Major delay in the posting of this, and I apologize. And a warning: it's not going to get any better until December when reality will (hopefully) settle down a little.

Thanks for the reviews, everyone. Really. You guys are amazing.

Feedback is great (and an excellent belated birthday present - my birthday was last Monday.)

Chapter 9: Crystal Clear

"Nib?" Lorelai asked, leaning in the doorway.

Rory turned around. She was fiddling with an earring, her face screwed up in concentration. "Uh…" She fumbled some more. Finally, triumphant, she ran a hand through her hair. "Sure."

"Here." Lorelai rolled up the top of the bag and tossed it at her daughter. The bag unfolded, and several pieces of candy flew out and hit the floor near Rory's feet.

"Thanks, Mom." She bent to pick up the bag.

"I think it's time to give up your dream of playing in the MLB," Lorelai replied. "You missed my brilliant throw."

"Yes, it must be my lack of catching skills, not your lack of pitching skills," Rory deadpanned. She held up a pair of shoes. "Are these yours?"

Lorelai squinted at them. "Yes! You stole my shoes?" She threw herself at them. "I'ts okay, you're safe from the evil Rory, shoe thief that she is.' She glared at Rory, cradling the shoes protectively. "How does my stuff migrate to your room when you don't even live here most of the time?"

"It's Louella," Rory explained. "I told you not to buy a house on top of a dead cat, but did you listen? No."

Lorelai shook her head. "I should've listened. I bet she was the one who ate the ret of the Pop Tarts, too."

"Ghost cats are vindictive," