, but here, on the ice, he was smooth and seamless. He was a part of a team. He was nothing short of spectacular to watch, and it didn’t even matter how good or bad at hockey he may be.

She was learning about Dean. Not just her boyfriend, but a person. A talented, funny, confident person.

Of all the good things, that was the greatest.

-o-

In Rory’s mind, this was how it went:

She came, she cheered, she conquered. After the game, her mother would congratulate Dean on being even more exceptional than he already was, and Rory would wait around for him. They’d go out, buy some ice cream, and talk. She’d tell him how great he was. He’d tell her how great she was.

There would be kissing.

All in all, it was going to be great.

Reality, however, had another idea.

-o-

They were in the third session, though Rory wasn’t actually sure how long the game was going to be. But everyone else had started to cheer more intensely, so she could only surmise that the game was close to an end.

Which was all well and good because her butt was starting to go numb.

Not that she was complaining of course--

Her mother shivered. “Are you getting cold?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know, a little--”

“Numb butt?” her mom asked.

“Yeah!” she said. “Do you think everyone else is wearing long underwear?”

“Or maybe it’s like an immunity,” her mother ventured. “Enough games and you just stop feeling it.”

“Well--”

“Okay, bad choice of words,” her mother relented. “But it is cold.”

“But worth it,” Rory said. “I mean, Dean’s down on the ice and he’s doing fine.”

“He’s skating and doing all that fancy stuff. And he’s wearing lots of gear. You can hardly tell he’s a beanpole--”

Rory glowered. “He’s not a beanpole!”

“A cute beanpole--”

“Why are you insulting my boyfriend?” she asked indignantly.

“I said he was cute!”

“He’s still growing,” she protested.

Her mother rolled her eyes. “If he grows much more, he won’t fit under doors.”

Rory narrowed her eyes. “Maybe you should go get more food.”

“No way,” her mother said. “That last trip did me in. Besides, isn’t it almost over?”

Rory looked back at the ice, tracking the movement. She still had no idea where the puck was, but she found that she could trace Dean’s movements and her enjoyment of the action was just fine indeed. “I don’t know.”

Dean scrapped for the puck, breaking free for a straightaway down the ice.

Rory tensed.

The crowd started to cheer.

Dean dodged on defender, approaching another.

Rory’s fingers gripped the seat, scooting to the edge of her chair.

Dean shifted, moving unexpectedly and passing by the last defender. He cut sharp on the ice, sending a spray flying as he crossed the goal, turned back and shot--

And scored.

Unexpectedly, Rory felt herself get giddy, jumping to her feet with the rest of the crowd and cheering wildly. It was strange, but it was also very natural. And it felt so very good.

No, it felt great.

Until she looked down to see Dean caught up with the other team, a tumble of padded bodies going down. She lost track of him, couldn’t make up from down, until she saw red.

Bright against the ice as the referee cleared the players away. One by one, the pile receded until there was only Dean.

In a growing puddle of red.

And maybe it was horrible after all.

-o-

She was on her feet in an instant, running forward. She forgot about her food, her coat, her mom, her seat -- she just had to go.

Of course, there wasn’t exactly a lot of places to go. It took her about 10 seconds to get down to the barrier, but it was just as much to keep players on the ice as it was to keep patrons off. She pressed against it in vain for a moment, straining to see.

Her view was even more obscured, though, now that the referees had gathered and pushed the players out into a wide circle. The coach had come off the bench, and the entire arena was held still, almost suspended in collective shock.

Distantly, she made out the whispers.

Someone caught him with a skate.

Look at the blood.

Could have tagged the artery.

Did you see who did it?

Someone should call 911.

Which was all to drive home the point that this wasn’t normal. She didn’t know anything about hockey, but she could figure this much out. Something was very wrong and Dean was right at the center of it.

Frustrated, she slammed her hand on the pane, getting on her toes in another futile attempt to see more. People shifted, and she caught a glimpse of red and Dean’s upturned hand, flexing slightly on the ice. Someone had taken the pads off.

They shifted again, and her view was obstructed. Feeling herself starting to panic, she craned her head, looking for some way onto the ice. Then she saw a door, down on the far side, where a pair of medics was being let inside.

It was probably stupid -- Rory probably wouldn’t be allowed closer and she had no idea what she intended to do once she got closer, but she was here. She was at this hockey game. She was having a good time -- a great time -- because of Dean. For Dean.

