Summary: They'd told her she would be perfect, just as she always had been. They'd lied. Rory has a moment of clarity. Episode 6.08 the way it should end.

A/N: This turned out differently than I'd wanted it to. I originally set out to write a purely Rory piece, but then I started thinking about it and I decided to write the end of 6.08 the way I think it should happen. Because Jess is coming back; and the endless sea of possibilities could keep me in front of my computer for hours trying to decipher them all. And, just as a reminder: reviews are and will always be love.

Disclaimer: I own nothing. You know it, I know it, let's move on.

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She watches the oversized blur of hot pink as it ricochets off the couch and lands on the floor with a soft thud. She lets it lay there and makes her way into the kitchen, filling a glass with water.

The rushing sound from the faucet only serves to intensify the buzzing sound in her ears.

Her eyelids flutter shut and block out the shadows cascading across the pool house; she shivers when the water slides down her throat. It's cold and smooth and doesn't burn as it glides across her tongue. The chalky feeling in her mouth fades a little and she feels like she can breathe again.

When she flicks on the light in her bedroom it burns out with a hollow click. She sighs and ambles over to the bed slowly, letting the dark envelope her. There is a slight glow from her alarm clock but she ignores it, focusing instead on the silky material of her comforter.

Her fingers smooth out the invisible wrinkles and she nibbles on her bottom lip.

Rory Gilmore: Ivy League dropout. What an interesting turn of events.

They'd told her that she would be great. She would travel the world and write articles that would bring even the most jaded to tears. She would be perfect, just as she always had been.

They'd lied.

And now she's living in her grandparents' pool house, doing community service and fucking a boy - man, depending on one's definition of the word - who can't even tell her he loves her.

A flash of orange in the corner of her eye makes her cringe and she looks at the vest strewn haphazardly across the chair in the corner. She looks away before her mind convinces her to dwell on it.

She sinks into the mattress and winces a little when the sharp corner of a book pokes into her back. She pulls it out from underneath her and flips through its pages, the distinct taste of saltwater filtering into her mouth.

Light flies through the half-open blinds. She knows where it's coming from; it isn't a surprise. She pauses near the middle of the novel and tries to decipher the text through the blurry filter her tears have made. Her breath catches in her throat and the chalky feeling is back.

One word and his heart crashed through the floor. "No." A bitter metallic taste filled his mouth, the back of his throat burned and his entire being ached with the suddenly overwhelming task of standing. With a simple, succinct nod, he was walking away from her. And that hurt more than any of the beatings he'd taken before her; before them.

Her fingers shake as she sits up and the text begins to waver a little. Her eyes continue to fly across the page; her heart pounds against her rib cage.

He'd jumped the gun. His mouth had run ahead of his mind and it ended in chaos. Maybe not for her, maybe not for the rest of the world, but for him it was utter anarchy. His tongue was seemingly swollen, trapped within the cage of his teeth, and his mind couldn't manage to focus on one specific thought for longer than a second. He felt cold; stupid; betrayed by his own assumptions. He felt like she'd taken everything he had and that didn't sit well with him.

She closes the book with a loud snap and throws it to the ground. So this is what clarity feels like. She attempts to swallow and strains her ears.

When the subdued, almost mute rumble of a car engine penetrates the quiet sound of her breathing she streaks out of the pool house without another thought.

Leaves crush under her feet as she runs, tears streaking her face, her breathing labored and forced. The buzzing sound bleeds into a high-pitched scream when the trunk of his car shuts and she sees him.

She meets his gaze when she stops a few feet away from him and they both pause, apprehensive and unsure of what happens next.

Then she's shaking her head and walking towards him, rambling out an apology of sorts. She notices that his eyes haven't flickered from hers once during her rant and the thought sends an involuntary shiver down her spine.

A tiny cascade of leaves from a nearby tree draws her attention and when she looks back at him he's closer than she remembers.

The honest, vulnerable expression in his eyes brings a new glaze to her own and for the second time that night she abandons thought and presses her lips to his.

He's the first to pull away and she chases him into another kiss before he can fully break contact. The scream slowly fades into the background and his fingers burn a hole in the small of her back as he presses her closer.

There is a soft sound as they separate and she presses her face against his shoulder.

"I'm going back to Yale," she whispers thickly. Jess nods a little and breathes against her neck.

"Good."