Title: Leading Moments

Author: Jade Hunter

Disclaimer: None of the characters and properties of Gilmore Girls belong to me.

A.N: This doesn't take place in the same universe as any of my other C/L fics. Not even remotely.

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When he first met her, they were both five.

She was a tiny angel, with pixie-like features and dark curls (this was after she had grown into her infamous head). Her once pristine dress had been a mess, expensive lace torn from the hem, dirt and mud smudged on the pink ribbons, all accompanied by a satisfied smile on her face. He knew, the moment he saw her, that she was special.

"One day, I'm going to marry her," he confided to no one in particular.

Then, he promptly ran over to her side of the sandbox, smashed her sandcastle, kicked the leftover sand on her, and started a rumor about her having cooties. She stuck her tongue out at him and cried buckets of tears.

When he first talked to her, they were nine.

The tiny angel had grown slightly, but hadn't changed all that much. She still possessed the same pixie-like features, the same scorn for anything dresses and finery.

"I'm going to marry her one day," he said again to that particular no one.

Then he insulted her manners and her clothes, and stubbornly refused to apologize, even when his parents had threatened him with the dreaded 'no new toy for a month' ploy. She tried valiantly to kick him, dress and all, and cried just a little bit.

When he first became her friend, they were both twelve.

The angel was slowly fading away, being replaced by a she-devil that wore an angel's clothing. She was still cute, with pert nose and wide eyes and the beginnings of a mischievous smile.

"I'm going to marry her, when we're both a little more grown up," he promised the air.

Then he made fun of her looks, comparing her to some of the other girls at school and loudly finding her lacking. She slapped him, hard, but didn't cry this time, not even a little, only a bit of tears that she stubbornly blinked away, and he apologized by buying her some coffee flavored ice cream and was forgiven.

When he first dated her, they were fourteen.

The she-devil was firmly in place, then, the angel nothing more than a fond memory, but not a too fond one, because he had a kindred devil inside him, his own angel fa├žade a long gone act. She was pretty now, beautiful almost, with the same pert nose and wide eyes, and a snarky comment ready behind a deceptively innocent twist of lips.

"I'm going to marry her as soon as I can," he told his friends, who never took him seriously.

Then he teased her about anything and everything, and took her in his arms in a hug, because he could never say to her the things he could say to the air, to his friends. She just smiled and hugged him back, because she knew him better than even he knew himself sometimes, and he gave her a kiss.

When he first asked her to marry him, they were almost seventeen.

The devil inside both of them was gone, replaced by something better, something in between the devil and the angel. She was more comfortable with it, because she had a tiny bundle in her arms that hard the same pert nose and a tuft of the same dark hair. It was only in the eyes and mouth that the tiny bundle resembled him, but it was an awe-inspiring thing that made him stare.

"I guess we'd better get married now," he said to her, and for once, she didn't understand him.

Then he held the baby sometimes and tried to get her to change her mind, but she was stubborn, had always been that way. She just shook her head and sighed, trying to explain it to him, but he hadn't understood, hadn't wanted to understand at all.

When he asked her to marry him again, they were eighteen.

She was natural with the baby, a lot more than he had ever been, but that was because she spent more time with her. They both still had the same nose, the same chin, the same everything except the eyes and the mouth (and the initial head size).

"I want to marry you," he told her, silently pleading with her to say yes, crushed when she refused once more.

Then he packed his things, ignored the screaming of his parents, and left town as soon as graduation was over. He didn't care about college anymore; he had only even finished high school and entertained the idea of a university only for the sake of her and the baby. He didn't say goodbye, and when he called her from the middle of nowhere, she screamed at him and cried more than she had in years.

When he asked her the third time, they were twenty-three.

She was older now, undeniably beautiful, her snarky comments ever present. The baby was older, too, and already so intelligent and studious. He didn't know where she got that from; neither of them had ever been like that, but maybe that was a good thing. He didn't know that, either.

"Let's get married," he had proposed, laying down next to her, half-expecting to be refused; he hadn't been wrong.

Then he had shaken the disappointment off, teased her like he used to do before he left, made fun of her job as a maid, admired how she handled being a single parent and how she had simply left her parents, cut all ties. She smiled, pretended to be irritated, was embarrassed, and said that he was the one who broke off from their former society first, just like he had always wanted, but the one thing he had ever really wanted was her, only she didn't know that.

When he asked her to marry him for the last time, they were thirty-six.

Still beautiful, she had been confident and content all at once, all without him. The baby, no longer a baby now, of course, but a beautiful teenager who was too much like them for comfort and yet so little like them that it was baffling.

"Marry me," he said out of the blue, caught up in being with her again, just like it used to be, and the answer was the same from back then, too.

Then he smiled, pretended everything was all right, and sped back to whatever life that awaited him away from his girls, because she didn't seem to want him at all, and he still didn't understand that, even as he knew her better than she knew herself.

When he realized that it was over, they were almost thirty-eight.

More beautiful than ever, yet she was still the same girl he had known from so long ago, only, for the first time in his life, he yelled at her. She yelled back, of course, never one to take anything standing still, and he was put in his place, not by her, but by their daughter, who had never been more like them.

"Try," he had said, and that had worked, but something else had gone wrong, and it wasn't her doing this time, but his, and they all knew it.

Then he had gotten back on his bike, roared all the way back to Boston, face frozen in anger until he got home to Sherry and realized what had happened. He was bound to another now, and no matter how many times they saw each other, he could never ask her again, and she would never again think of saying yes.

Then he knew that it was real, that nothing could be taken back, that nothing would ever be the same between them after all these years, and he remembered that she had cried buckets of tears, and he cried, too, because it was all over now.

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FIN.