Mind made up, she turned, starting to jog up the stairs two at a time. Her mother stopped her, grabbing her arm. “Rory--”

She shook her head. “Dean,” she said, because she didn’t know what else to say. There wasn’t anything else to say. That was it. That was everything. Dean.

Her mother’s eyes were wide and sympathetic. There was a protest written on her face, but she understood.

Her mother always understood.

She nodded and let go.

Rory ran.

-o-

Rory ran, but she wasn’t much of an athlete. She had spent most of her years in gym class trying not to be the worst person in the room, a task by which she had mixed success. But then, gym class had never counted on her GPA, so it hadn’t been much more than a social experiment for her and a test of cunning and survival.

Which she often lost, consequently.

It never bothered her much.

Until now.

Because now it wasn’t about her lukewarm social standing or her perilous gym grade. It wasn’t getting picked last for kickball or popping up to the shortstop. It was Dean.

It was her Dean.

Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean.

The name was pounding in her ears, rushing with the beat of her heart as she skidded around the top of the arena to the stairwell on the south side. She charged down, mumbling apologies to the other fans standing on their toes in curiosity until she turned sharp at the bottom toward the security checkpoint that opened to the entryway to the ice.

There was a man in an orange shirt, and he was clearly going to stop her, but Rory shook her head, eyes wide. “Please,” she said. “My boyfriend--”

“Look, sweetie--”

Rory shook her head again, pushing to get past him.

“I’m sorry, but you can’t--”

“I can!” she snapped, rearing her foot back and kicking him in the shin.

He yelped and fumbled, and it was just enough for Rory to squeeze past him through the gate.

“Hey!” he called, starting after her.

Rory didn’t slow, already to the doorway to the ice as one of the paramedics was backing her way out.

“Hey!” the man called again.

Rory’s breath caught as she saw the stretcher. She saw the long body, partially stripped of the jersey and pads and the mop of brown hair and--

“Dean!”

The man had caught up to her, hand on her arm. “Miss--”

The medic tried to push around her. “Please, we need to--”

Everyone was trying to push her back, to pull her back, but Rory wasn’t moving, she wasn’t going to move--

“Rory.”

Her eyes widened and her face split with a tremulous smile. On the gurney, Dean was pale but away, his half-lidded eyes locked on her while his lips turned up into a shadow of a smile.

“Dean!” she said, almost crying in relief.

“Hey,” he says, lifting a hand to beckon her forward.

The man holding her seemed to understand and let go, and even the medic stopped for a moment as she stepped closer and took his hand. “This isn’t a normal part of the game, is it?” she asked stupidly because she didn’t know what else to say. She didn’t know anything, and it made her nervous. Rory was used to knowing things. She was always the smartest girl in the room.

And now, here she was.

He chuckled lightly, but it looked like it hurt. His pads were splattered with blood and there was a thick bandage with seeping red pressed to his neck, where one of the medics was pressing down hard. “Not exactly,” he admitted.

“It was good, though,” she said, rambling because she didn’t know what else to do. Because that was what she did. It was part of her, it was the only part of her that had any sense left. “We liked the food and the cheering and the hockey. Before, you know--” She nodded awkwardly to the blood-stained bandage.

He winced. “You may have a point there,” he said, face paling even further.

“We need to go,” the medic said.

“Oh,” Rory said. “But--”

Dean squeezed her hand. “It’s okay,” he promised her, even as his eyes started to droop more. “It’s good.”

His fingers loosened, and her own digits were too numb to hold on. Her throat was tight, her entire body rigid as he was rolled away.

It’s good.

It’s great.

Except that it wasn’t.

-o-

This time, when the man in the bright shirt led her back to the exit, she didn’t fight him. There wasn’t much point in that. There wasn’t much point in anything.

He had just shuffled her out again, when her mom showed up. “Rory?”

“Is she yours?” the man asked.

“I prefer to think of her as her own person, but yes,” her mother said.

The man opened his mouth, but never got to reply when her mother neatly guided her away.

When they were several paces from the door, her mother stopped and looked at her. “Rory? Is everything okay?”

She looked up, surprised to find that she was crying. But she was. She could feel the tears, wet on her numb cheeks. “He said it was,” she said, the words heavy on her tongue. “He told me it was okay. He was bleeding and pale, and he was on that stretcher, but he held my hand and told me it was good.” She shook her head, not sure if she even understood what she was trying to say. “How does he do that? Isn’t that my job?”

