AN: Written for the TWoP Gilmore Girls Summer Ficathon Soundtrack Challenge, based on the lyrics of "Girl from Mars," by Ash. Many thanks to Kristi and all things holy for their fabulous beta talents. If you haven't checked out the ficathon, head on over. As always, feedback is much appreciated.
Disclaimer, a haiku:
Would that they were mine;
Sherman-Palladino, A
Gets all the credit.

The Girl From Mars
by Lula Bo

The breeze blowing softly on my face
Reminds me of something else
Something that in my memory has been replaced
Suddenly it all comes back.

The dream, he thinks, was really all her fault. Proposing had been the farthest thing from his mind. He hadn't thought of marriage and Nicole in the same sentence until Lorelai brought it up. And then, he thinks, he went and had the damned dream. Though he's never put a whole lot of stock in dreams—what his brain does on its downtime has never had anything to do with the way he spends his waking hours—he can't forget the dream, which means he also can't forget her.

It isn't the first time she's put him in an uncomfortable, alien situation. Since he first met her, she's interrupted his staid existence with more incidents edging on the bizarre than not. Stars Hollow adopted her when she came, recognizing her as one of its own, but he's always thought her unique brand of crazy is beyond the typical town eccentricities. They're all living on Jupiter, he's often thought, and she's the girl from Mars.

She's been with him from the moment he stepped foot on the cruise ship; he hasn't been able to shake her presence. But Nicole has been nothing but good to him since they left. He didn't tell her he'd never been on a plane before; she pretended not to notice his nerves. He won't admit it's taken him so long to get his sea legs; she tells him the food is probably too rich for him, that's why he's been ill. It's nice of her to pretend, he thinks, and when she asks how he's doing, she's sincere, she's worried. And all he can do is think about the woman who's not here.

He knows she's not really the one that got away. In order for her to be the one that got away, she'd technically have to have been his at some point. But, he thinks, she's still the one that's always held him back. Even if she hasn't meant to—hell, she'd told him to go on the damned cruise in the first place—it's what she's done. Just being Lorelai, being the Martian, she's made their friendship something different than any kind he's ever known or heard of—it's more than friendship even when it's not. Her alien ways have gotten him turned around so much he's walking sideways.

He wonders if it was wrong to come with Nicole, if she's more serious about this thing between them than he is. He's not good at reading these kinds of situations, never has been. When Rachel left, the first time, the shock he felt was so much more than shock, so much more than pain or heartbreak or whatever other damned cliché you'd call it. He'd seen the restlessness in her eyes, her very movements, but it was nothing new. He hadn't seen—he can't think of what he hadn't seen, because he didn't see it. All he knows is that one day he was happy holding her, content with his life, and then the day after that, she couldn't be with him anymore and he was alone and his life was shit and he hadn't had time to prepare. He hadn't seen the reason for her leaving the second time, either, hadn't seen that the problem was his.

When he thinks of Rachel now—and he won't admit that he does—he thinks of the things he could have spared himself, spared her later, if he'd known what to pay attention to. If he could have seen the pity in her eyes, the distance, the longing to be somewhere else, it wouldn't have knocked him off his feet so badly. And if he'd known she'd see something else in his eyes besides the distrust, something akin to her need to be anywhere but there, they'd both have been better off. He wants to be cautious, now, look for the right things, maybe protect himself, be fair to Nicole.

He knows he loved Rachel. Rachel was—there weren't words for Rachel when he was with her, but he knows the words now. Rachel was earthy; she was solid. She fit just right under his arm. She had the craziest hair imaginable when she woke in the mornings and a dimple that hung just so on her cheek. Rachel smelled like rain.

But Rachel isn't the one that got away, mostly because he let her go. Mostly because when she came back, he somehow realized he'd moved on. She'd become something else to him during the time she'd been gone—she was a photograph, a leaf pressed between the pages of a book. Maybe he still loved her, but it didn't mean he needed her. The memory did just fine.

But memory is what's messing with him now, that and the goddamned dream. He can't turn it off. He can't forget the happy, secret smile he'd imagined on her face as she slipped away. He can't stop feeling the confused, elated panic he'd felt for a fraction of a second when he woke. Like everything else Lorelai had brought into his life, it was a foreign sensation, both irritating and welcome and more irritating for the fact that it was welcome.

