AN: This was written in response to the TWoP Ficathon Cocktail Challenge, based on the cocktail the mind eraser. As always, many thanks to my beta all things holy for just generally rocking as she does.
Summary: A little vodka, a little kalhua, a little tonic water, and a straw help make Rory's twenty-first a birthday she won't forget -- for the most part.

Last Night and the Morning After

There is a tiny gnome with a tiny mallet residing in Rory's left temple, performing construction. His family of other tiny gnomes plays hopscotch along her forehead, just over her eyes, and behind each eye is a tiny gnome woman, turning meat on spits over fires. There are gremlins somersaulting in her stomach. She raises her hand and pinches the bridge of her nose, squeezes her eyes tightly for a moment, preparing to open them if they'll cooperate. When at last they do, she wishes immediately they hadn't: the glare of sunshine against her wall seems to offend the gnomes and they jump all the more forcefully along the inside of her skull. She groans, raises herself up onto her elbow.

It takes her a moment to get her bearings. She's rolled into the wall in her sleep and so, staring at the white expanse above her, she can't quite remember where she is. She tries to roll over, face out; she's met with resistance, something soft and firm beside her. With difficulty—not only because the gnomes are screaming in protest and the gremlins poking her with sharp sticks, but because her limbs are dead weight, too heavy to lift—she flips herself over. Dorm room, she thinks. She rubs her eyes, struggles into a sitting position. Dorm room window, desk, bookshelf, bed. She looks down at herself, still in her clothes from last night, her tee shirt on inside out and her skirt askew. She looks to her right and inhales sharply.

"Holy shit!"

Suddenly she finds herself able to move, able to scramble off the bed and head for the door. She steps into the common room of the suite—Nina and Jillian's doors are open, but neither is in her room; Paris's door is ajar. Rory tiptoes towards it, pushes it slightly open.

"Paris?" she says, her voice a stage whisper. "Paris, are you awake?"

Rory peeks around the doorjamb: Paris's bed is made, her books stacked neatly on her desk. She sighs and rests her cheek against the wall, trying to gather her strength before journeying back to her own room. She's still standing there when the door to the suite opens several moments later.

"Hey, look who's up."

Still supporting herself against the wall, Rory turns herself around. Paris follows Lane into the suite, her hands full with a carton of coffee cups. Lane carries a paper bag in one arm, and they both have such knowing smiles on their faces that Rory knows she's never going to hear the end of it, whatever it is. She pushes herself to stand upright and meets them at the couch in the middle of the room. Lane sits down, opens her bag, and Paris drops beside her and hands Rory a coffee cup.

She takes it, handling it carefully as she fumbles with the plastic cover. She can feel them watching her and without looking knows they're grinning more broadly now, highly amused by the situation and waiting for her to speak. She clears her throat, stares into her coffee a few seconds before she can raise her head and look at either of them. She flushes scarlet, unable to find her voice a moment. She closes her eyes, takes a breath, opens them, and clears her throat.

"So, there's a guy in my bed," Rory says.

Lane nods. "Oh, we know."

"Okay," Rory says slowly. "Can someone tell me what Graham Sullivan is doing in my bed?"

"Probably sleeping," Paris tells her. "Here. We got him a coffee, too."

"Are you kidding me?" she squeaks. "How did Graham Sullivan get into my bed?"

Lane furrows her brow. "You really don't remember?" She looks at Paris. "Man, that drink really lives up to its name."

"What drink?" Rory demands, her voice three octaves higher than its usual pitch. "What drink?"

"The mind eraser," Paris tells her. "And you had a couple. Quick, what's the capital of Zimbabwe?"

Rory closes her eyes tightly and shakes her head. She quickly discovers this is not the best idea, stumbling slightly where she stands. "I have no idea what the capital of Zimbabwe is! And I still have no idea what Graham Sullivan is doing in my bed or how he got there!"

"He came home with us last night after we left the bar," Lane says, "and you invited him to your room. That was the last we saw you, if you don't count the three AM bathroom trip."