Her mother’s brow creased, and her shoulders fell. “Oh, honey,” she said. “But he was conscious. That’s good.”

Rory’s face crumpled, and she felt a sob rise in her throat. “No,” she choked. “No, it’s not. Because he was bleeding and hurt and he told me it’s okay and I couldn’t do anything, and I’m supposed to do something, right? I’m supposed to do something.”

“Honey, there isn’t anything you can do,” her mother said gently.

“I know!” Rory burst, almost stamping her foot in abject frustration. “And that’s the problem! That’s why it’s not okay! That’s why it’s not good and it’s not great! I should be able to do something! But I can’t! And it’s horrible!”

She was sobbing now, the words hitching painfully in her chest. She didn’t understand hockey; she didn’t understand boyfriends; and she didn’t understand this. She didn’t know how it had happened or what had happened or what was going to happen.

As her mom hugged her and the tears fell, she just knew it was horrible.

It was well and truly horrible.

-o-

Somehow, her mother got her back to the car. They’d left the rest of their food, but Rory had managed to put on her coat. They sat there for a moment, cold in the silence.

“We could--” her mother started.

“We have to--” Rory said.

They looked at each other. Her mother smiled sadly. “To the hospital.”

For once, they didn’t need to say anything more than that.

-o-

On the way, Rory thought.

She thought about the first time she saw Dean, when she realized he’d been watching her.

She thought about the first time she’d talked to Dean, when he smiled at her with those dimples.

She thought about the first time they’d kissed, in an aisle at Doose’s, when she’d shoplifted for the first time, too.

She thought about the books they’d read; the dates they’d been on; everything they’d shared.

She thought about how he made her feel -- nervous and happy and beautiful and loved -- like she was the center of the universe, like everything was about her and it always had been.

She thought about Dean.

Until they pulled up outside Emergency, and she didn’t know what to think at all.

“Come on,” her mom said, killing the engine. “Let’s go, kid.”

-o-

Rory’s tongue felt heavy as they went inside, and she slouched her shoulders while her mother inquired at the desk. They were directed to a waiting room, and they didn’t get very far when Rory stiffened.

Her mother, being her mother, noticed. “Something wrong?”

Rory nodded. “That’s his family,” she said. “That’s--”

“Rory Gilmore?” the woman asked, prim and proper with her eyes red. She got to her feet, a mixture of hope and grief on her face. “You are Rory Gilmore, right?”

Rory wet her lips and tried to remember to speak. She had done it often. In fact, she was know for it. “Yes, ma’am--”

She came forward, taking Rory’s hand in hers. “I’m May, dear,” she said. “Dean has told us so much about you.”

Rory felt herself redden. Dean had told her some about them, too, but she couldn’t remember any of it. She couldn’t remember anything. Like how to have a normal conversation when your boyfriend was admitted to the hospital following what she could only assume was a freak hockey accident.

At least, she hoped it was a freak hockey accident. If this happened all the time, then they really should rethink the sport.

Fortunately, her mother had not forgotten how to be a person. She stepped closer. “Yes,” she said. “I’m Lorelai.”

May let go, arching an eyebrow. “The mother.”

Her mother smiled. “Right back at you,” she said. “We came right away. Any news?”

May’s gaze turned from Rory, and her expression darkened again. “We just got here ourselves,” she said. “We were waiting for an update.”

Behind her, the man in the chair shifted, his arm tight around a younger girl. His father -- she could see the resemblance. And Clara -- she couldn’t be anyone else. Rory should know them better; she should know what to say to them. But they spent all their time at Rory’s house. They spent all their dates talking about Rory’s life. Dean just hardly came up.

“Well, he’s a tough kid,” her mother said, even if it sounded somewhat lame.

“He’s not usually one to cause me so much stress,” May fretted, fingering the hem of her shirt uncertainly. She glanced at Rory. “He’s usually such a good, steady boy.”

Rory found her cheeks reddening, and she swallowed, diverting her gaze.

“Well,” her mother said, a little too loud but in the most reassuring of ways. “Maybe we can all wait together?”

May eased back slightly, as if regarding Rory anew. “Yes,” she said. “I suppose that would be appropriate.”

“Okay, then,” her mother said, putting a firm hand on Rory’s back to push her along toward the seats. Rory complied, her stiff legs moving almost without her knowledge. “Waiting. Like hockey. Only without the contact or the snacks.”

Rory looked at her quizzically.

Her mother shrugged helplessly.

Rory rolled her eyes, groaning as she slumped into a chair.

-o-

May fretted vehemently, and Clara seemed to cling to her father a bit like an actual limpet, but Randy was a bit informative.

At least Rory knew where Dean got his charm from.

And his height and his good nature and probably every redeemable quality.

But this wasn’t the time to find fault with Dean’s family. Not that Rory knew exactly what time it was, because waiting in the hospital after a freak hockey accident wasn’t any kind of time at all.

She swallowed, finally feeling brave enough to speak. “Did they tell you what happened?” she asked, speaking low and keeping a keen eye on May who was pacing at the outskirt of the room.

Randy took a breath, stroking Clara’s hair. “Weren’t you there?”

“Well, yeah,” Rory said. “But I mean, I don’t know anything about hockey.”

“And there were a lot of people in a pile,” her mother added, somewhat helpfully.

Randy nodded faintly. “Dean took a skate to the neck,” he murmured in a low voice. “It was an accident, I’d guess. Bad luck or the best.”

Rory furrowed her brow. “How is that good luck?”

Randy pointed to his own neck. “Blades are sharp. There’s been a few cases where a skate can cut right through the carotid and the person can bleed out in minutes.”

Rory paled.

Shrugging, Randy continued. “But Dean didn’t get cut quite that bad,” he said, pausing to tighten his grip reflexively on Clara. “They told us it just nicked the major artery. It could have been a lot worse.”

“Oh,” Rory said, the word stiff and pointless on her tongue. She thought about trying to say something else, but nothing came to mind. She could only think about the blood on the ice and how pale Dean had been. He was the one who’d said it; that things were going to be okay.

She didn’t even know what that meant. She didn’t even know what she was doing. She was playing the good girlfriend, going to hockey games and sitting in waiting rooms, but what was that really? What was she?

Maybe she shouldn’t have been there at all or maybe she should have been there all along. Dean made so much sense in her world, but fitting into his…

Randy hummed a littled. “He really cares about you, you know.”

Rory blinked. “What?”

“Dean,” Randy said, inclining his head. “Dean really cares about you. I don’t know if he’s old enough to know what love is yet, but the way he looks at you is something I haven’t seen before. You’re good for him.”

Rory’s cheeks reddened. Her mother reached over, squeezing her hand. She’d never thought about it like that -- from Dean’s point of view.

“It was the first time I’d gone to one of his hockey games,” she blurted, almost guiltily.

Randy raised his eyebrows in a familiar and rueful way. “I know.”

Rory clamped her mouth shut for a second, feeling embarrassed. “I should have gone earlier.”

Randy chuckled. “Better late than never.”

-o-

The doctor called Dean’s family back, leaving Rory awkwardly in limbo. She knew Dean was alive because the invitation to his parents had been to see him and talk to him, which Rory could only figure was a good sign.

“It’s a good sign, right?” Rory asked, too aware of how needy she sounded because it was only a fraction of how needy she felt.

“Um, yes,” her mother said. “Generally doctors don’t lie about patients being alive when they’re, you know, not.”

“So Dean is--”

“Alive,” her mother supplied.

“Okay?” Rory asked.

“Well, okay is probably relative,” her mother said.

“You’re not helping!”

“I don’t know!” her mother protested. “I’m not really on my game. I don’t like blood and I don’t like hospitals, and I’m in a hospital and I saw a lot of blood!”

Rory glared.

Her mother gave her most exasperated sigh. “You know, you being in a relationship is exhausting.”

“Try living it!”

“I am!”

“You’re impossible!”

“I’m impossible? But you--”

Her mother stopped short, and Rory took just a second to realize why. Because they weren’t alone anymore, not that they ever had been in a public waiting room, but the new arrivals were looking at her. She recognized some of them vaguely, but she had the growing suspicion that she should know them better, that she should figure it out--

“Hey, Rory, right?” one asked.

Rory nodded vaguely, looking from the first boy to the next to the next to the next.

“Dean’s told us about you,” he said. He nodded to the other guys.

Rory’s mouth opened, but then shut. “He, um,” she tried to say. “You guys are hard to recognize without, you know, your gear on. You look short.”

The guy frowned.

“The pads,” her mother interjected. “They add ten pounds.”

He tilted his head.

Rory shook her head, blushing furiously. “His parents just went to go check on him,” she said.

“Oh, so he’s okay?” the guy asked.

“I, um,” Rory said. “Hope so?”

“Well, we didn’t want to wait at the rink,” he said, nodding back to his teammates. “Dean would be here for us. Mind if we wait with you?”

“Uh,” Rory said as the started to sit in the nearby chairs. “That sounds good.”

“Great,” her mother said with a warm smile, nudging Rory just slightly. “That sounds great.”

-o-

It was a little weird, all things considered. Rory had never been popular, and most of these students had all but ignored her during her stint at Stars Hollow High. Even now, she didn’t fit in. They didn’t get her jokes, and she didn’t find them particularly interesting to be around.

But they were nice to her.

And they cared about Dean.

They talked about how well he played hockey; they talked about what kind of teammate he was. They talked about how he offered people a ride home or stayed after practice to run a few more drills when someone wanted extra help. He was the first guy to help out, and he was the best guy to have around when things were hard. He was funny; he was smart; he was good.

As they told another rousing story about a hockey victory Rory couldn’t understand, her mother leaned close to her. “Sounds like you’ve got a good one.”

Rory leaned back, smiling. “Nah,” she said. “I’ve got a great one.”

-o-

After another hour, Dean’s mother came back out. There were long explanations and lots of hugs, and the teammate cheered as if they actually had something to do with it. As it was, Dean was going to be fine. He’d had a lot of stitches, and they’d transfused him with some blood, but barring anything unexpected, his prognosis was good.

Really, it was great.

Someone asked if they could see him, and Rory was more than a little surprised when May looked right at her.

“He was asking for Rory,” she said. Her look was guarded and careful, as if she wasn’t sure how she felt about that.

Truth be told, Rory wasn’t sure how she felt about it either. She was used to being the center of her mother’s world -- and her grandparents. That safe, insulated space had always been all she needed.

To be part of Dean’s -- well, she was finally beginning to realize that it was more than first dates and cake. It was hockey and family and teammates and friends.

It was this.

Part of her thought she wasn’t ready.

The rest of her, though, just thought of Dean.

Standing up, she smiled. “Then let’s go.”

-o-

When they got to the room, May lingered. Randy came out with Clara in tow. They all offered her one last fleeting look before Randy ducked his head and asked Clara if she wanted a snack.

As they walked off, May paused, taking Rory by the arm. “Boys can be stupid, dear,” she said.

Rory wasn’t quite sure what to say to that. “Dean’s not stupid.”

“For you,” she said with a nod. “He might just be.”

“Um. Sorry?”

May sighed. “Just remember that it’s a two-way street,” she said. “If you can’t give as much as you take--”

“Mrs. Forester,” Rory interrupted, lifting her chin a little. “I care about Dean. A lot. That’s why I’m here.”

Slowly, May nodded. “Yes,” she murmured. “I suppose you are.” She gave Rory another appraising look. “Well, dear. I’ll be just down the hall.”

It might have been a promise.

It sounded like a warning.

Rory turned and went inside.

-o-

Inside, it was a little overwhelming. Rory didn’t have much experience with hospitals. They looked so much more palatable on TV, when there were attractive doctors and nurses conversing in corners about their love lives.

Though, come to think of it, that wouldn’t be reassuring at all in real life.

Despite herself, Rory looked straight at the corner to see if there was some mischief afoot but it was empty. The room, instead, was pretty barren with some machines and uncomfortable furniture and--

Dean.

His face brightened when he saw her, a smile spreading across it almost instantly. “Hey!”

Rory couldn’t help but smile back. “Hey,” she replied.

He looked like he wanted to get up to greet her, but considering that he was wearing a hospital gown and was hooked up to multiple IVs and monitors, that was probably a bad idea. Instead, Rory inched inside until she was closer to his bed.

“You came,” he said, sounding far too happy.

“So did you,” she said awkwardly. “But you probably didn’t have much choice.”

Dean nodded with sudden seriousness. “They’ve been great,” he said. “Hey, did you know I have stitches in my neck?”

Rory nodded. “Probably better than an ice skate.”

Dean laughed. “I also have some pretty awesome drugs in the IV.”

“Ah,” Rory said.

“They’re making me pretty happy,” he said. “But seriously, not as happy as you do.”

“Well, all things considered, I think we can chalk this one up to the good drugs,” Rory commented.

Dean nodded. “Yeah, maybe,” he said, and then he grew quiet.

Rory shifted from foot to foot, trying to remember why this had seemed like such a good idea. Bedside vigils always looked so natural on TV. In real life, she was finding it hard to find something to talk about.

