Summary: AU. "Resorting to bribery already?" Rory asks Marty to keep her company at a protest. Oneshot.

Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. Now please refrain from suing me. Thank you.

A/N: I blame my season five DVDs. I was watching them last night and then 5x17 came on and I suddenly felt very, very sad because of the RL/RM situation. Then I wanted to write and then I got this idea. Reviews are greatly appreciated.

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She folded her arms across her chest and looked at the crowd around her, furrowing her brow in discomfort when someone pressed a little too close to her. Despite the fact that there were dozens of people standing there with her on the cement she still felt a chill fly down her spine.

Being alone was not in the day's plan, but of course schedules had changed and she'd forgotten to find someone new to accompany her to the protest. Doyle was adamant in his request that she cover the story and Rory was nothing if not obedient.

With a sigh, she stood on her tiptoes in an attempt to see what was going on. The makeshift stage standing no more than fifty feet from her was empty save a few microphones and a very grumpy-looking techie.

Rory sighed again and turned around, grimacing as she tried to maneuver her way back through the crowd. Supposedly an on-campus animal rights group was protesting animal testing, and the rally was supposed to start a good ten minutes ago. She yawned absently when she finally reached the edge of the sea of people and frowned as she looked around again.

Unfortunately, she woke up late that morning. She'd rushed out of her dorm room, sweeping her hair back into a messy ponytail as she closed the door behind her, and she'd been so concerned about missing something that she had completely neglected her morning run to the coffee cart.

Nine-thirty in the morning and Rory hadn't had a single cup of coffee yet. She was a bit shocked that she was still standing. Sighing quietly to herself, she walked with purpose toward the coffee cart and smiled when she saw a familiar head of curly brown hair in the small line.

"Marty!" she cried, her smile widening when he turned. He smiled.

"Up before ten?" he teased. "You could've warned me that the apocalypse was coming before you left last night."

She rolled her eyes and patted his arm lightly as she stood beside him. "That wouldn't be any fun," she said. "Every man for himself."

"Gee, thanks," he chuckled and she smiled again. "So what are you doing out here so early?"

"Covering the protest for the paper," she replied. "Doyle was very insistent that I do the story."

"Because you're such an animal rights activist?"

"They're so cute! I am one hundred percent behind any and all animal rights activist groups," she looked up at him with wide eyes, completely serious. Marty shook his head in amusement and she let a smile slip onto her face.

"As long as you have your reasons," he said. The guy in front of them walked away from the cart holding a large, steaming cup in his hands and Marty slid a dollar bill out of his pocket. He ordered a small cup of coffee, black, and Rory shook her head.

"No imagination," she chastised playfully. He smirked and took a sip of his coffee while she ordered. His eyes widened at the amount of caffeine and sugar in her drink.

"Extra shot? Whipped cream? Are you planning to sleep at all in the next week?"

"Obviously you underestimate my tolerance for caffeine," she replied glibly, taking her cup and walking with him in the direction of the protest. "This is nothing."

Marty smiled, "I never realized you were that obsessed with coffee."

"My mom practically raised me on the stuff," she said. "I can't function without at least three cups a day."

"Three cups?" he nearly choked on the dark liquid in his mouth and she frowned in concern, patting his back lightly. He regained his composure quickly and shook his head at her, clearly amused. "What's your record then?"

She thought for a moment, sipping her drink. Blue eyes lit up after a moment of curious silence and she grinned. "Fourteen, if I remember correctly. My mom and I challenged each other the summer after my sophomore year in high school," she nodded, remembering. "She won by five cups," she pouted playfully.

"Wow."

"Yup," she agreed. "So as you can see, an extra shot is nothing."

"Forgive me for discrediting you," he laughed and she smiled, hooking her arm through his. They stopped at the edge of the crowd that was still congregated in front of the stage and she sighed softly, resting her head against his shoulder.

He glanced down at her and took another sip of his coffee, swallowing hard to get around the lump in his throat. Rory looked up at him after a bit, resting her chin against his arm, and she stuck out her bottom lip.

"This thing was supposed to start twenty minutes ago," she complained.

"Well, you know activists. No sense of reason, no watches."

"Corporate evil?"

"Exactly."

She giggled and turned to look at the stage again, finishing off her coffee and tossing the empty cup into a nearby trash can. He blinked and looked at his own cup, which was still half-full. The confusion must've been clear in his expression because she smiled sweetly, patting his arm gently.

"Don't try to keep up, Marty, there's no chance you can beat my record."

He laughed and took another sip, nodding in agreement. "I wouldn't dare."

A loud cry from the center of the group drew their attention, and when she noticed people filing onto the stage she sighed. "Finally," she muttered, pulling a notebook and pen out of her bag. "Damn activists," she complained. "Make us wake up early and then show up late," she continued to grumble and he nodded, resisting the urge to wrap his arm around her shoulders.

"Yeah. Look, I'm gonna go, let you take notes," he told her. Rory looked up at him, slightly panicked.

"No! No, stay," she requested, wrapping her arm around his again. "I need back-up in case they decide to get violent!" He hesitated and she smiled at him, wheedling. "Please, Marty? We can have a movie night tonight, please?"

"Resorting to bribery already?"

She nodded and wrapped her arm more tightly in his, gripping her notebook and pen in the other hand. "Please?"

Marty sighed, "Fine." At her smile, he raised a pointed eyebrow and leaned closer to her. "You owe me," he swore. She nodded and leaned in boldly, pressing a chaste kiss to his mouth.

They were both startled by the action and he opened his mouth to say something when she cut him off with another kiss. It wasn't long before his coffee had fallen out of his hand, and he broke away from her when he heard the paper cup smack against the pavement. Dark liquid splashed out of it a moment later, making a loud sound as it hit the ground and he laughed, turning toward her again.

"Guess the coffee doesn't think I can beat you, either," he quipped.

"That's because I'm the best," she shrugged as though it were obvious and smiled at him, turning her attention back to the protest when people started to shout. He kept his eyes on her and nodded after a bit, not bothering to confirm her statement.

She didn't need the ego boost, anyway.