"That was some good vomiting," Paris tells her. "But in the future, you might want to lay off the nachos before drinking."

Rory covers her face with her hand. "Oh, my God." She peers at them through her fingers. "Three AM vomiting?"

"We took care of you," Lane says. "We were afraid you were going to fall asleep in the stall if we didn't follow you."

She closes her fingers. "I can't believe this. I don't remember any of this."

"What's the last thing you do remember?" Paris asks.

Rory drops her hand and takes a quick shot of coffee, grimacing as she does. She stares at the floor a moment. She has a vague image of the bar, of shot glasses. She looks up at her friends. "We went to the bar, we were drinking, we ran into Graham, we did a shot together, and I think after that there was a game of Asshole, right?"

"And that's it?"

"That's pretty much it," Rory says. "What's in the bag?"

"Bagels," Lane says. "Want?"

Rory makes a face. "No. Very much no." She takes another gulp of coffee, burns her tongue. "Fill in the details for me, will you?"

"Don't you want to go wake up Graham?" Lane asks.

"I'm not going in there and I'm certainly not waking him up until I have some idea of how he got there in the first place. He's out cold, anyway," Rory says. "I cannot even believe this. Graham Sullivan. In my bed. In my bed. Graham Sullivan in my bed!"

"Well, shut up or you're going to wake him up and he won't be in your bed anymore, he'll be out here," Paris says. "You want to know what happened last night, Marilyn, or not?"

"Tell me."

Rory's twenty-first birthday began the way all of her other Yale-based birthdays had: a four AM phone call from Lorelai to recount the story of her birth. She'd gone back to sleep until her alarm went off for her nine-thirty class, and at noon she'd met her mother for a birthday lunch; Emily called her at two, while Rory was on her way to the newspaper, and promised an extra special Friday night dinner the following day, passing on a birthday greeting from Richard as well. She put in a few hours at the paper, went back to her room, and took a nap. Lane arrived at six and the next hour and a half were spent primping and preening before she and Lane and all of her suitemates piled into a car and headed out for a grease-filled dinner with Rory's first legal drinks.

They gave her a tiara and a small pile of silly presents, plied her with margaritas, and wouldn't let her pay for her part of the bill. She'd hesitated when Nina told her they were going to the bar, but Nina wouldn't hear it. She slipped her arm in Rory's as they walked to the car.

"Rory, it's your twenty-first birthday. You have to get fucked up. In fact, that is the slogan for the evening—our motto will be 'Fuck Rory Up.' So let's go get you fucked up."

"I don't want to get fucked up," Rory said, already feeling slightly unsteady on her feet.

Jillian rolled her eyes and took Rory's other arm. "Rory, if we have to open your mouth and pour the liquor down your throat ourselves, we're going to get you good and fucked up. This is an important ritual, and you must partake."

Rory looked over her shoulder at Lane and Paris. "Must I really partake?"

"Hey, I don't make the rules," Lane said, "I just follow them."

"And as the perennial designated driver," Paris added, "I demand that you have my share of the drinks. It's only fair."

"How is that fair?" Rory whined.

Jillian and Nina looked at each other over Rory's shoulders. "Fuck Rory up," they said in unison. "Fuck her up!"

When she gave her ID to the guy at the door, he'd smiled at her indulgently. "Someone's legal," he said, handing it back to her. "Happy birthday."

"Thanks," she said, tucking the ID into her back pocket. "Apparently, I have to get fucked up."

Nina leaned forward. "She so needs to get fucked up. Right?"

He nodded sagely. "Have fun," he said. "Get fucked up."

Nina and Jillian propelled her towards the bar. "Rory, you might as well give up," Jillian told her. "You're going to get fucked up."

"Seriously, you have to," Nina said. "It's, like, the law that you get fucked up on your twenty-first."

Rory turned to Paris as Nina ordered a round of rum and Cokes. "When did they make that a law?" she asked.

"Probably the same day they put bootylicious into the OED," Paris replied.