People were supposed to declare their undying love; they were supposed to reassure each other how much their relationship meant. They were supposed to say significant things, borne of soul searching and introspection.

Instead, Rory said, “Have you had any Jello yet?”

Dean cocked his head, the bulky bandage on his neck crinkling.

“Don’t they serve Jello in hospitals?” she asked.

“I’ve never been in the hospital before,” Dean admitted.

“So you don’t make a habit of it,” Rory said. “That’s good. That’s good to know.”

Dean frowned. “Yeah,” he said. “About that--”

“I mean, you shouldn’t make an exception for me,” she rambled. “Or Jello. Because you can just buy the box--”

“I’m sorry.”

“--and make it yourself,” Rory continued. Then stopped. “What?”

“I’m sorry,” Dean said again, quite serious again.

Rory drew her eyebrows together. “This wasn’t your fault.”

“I invited you to a hockey game,” he said. “And look at us.”

“It wasn’t so bad,” Rory said.

“I got sliced in the neck and we ended up in the hospital,” Dean said. “You’ll never want to come to another game, now.”

Rory cringed guiltily. Dean had almost died and he wasn’t worried about that. He was worried that Rory hadn’t had a good time. That Rory wouldn’t come to any other events he enjoyed. He was worried that this relationship was a one-way street.

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Rory said.

Dean lifted his eyebrows.

Rory shrugged. “I mean, accidents can happen anywhere.”

“At book fairs?”

“Paper cuts,” Rory supplied readily.

“Your house on a Friday night?” Dean ventured.

“Oh, that’s even worse,” Rory assured him. “Freak electrical outlet accidents. Accidents with motorized bikes.”

“Motorized bikes?”

“I don’t know!” Rory said. “Crazy things happen around Gilmores. In fact, it’s probably my fault that this happened to you. One hockey game, and you nearly die. I’m cursed!”

Dean grinned. “That’s a chance I’m willing to take.”

“See,” Rory said, feeling more enthusiastic now. In fact, she was feeling pretty good even though she was in a hospital after seeing her boyfriend nearly bleed out at a hockey game. “Then hockey is a chance I’m willing to take.”

Dean’s eyes brightened. “That sounds good,” he said.

“No,” Rory disagreed with a proud tilt of her head. “I think it sounds great.”

It was probably no surprise, of course, that Dean didn’t disagree.

Comments

Posted by: medusafox (medusafox)
Posted at: January 8th, 2014 12:41 pm (UTC)

Great story. I love your Gilmore Girls tales of Dean. I miss them.

Happy Birthday SendintheKlowns, this is a great birthday present for you to get. I'm jealous!

Posted by: sendintheclowns (sendintheklowns)
Posted at: January 8th, 2014 12:56 pm (UTC)
dean/lorelai/window

Faye spoils me. A lot. I have a weakness for cute!Dean.

Thank you for the birthday wishes :D

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: February 9th, 2014 03:48 am (UTC)
dean rory i love you

I'm so far behind. But sometimes I pine for Dean, too :)

Thanks!

Posted by: sendintheclowns (sendintheklowns)
Posted at: January 8th, 2014 12:55 pm (UTC)
cute dean says hi

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I've only just started this and now I have to go to work. *pout* But cute!Dean fic has totally made my day.

You're the best.

*hugs*

Posted by: gidgetgal9 (gidgetgal9)
Posted at: January 9th, 2014 03:29 am (UTC)

I hope you had a great birthday sendintheklowns- what a fun fic, Faye worked up for you. Fun read! :)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: February 9th, 2014 03:48 am (UTC)
dean/rory never let go

I can't believe I'm this far behind. But I'm glad you had a good birthday!

Posted by: harrigan (harrigan)
Posted at: January 8th, 2014 03:40 pm (UTC)

Yay! I miss early Dean 'n Rory! Thanks for sharing!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: February 9th, 2014 03:49 am (UTC)
dean/rory never let go

They were so cute in the early seasons.

Thanks :)

Posted by: sendintheclowns (sendintheklowns)
Posted at: January 9th, 2014 02:34 am (UTC)
bopit

*happy sigh*

Hockey. Rory and Lorelai clueless about hockey. Blood. Cute!Dean.

Thank you so much :D

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: February 9th, 2014 03:49 am (UTC)
cute!dean water bottle

A little blood is usually fun in fic :)

Anything for you!

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