She paused and slowly licked her lips before she looked into his eyes. "Ask me out."
"What?" Charlie asked, confused.
"Ask me out," she challenged. She had to take a few short breaths to clear her head from the scent of cologne and lust that made her feel heady. "You've heard of the courtship ritual, right?"
He chuckled and rubbed the stubble forming on his chin. "I have." He stared back at her as he distanced himself. "What kind of game are you playing, Harvard Girl?"
"I'm not playing a game," she replied. She stared at the pink tip of his tongue as it laved the bottom lip she just nipped a few seconds ago. "You asked me to give you a chance. I am giving it to you now. However, if you're just all talk…."
"How does Friday sound? I am free. No gigs, got the time off from work," he answered her immediately.
"Super," Rory responded. "Pick me up at seven. Anything considered junk food is fine." She turned her back on him and started walking away.
"Gilmore!" Charlie called out before she rounded the corner. She looked up but didn't stop walking.
"This doesn't have anything to do with another blonde guy named Tristin, is it?" he asked.
"What makes you think that?" Rory queried, walking backwards away from him.
"Oh… a hunch?" he shrugged his shoulders as he replied.
"Stick to your day job, Todd," Rory answered before taking off in a trot. She didn't have to justify herself to him at all.
"Hey stranger!" Jen called out to Pacey, who was enjoying a drink on the deck of his boat.
"Hey," Pacey greeted in return. He helped her on to the schooner before continuing with the conversation. "Isn't it too late for you to be out by your lonesome?"
"I needed a breather," Jen said. "Besides, I was going the opposite direction of Worthington, and I needed to clear my head before Grams tries to psychoanalyze me before sleeping… again."
He knew her grandmother too well to make a remark. Instead, he raised a beverage to her. "A drink?"
"Is this your way of bribing me for information?"
"I have no clue as to what you're trying to imply."
He handed her a bottle of Snapple. Twisting the cap, she egged him. "Come on, I know you're curious, and I am just dying to correct a misconception you may or may not have formed, you know."
"About what? Altoids? Yes, they are curiously strong," he asked.
"The Joey-Tristin coalition," Jen said bluntly.
"Is that what they call it nowadays?" he said in sarcastically. "I thought it was called cradle snatching."
"He's only a year younger, Pace. I don't think you can consider that cradle snatching," she replied, chuckling.
"Poh-TAY-toh, Poh-TAH-toh," Pacey shrugged. "I'm glad she found someone who's smart, more her type…"
"Come on, aren't you just being a little condescending?" Jen teased.
"Just being realistic," he answered her nonchalantly.
Before continuing on, Jen took a swig from the bottle. "See, this is the part that I sometimes wish the old Witter in you would emerge. You know, the one that wouldn't take no for an answer and be at her door, banging, until the door falls off the hinges or she opens up the door and endures your diatribe."
Pacey chuckled and looked up to the dim skyline. "Hmm, if you were referring to the hot-headed, alpha male that is constantly having a head over heart sparring competition, you've come knocking at the wrong door."
"My, when did we become so cynical?" Jen asked.
"I am not cynical; just pragmatic," he countered. "I have learned from my old ways that the quickest way to get hurt is by wishing for something that is unattainable. Now, if I just hope to attain for the achievable, I could probably swim to shore a lot quicker if I get inundated with the minutia."
Jen closed the gap between them and put her hand on top of his, letting him know he didn't have to finish his thought. "See, that's the Harvard talking for you. I bet if you had your way, we would not be having this conversation."
He gave her hand a little squeeze. "And where would that leave us now, Lindley? Surely, it won't be on this boat, in this dock. I mean, I would not argue with you if you want to have a make-out session…."
"I don't know about that," she chuckled. "I remember we tried that in high school and that didn't work—the make out session, that is. There was a certain brunette that oftentimes filled that head of yours."
"Well no one said I was older and wiser," he replied grimly.
"For what it's worth, there's nothing between Joey and Tristin," Jen said. "At least, none that is evident."
Pacey discarded his empty bottle and shoved his hands in his pockets. "There's the operative word."
"He shares a class with Joey. He's not much of a joiner, and he does seem to enjoy our little clique. If you showed up for Sunday dinner at Grams, you'd realize he's one of the good guys," she defended.
"He's from money, he's a dead ringer for a guy I totally don't trust, and he's in close proximity to someone I care for… a lot," he enumerated. "Tell me, how am I supposed to overlook that and pretend none of those things affect me especially since Jo doesn't seem to find my company enjoyable, let alone enough to keep her interests?"