Nina shoved a drink at Rory. "Here. The carbonation helps you get drunk faster." Rory looked at her doubtfully. "It's a Coke, Rory. But better. And we're on a mission, so drink up."

"Nina, you do realize that you're vaguely frightening sometimes," Rory said.

"It's my calling card," Nina said. She raised her glass. "To Rory on her birthday."

The girls all clinked and Rory sipped her drink. They stood in a tight knot beside the bar, talking and laughing as they drank. Paris commandeered them a table by the dartboard and she was throwing bull's eyes with strange and deadly accuracy.

"Paris, this is a whole new side of you," Rory said.

"I had a target on my bedroom door at home with rotating pictures of political figures at the center. It was soothing," she said.

Rory only nodded. She finished her drink quickly, not quite tasting the alcohol. Jillian laughed and pointed, shaking her head. She told Rory she was a natural: she'd downed her drink faster than anyone else. Rory shrugged apologetically, but the other girls quickly polished off their drinks and pulled her towards the bar again.

"Okay, Rory, we're going to do a shot."

"I'm terrible at shots, Nina," Rory said.

"You drink this one through a straw," Nina said. "Lane, you want?" She motioned to the bartender. "Four mind erasers."

"Mind erasers?" Rory asked, eyeing her friend warily.

"They're fantastic," Jillian said. "A little vodka, a little kaluha, tonic water—it's so good you only taste it after you've already finished it."

The bartender dropped the straws in the glasses for them and winked at Rory. The mind erasers were bigger than any shots she'd ever seen, almost the size of regular drinks, with the liquor visibly layered in the glasses. She did as she was told and tried to drink the whole thing in one long gulp, drawing it through the straw as fast as she could. She gasped when she was done, her eyes watering slightly.

"It tastes like bubbles!" she cried. "Like bubbles! I didn't even know bubbles could have a taste." She peered into the bottom of her class as though looking for the bubbles.

"Good, huh?" Jillian asked. "Another rum and Coke?" She leaned forward and spoke to the bartender, and as she turned back to her friends, a slow smile spread over her face. She pointed towards the far end of the bar. "Hey, Rory, isn't that the party stalker?"

Rory stopped staring into her glass and looked in the direction Jillian pointed. "Yeah, that's him. Graham," she drawled. Jillian handed her a fresh drink. "Reliable Graham, always where I am." She looked at Lane. "James Spader over there—he's always at the same parties I am, every single time I go out. And I don't go out that often, but when I do, there's Graham, doing Graham things, wearing pink shirts and doing that thing with his face that he does." She took a long drink of her rum and Coke.

Lane pinched her straw between two fingers and studied him through narrow eyes. "Remember Tristan?"

"From Chilton?" Rory asked. "What about him?"

"If he and Dean had a baby together, it would look like that," Lane said.

Rory closed her eyes and stuck her tongue out as far as she could. "Lane! That is the most repulsive thing ever in the history of ever! I didn't need that visual, and now it's permanently there in my brain."

Lane giggled. "Oh, crap, he sees us looking at him."

Rory turned her head and rolled her eyes. She could feel the alcohol in her arms, suddenly lighter, and in her center, loose and relaxed. The mind eraser kicked her squarely in the chest and movement took some concentration. "Okay, I gotta go say hi. It's part of the ritual. One of us goes over and says hello, and then the other one says something along the lines of 'fancy seeingyou here,' and then the other one fakes a laugh, and then we spend the whole party following each other around in one way or another."

"Gotta respect tradition," Lane said.

"I'll be right back," she said. She put a smile on as she crossed the bar towards where Graham was seated on a stool, drinking a beer. "Hey, there," she said.

"Rory, hi," Graham said. "This is a new venue for you."

"I like to stretch my horizons occasionally," she said. "And it's my birthday. Did you know it's a law that you have to get fucked up on your twenty-first?"

He laughed. "I did not know that. Looks like you're well on your way."

"Are you making fun of me?" she asked crossly. "It's totally not my fault."

He put up his hands as though defending himself. "I'm not making fun of you. I think it's great. You should get fucked up on your birthday."