When he thinks of Lorelai—and he can't deny that he does—he thinks of the possibility her alien spirit carries with it. It's possibility that's not just missed opportunities, not just tentative, unsaid, dangerous hope. She gives the air a charge. Wherever she goes, she leaves him in her wake feeling that things are happening and will happen. It's part of her other- worldliness: everything in this place is new to her, the promise of something surprising.

There was a time he didn't have words for Rachel, but there are nothing but words where Lorelai is concerned. There's nothing earthy about her, nothing solid—she's all fire and air, something fallen from the stars. She's a will- o'-the-wisp, the one thing he feared when he was small, before he knew better: she's the light in the woods, tempting travelers off their path, bewildering them beyond their knowledge. She smells like sugar.

The sun has set, sunk into the ocean in a very disconcerting way, he thinks. The water is a sheen of colors, a pearly palate of greens and golds and blues, waves that wink and seem to smile. Above, the sky is a bruised pink and purple, mottled and overcast. The colors are Lorelai, the blurred horizon, a confusion of water and sky together, is Lorelai—this must be the landscape that brought her to this world, this must be where she belongs. That's a place beyond, a place no one can ever reach; she carries it with her, fairly exudes it from her skin.

He wants to shake himself. Thinking of Rachel doesn't hurt, it's not a betrayal. Thoughts of Rachel belong to him, and he finds them when he's not expecting to, like you'd find a ticket stub in the pocket of a jacket you haven't worn in a year. Finding it brings you back, makes you smile even if the movie sucked because the ticket stub's still there, it's a piece of a time before. Thoughts of Lorelai aren't like that—they're not discovered, they're just always there. They're a manufacturer's defect in your favorite pair of jeans that you wear every day, something you didn't notice until you'd already worn them in and you can't take them back, don't want to because now they're yours. He's afraid it's written on his face, somehow, that Nicole will see.

She's beside him, leaning forward on the railing, quiet. He hates himself for not seeing her out in the ocean, for not thinking she's somehow descended from the stars. He doesn't deserve the way she tilts her face towards him, the smile just brightening her face. He doesn't know if she's falling for him, and he wishes she wouldn't—he doesn't deserve that either. She's a good person, and he likes her, respects her, enjoys being with her for all the reasons she's not Lorelai. She's wonderfully earth-bound, she's black and white, she's nothing so ephemeral as fire and air and she's never going to leave a trail of disaster behind her, crashing through the atmosphere and gouging a crater in other people's lives that they won't ever be able to fill. She smells the way a woman should, like shampoo and perfume and linen.

He feels sick, and not just from the slight rocking of the ship or even the food, but because he's done something he can't take back: he's come on this trip with someone who trusts him. It's a trust he doesn't have any right to. He starts slightly when Nicole touches him, reaches out and puts her hand on his arm. He can't meet her eye.



She wraps her arms about him. He tries not to stiffen, to pull away; he tries to relax. He looks up. There are patches of sky slightly clear, stars visible between the clouds.

"This is nice."

"It's very nice," he tells her.

He doesn't want to think about the dream, and for a moment, he thinks maybe he's not. Maybe he's right there. But as he looks to the stars, the dying light, the colors on the water, he can't help but sigh. He doesn't want to be thinking of Lorelai. He doesn't want to think about whether she's thinking of him. He doesn't want to think about whether or not he hopes she's thinking of him. He knows he could spin it out forever, the things he doesn't want to think about and the things he doesn't want to admit he's thinking about.

She may have left him in the dream, but he knows she's not the one that got away. He knows he's followed her, like one of those gullible travelers entranced by the fairy light. He's stepped off the path he's used to and he doesn't know where he is. With his arm around Nicole and his eyes closed, he tries to feel his way back, but he knows he's a lost cause. Even if he tethers himself to the woman beside him, they're both just standing at the crash site.

He thinks maybe, in spite of everything, Lorelai's extraterrestrial ways were somehow necessary to the carefully constructed universe he lived in before she came. She may have been an alien invader in his world once, a girl from Mars, but she's somehow changed the terrain, altered the quality of the air. Now he's the one in foreign territory, living in a world that's hers.

Nicole shivers, leans closer to him, so he puts his arm around her shoulders. Being earthbound, he thinks, isn't a bad thing; it's better, it's something to hold onto. And if he doesn't look up, doesn't look to the stars, he won't see her anymore, the girl from Mars who's too much color, too bright to look at directly, too hot to touch. If he doesn't look to the stars, he can keep his eyes focused on what's beside him, what's firmly grounded and visible and reaching out for him.

But the stars will always be there and there are moments he can't help but look up.