"Tristin right now, I think, is a distraction until you get your act together," she said slowly. "If it's any consolation, I think that Tristin is trying to reconnect with Rory."
Pacey flashed her an incredulous grin. "Really, Miss Lindley? You know that doesn't guarantee that the boy would not be looking elsewhere unless he has staked his claim. And… I am tired of chasing. So, if Joey doesn't want to see this boat sail, she needs to do the chasing, because I am done."
"Those are big words from a big man. Pacey, giving up the thrill of the chase? It's so unbecoming. Anyhoo, if there's anything going on between the two, it's not going to last," she stated in confidence.
"Pretty quick on changing the story there, huh? I thought you just guaranteed me that nothing's going on between the two?"
Jen let out a laugh. "Okay, okay, you got me. But I have a hunch."
"The kind that tells me Joey's not done with you yet."
All Pacey could do was grunt.
The sound of the water splashing against the boat filled the void of words between them. After a while, Jen confessed she had another motive for coming onboard.
"I have to get something off my chest," she said meekly.
"I'm all ears just as long as it doesn't involve Joey or Tristin at this point. I have a feeling I won't be as open minded right now."
Jen chuckled. "No, no. This is entirely a selfish, more deprecating act I would later regret."
"Well, well," he sat next to her under the yellow pier light. "Father Witter is open for confession, my child."
Jen scrunched her nose before speaking. "Do you promise not to laugh?"
Pacey let out a frustrated sigh. "I can't guarantee anything, but I'll do my best to reel in my blunt tendencies."
Letting out a loud sigh, she continued, "I am truly jealous of Rory because… because Charlie is giving her all this attention, and I think I still have feelings for him."
"Who ever thought it was going to be this hard to make friends in college?" Tristin asked. "Remember how easy it was in high school? You just went up to anyone and said, 'Hey, wanna hang out?'"
"Really wouldn't know," Rory said over the phone. "If it weren't for the fact that I've known Lane all my life, I would've turned into a hermit."
"That's sad," Tristin said. "I always thought it was just me you avoided when you transferred."
"Don't feel privileged," Rory bantered. "You just happened to catapult yourself to the top of the list of those I didn't want to associate with."
"Any reason why? I thought I was nice to you." he accused.
"To a fault!" she exclaimed. "You were so eager to 'help out' that Paris tortured me day in and day out."
"Oh," he muttered.
"Yeah, 'oh.' You really didn't know what kind of damage you caused when you told her that I hinted you should ask her out? I was afraid I'd see Louise and Madeline outside my bedroom window ready to kill me!" she ranted.
"Well you did ask me to date her," he accused.
"But you should've not told her I suggested it!"
"Well if it's any consolation, I really wanted to ask you out, not her," he grunted.
"Day late, dollar short," Rory quipped, her cheeks turning red. "Backtracking won't help you out now."
"Now why do you have to constantly shoot me down, huh?" he asked, jokingly. "I'm getting a complex."
"I doubt that I have done any damage," she added. "It seems like you bounce back nicely."
"What does that mean?"
"Oh, don't make me spell it out for you," she spat out. "Sunday ring a bell?"
"You cancelled your date with me!"
"You went out with Joey!"
"Well you hung out with Pacey!"
"Not the same," Rory argued. "He's my TA."
"And Joey's my lab partner… With Audrey!"
"But you happened to go out with Joey this Sunday," she said, her voice raising a pitch higher.
"So this is what this is all about," he said, sitting on his bed. "It was brunch, Rory, not that I have to be accountable to you."
Only the static came through the phone.
"Rory?" he asked.
"Thought you disappeared on me," he said. "I am sorry. For what it's worth, nothing happened. Nothing's happening. I am just trying to get a feel of Worthington and the girls are actually rather helpful as safety blankets."
Silence came from Rory's end. "You never needed safety blankets."
"Goes to show how much you know me," he said, sounding wounded. "So… is there anything going on between you and Pacey?"
"Don't you want to know?" she teased. Her heart was beating fast from her secret.
"No," she muttered.
"See? Was that hard to say?" he asked.
"No. But I am going out with Charlie."
"Bambi… Bambi!" Audrey called out from the walking path on her way to her nine o'clock class. Tristin was walking ahead of her, oblivious of the girls ogling him.