"It's the slogan," she said, talking around her straw between sips. "Fuck Rory up."

"Why don't I help?" he asked. He waved to the bartender. "What do you think, Dave, she look like a Jaegermeister to you?"

Dave looked her up and down. "Looks like a slippery nipple to me," he said.

"I beg your pardon!" Rory said, nearly dropping her glass.

Graham put his hand on her arm. "It's a shot." To the bartender, he said, "A slippery nipple for the birthday girl, Jaeger for me. Thanks, Dave."

Rory giggled a little. "You know the bartender by name? Graham, is there something we should talk about?"

"He was in my history class last semester," Graham replied. He pushed the shot just placed before him at Rory. "Easy, don't throw back too fast, you'll get it all over yourself."

"I know how to do a shot," she said shortly. She reached for it and paused when Graham touched her wrist. He clinked his shot glass to hers and raised it slightly before bringing it to his lips. She followed suit and tossed the shot back, rather proud of herself she didn't spill. She smiled. "It tastes like licorice. That is so good. What's it called?"

"Slippery nipple."

"That is so dirty." She giggled again. "Dirty. My mom likes to say dirty. Hey, have you ever had a mind eraser? They taste like bubbles."

He shook his head, a bemused expression on his face. "Never had one of those before."

"I need a drink," Rory said. "What should I drink?"

"Another rum and Coke, how about?" Graham said, ordering for her.

"Graham, you are a nice boy," Rory said. "I was wrong about you."

"What's that?"

"I thought you were a jerk, but you know what? You don't suck so much. You're sorta even a slightly cool person," she said. "I am so sorry for misjudging you. Clearly, I was wrong."

Graham looked at her, smiling and shaking his head, laughing under his breath. "Well, it's big of you to admit it."

"I'm a very big person," she said. "Tall, but not fat. I'm not fat. Gilmores don't get fat."

"Lucky for you," he said. "I think your friends are calling you."

Rory looked over, saw Jillian waving to her. "We're gonna play Asshole," Jillian called. "Paris is dealing."

Rory nodded emphatically, once. "Graham, wanna play Asshole with us?" she asked.

He hesitated. "I don't know, I'm meeting some people, and—"

"Where are they?" Rory asked, looking around. "Are they here?"

"Not yet, but—"

Rory grabbed his hand in one of hers and her drink in the other and dragged him to his feet. "Good, then you can play Asshole. But watch out for Paris because she will take you out. And when I say take you out, I mean she will kill you with the beams from her eyes. She is a dangerous girl." They walked hand-in-hand to the table, Rory pulling Graham behind her. "Everyone, this is the party stalker and my friend Graham. He is going to play Asshole with us."

Nina pointed at her, her mouth open. "Getting Rory fucked up!" she crowed. "This is so much fun."

Rory dropped into a chair and motioned for Graham to sit beside her. "Graham, this is Lane. Lane thinks you look like the lovechild of my ex-boyfriend and this guy we knew in high school who was, like, the biggest asshat in the universe, but all the girls thought he was keen."

"Keen?" Graham asked.

"Yep. Okay, so Asshole, now, right?"

They played through a few hands, Rory often being commanded to drink when she made a mistake, Paris vigilant about the cards and easily calling out anyone bluffing. Jillian rose, wavering slightly on her feet, to order more drinks. Rory grabbed her hand.

"I want another one of those bubble drinks, okay?" she said. "And Graham does, too."

"I do?"

Rory turned to him and tried to look him in the eye. "You really do," she said. "I may be the Asshole, but it's my birthday and what I say goes. I have a tiara," she said, pointing, "so see?"

"Bubble drinks all around," Jillian said. "Be right back. No dealing yet."

After the second round of mind erasers and another few beers for Graham, another rum and Coke for Rory, the dynamic shifted from tipsy girl and amused on-looker to one of drunken collusion. Graham's friends failed to show until ten minutes to closing, at which point he and Rory were leaning against each other, arguing about who disliked the other more when they first met. Paris came to stand beside Rory as the fight neared its conclusion.

"Yes, you did," Graham said.

"Yeah? Well so's your face," Rory said.

"It is not."

"Is too." She turned her head. "Paris!" She put her arms out and hugged Paris's shoulders. "Paris, you know, you are the best. I love you." She looked up. "I really do. I love you."

"I'm delighted," Paris said flatly. "Come on, let's go. We have to get you home."

"No, let's stay," Rory said.

"We're not staying," Paris said, forcing Rory's coat over her shoulders. "Besides, last call was five minutes ago and it's starting to rain, so we better get out of here and on the road before the drunks get in their cars and try to kill us all."

Rory struggled into her coat, tipping her tiara to one side in the process. "Graham, you come, too," she said.

"There's no room," Paris said.

Jillian appeared behind her, laughing. "There's always room, Paris. Rory can sit in his lap."

"Jillian, I love you," Rory said. "And Nina, where's Nina? I love Nina, too."

Lane stumbled up, tapped Paris on the shoulder. "We're leaving, right?"

"Lane!" Rory cried. "I love Lane the most!"

"We have to get her out of here before she starts telling the furniture how much she loves it," Paris said. "Where is Nina?"

"Making out with that guy over there," Jillian said. "His name is Bernard. Like the dog."

Paris heaved a sigh and herded them towards the door. "I officially resign my post as den mother. The next time Carrie Bradshaw over there chooses to be social director, you are all on your own. I'm staying home," she said. "And I'm not holding anyone's hair when you puke. Which you all will do. Nina! Put your tongue back in your mouth and hustle, or we're leaving without you."

When they had wrangled Nina and located the car, they piled in just before it began to pour. Rory sat on the floor behind the passenger seat, her head on Graham's knee.

"I am so drunk," Nina said. "I am so drunk."

"I'm so drunk," Jillian said. "Like, wicked drunk."

"Like, awesome," Paris snapped.

The rain was still torrential when they arrived on campus. Paris pulled the car into the student lot as close to their dorm as possible, squeezing between two SUVs parked slightly off-center. After some careful maneuvering, all five girls and Graham stumbled out of the car and tried to run towards the building. Paris barreled on in front of them, bellowing at them as she went. Rory picked her way across the parking lot, focusing intensely on her feet as she went. After a few yards, Graham stopped so she could catch up. He bent low and offered to carry her on his back to the dorm.

"If you drop me, I'll kill you," Rory told him.

"You'd try," he retorted.

Nina and Jillian began peeling off their wet clothes in the common room, not bothering to wait until they had reached their bedrooms to pull their shirts over their heads or unzip their jeans. Rory followed Lane into her room and sat on the floor still wearing her wet jacket.

"I feel good," she said. "I like this birthday."

"Fun birthday," Lane agreed. "I've never been this drunk before. Have I?"

"Negatory," Rory said. She hiccupped. "You think my mom is up? I'm gonna call her, see if she's up."

"Rory, do not call Lorelai."

"But I wanna talk to her."

"Talk to her tomorrow."

"Okay, Lane, I will do that and not do it now—tomorrow is good too."

Rory sighed happily. She fell onto her back and stuck her feet in the air, toed off her shoes. She hugged herself and closed her eyes. "Oooh, spinning," she murmured. She sat up suddenly. "Graham," she said. She struggled to her feet and back to the common room. Graham was leaning against the windowsill, staring up through the closed window. "You're still here," she said.

"I'm still here," he said. "But I don't live here, so I should go back to where I live."

"It's raining out," Rory said. "You should not go back to where you live because then you will have to go out in the rain and that is bad. You will get wet. You can stay here." She looked him up and down. "You sure are wet."

He returned the once-over. "You're not," he said.

"I wore a jacket. Or else I'm water-repellent. Which would be cool," she said.

"Stop talking! You're gonna make me boot!" Nina called from her bedroom.

"Boot and rally, Neen! Boot and rally!" Jillian replied from hers.