"DuGrey!" she finally called out.
Tristin looked back and saw the buxom girl try to catch up with him. He looked forward and continued walking toward the buildings ahead of him.
"Hey," she finally said, her hand on his shoulder. "When someone calls out to you, you stop."
"I thought that right was reserved for friends?" he said coolly.
"So I'm not a friend?" Audrey asked, pouting.
"Not when you single me out and let Rory know I went out with Joey," he accused her. "What is wrong with you?"
Audrey distanced herself, obviously hurt with the words he spouted. "Nothing's wrong with me! I did not tell Rory you went out with Joey. I told Pacey!"
"Same difference!" he muttered.
"Excuse me. I didn't know that your meeting with Joey was clandestine! Pacey wanted to know where Joey was and I told him she was with you. What was so wrong about that?" Audrey asked, pissed.
"Nothing… Everything!" Tristin said. "It's just… Agh!"
Audrey furrowed her eyebrows. "Wow, that just made sense."
"Rory's going out with Charlie," he muttered.
"She what???" Audrey exclaimed, questioning his statement. "You're lying."
"Do I look like I'm lying?" he asked, his jaw was clenched.
"Wow, Rory is really immersing herself in the deep waters rather quickly."
"You're having too much fun with this, you know," Tristin observed.
"I'm sorry. I am just astounded at his talent of picking out his ladies," Audrey muttered.
"What was that supposed to mean?"
"Charlie tried dating our very own Joey Potter once upon a time. He wasn't successful, but he attempted," she said dreamily. "Actually, he still was actively pursuing her until your little friend appeared on the scene."
"And from the sound of it, he's quite worldly," he said through gritted teeth.
"Oh my God, Tristin. If I'm not mistaken, you're going all Pacey on Charlie!" Audrey said. "Aww, it's so cute. Why don't guys do that for me?"
Tristin shot her a withered look.
"It just ticks me off that she's all of a sudden willing to go out with a dog like him when at one point in time she thought I was a demon incarnate!" he ranted. "He's no different. In fact, he's worse!"
"Worse because he actually got to convince Rory to take a chance with him or because he is a devil who might actually loosen up Little Miss Righteous?" Audrey asked.
"You don't like her much, do you?" Tristin asked.
"I don't like girls that are actually very proper. It goes against my genes," she said outright. "Plus, she's got that great waif shape, like Joey, and there are moments that I wish I had the body."
Tristin stopped in his tracks and chuckled.
"What? I have body shape issues. Leave me alone!" Audrey smacked him on the arm. "So, what are you going to do about it?"
"Is there anything I can do about it? This is Charlie Todd, Stud McStudly, conqueror of wet panties everywhere…."
"Ew, thanks for the visual," Audrey infused quickly.
"And he's dating a girl I could've not thought in a million years would fall for him… Ever! I just need someone to tell me where I went wrong. I mean, sure, I was a man-whore when I was in high school, but she said no woman appreciates a man-whore…."
"Duh!" she interjected.
"So I tried… I tried my best to be a better man. You know, the kind that you can bring home to mom?" he ranted on.
"So why is she now going for the bad boy?" he asked.
"Did you ask her why?" Audrey queried.
"Who asks a girl why she's dating James Dean? That is moronic," he grunted.
"I don't know, you seem hell bent finding on out why she's dating Charlie," she shrugged. "If she's just going for looks, you should throw your card in the ring. Who knows, she might pick you if you're not acting like a five-year-old girl."
Tristin shot her a rotten look but still took her words to heart.
The day dragged on, feeling like a millennia passed before his professor dismissed them for the day. Once he got back to his dorm, his roommates asked him if he wanted to join them for a surf and turf by the wharf.
He agreed and was grateful to be away from the Capeside crusaders and their drama. He had nothing in common with his three other roommates, making the outing a little more boring than he expected. His eyes roamed the pier, soaking in the atmosphere rather than the idle chatter. As he raised his bottled drink to his lips, an odd sensation dropped to the pit of his stomach.
He eyed his lookalike at the corner of the pizza parlor only a stone's throw away. He was leaning up against a blonde-haired girl who was welcoming his slight touches on her arms and waist.
He looked away as he kissed the blonde slowly. A beat later, they walked off, hand in hand in the opposite direction of where he and his roommates sat.
In his head, a battle of conscience brewed. For now, he convinced himself that Rory should've known that he's a cad.
She should sleep in the bed she made.