"Would you all please shut up? Some of us have class in the morning and would appreciate the few precious hours of sleep still available!" Paris hollered. "Shut up, shut up, shut up!"

Lane emerged from Rory's room in her pajamas, yawning. "I'm-a watch TV," she said. "Rory?"

Rory shook her head sharply, causing the room to tilt slightly. She put out her hand and grabbed Graham's shoulder. "Oof," she grunted. "Graham, you're still wet. Come on, you come here and follow me and stop being wet." Again she took him by the hand and led him towards her room. She pushed him in ahead of her and leaned against the doorway. "Lane!" she called softly. "I do love you the most." She shut the door behind her.

"And until the three AM puking," Lane says, "we didn't see you."

Rory sighs. "So, that's, what, maybe an hour and a half unaccounted for?"

"Sounds about right," Lane says.

"Oh, my God," Rory breathes. "What time is it?"

"Almost eleven," Paris replies. "I had class at nine, came back here, Lane was up, so we went to get food."

"Nina and Jillian?"

"Managed to actually get themselves to class," Lane says, and just as she speaks the suite door swings open.

"Holy fucking shit," Nina says as she steps inside. "Was that the longest class in the history of mankind, or am I just still drunk?"

Jillian follows her in, drops her bag beside the door. "Both, I think. Hey, Rory. You're mobile."

"Barely," Rory says. "My body hates me right now."

Nina sinks to the floor, throws an arm over her forehead. "God, I feel like three different kinds of shit. I think I'd feel better if I'd puked like I thought I would."

Rory snorts slightly. "I did and I don't," she says.

Jillian picks through the bagel selection in the paper bag. "Hey, whatever happened to Graham last night? Anyone know if he made it home okay?"

"Oh, no, he didn't make it home," Paris says.

Nina lifts her head. "No!" she gasps. "He's not!"

"He is," Lane says.

Jillian looks from one face to another, her mouth opening in an O of surprise when she meets Rory's eyes. "He's still here? Rory! Scandalous!"

Rory reaches for the cup of coffee designated for her new roommate. "Let's hope not."

"She doesn't remember," Lane says.

"Shh!" Rory hisses, flapping her hands. "I'm gonna go wake him up."

Jillian tosses her half-eaten bagel back into the paper sack. "Let's go out, get some real food. I want hash browns," she says. "And bacon. What is it about hangovers that I always want grease?"

"Mmm," Nina murmurs. "Grease. Rory, go wake the party stalker and change so we can eat things that will make us fat."

She listens to her friends giggling and chatting as she treads softly to her bedroom door, pushes it open tentatively. She shields herself with the door as she looks in. Graham is still sleeping, flat on his stomach, one leg hanging off the bed. Rory winces to see that the only thing he's wearing besides her sheet is a pair of boxer shorts. She clears her throat, hoping the noise will startle him awake; it doesn't, and so she shuts the door forcefully behind her. When he still doesn't wake, she sighs and sets the coffee cups she holds on her desk and approaches the bed.

He's snoring softly and he seems rather inoffensive unconscious like this. She leans down and pokes him, hard, in the shoulder blade. He doesn't move.

"For crap's sake, Graham," she says.

He flinches at the second touch of her hand, starts awake when she pinches the back of his neck. He opens his eyes and immediately squeezes them shut again, groaning.

"Fuck me," he moans and drops his head to the mattress again. "Fucking shit."

Rory takes the coffee in hand and shoves it in front of his face. "Here," she says.

Graham struggles to sit up and takes the proffered coffee, his eyes still partially shut. "Thanks," he says. "What time is it?"

"Almost eleven," Rory says. "You don't have class today, do you?"

"Fuck no," he says. He pauses. "Sorry. Hangover. Makes me—"

"A big potty mouth," Rory says. "It's okay." She sits gingerly on the end of the bed and sips her own coffee. "So," she says.

"So," he echoes. "Where are my clothes?"

She points. "Radiator."

He eases himself out of bed and steps carefully towards the window for his clothes. Rory turns her back and pulls the covers up over her bed as he slides into his pants.



Rory swallows hard and looks at him over her shoulder. "What happened last night? Do you remember? Because I don't."

He runs a hand through his hair. "What part?"

"The part after we got back," she says. "It's just—it's gone." She rolls her eyes. "Guess that's why they call it a mind eraser."

"I guess," he says. "You don't remember anything?"

She shakes her head. "We didn't... anything, did we?" she asks.

Graham drops his eyes and reaches for his shirt. "Nah," he says. "We didn't anything."

Rory finds she's staring as he pulls his shirt on, turns away from him. She blushes pink to her hairline, a vague remembrance suddenly skimming the surface of her memory, one of palms hot against the small of her back, of rough, sloppy kisses on the slope of her shoulders. Her mouth falls open and her breath catches in her throat. She knows now why her shirt's on inside out.



Again, she looks at him just over her shoulder. "Was there kissing?"

He clears his throat. "There was kissing."

Rory turns and sits. She closes her eyes and drops her head to her hands. The images are seeping back slowly, reverse order, she thinks, as she remembers throwing her shirt on as she ducked out to throw up, remembers Graham's hands on her sides, pushing her shirt up over her head, remembers straddling him on the bed, his mouth against hers so hard it hurt.

"Oh, my God," she breathes.

"It was just kissing," he says quickly. "Just a little."

She smiles ruefully, looks up. "Yeah, well, I don't usually—"

"Oh, no, I know," he tells her quickly. "It's not a big deal, it was just—we were wasted, that's all."

"Fuck Rory up," she says.

He crosses the room and sits on the bed a good distance away from her. "If it makes you feel any better, I think I put the moves on you and not the other way around," he says.

She laughs. "Thanks, Graham. That does make me feel better."

He puts his hand out, squeezes her shoulder. "It was fun," he says. "I should go. But happy birthday."

"Thanks, Graham," Rory says again. They both rise, dance around each other as Rory makes for her closet and Graham the door. She stops him as he puts his hand on the doorknob. "Hey, what's your hangover food?"

He grins. "Pancakes."

Rory opens her closet and reaches for a fresh tee shirt, realizing she's not so fresh herself. "Pancakes. Sounds good—I could totally go for a huge plate of Luke's pancakes," she says, almost to herself.

"Luke?" Graham asks, looking at his feet, back at Rory. "That your boyfriend?"

Rory bursts out laughing. "God, no! He's just—he owns the diner back home." She makes a face. "Luke, my boyfriend. Likely," she says. She tips her head to the side and regards Graham a moment. "We're going to grab some breakfast. You should come," she says.

"I don't want to intrude," he says.

She waves a hand at him dismissively. "Not an intrusion," she says. "Just know it's five girls and you."

"I like the sound of that," he says. "All right, sounds good. I'm going to run to my room, change. I've got a Pathfinder, so I can drive. Room enough for all."

Rory nods. "Great. Come by in like, fifteen?"

He waves and lets himself out. When Rory reemerges in the common room with soap for her face and her toothbrush and paste, her four friends are sitting around the room watching "The View." Jillian points at her.

"Party stalker's got a crush!" she coos.

Nina claps her hands. "Rory, I am so proud of you," she says.

"You are hilarious," Rory replies. "I'm going to make myself presentable. I'll be right back."

As the common room door shuts behind her, she can hear Jillian and Nina chanting "Fuck Rory up!" Twenty minutes later, they file out of the building towards the behemoth black car Graham's pulled up next to the curb. Lane slips her arm through Rory's and nudges her.

"How was the birthday?"

Rory smiles. "It was good."

Lane nods her head towards the car. "Looks like Spader wants to be Andrew McCarthy."

"Please," Rory says. "Not happening in this lifetime. You know what else isn't happening? Ever?" She stops. "Wait, you all need to hear this."

"What's that?" Paris asks.

"Never again will I drink another mind eraser," Rory intones.

They pile in the car, and when Graham asks what's so funny, all five girls only laugh harder.

"Drive, Geeves," Rory says. "Just drive."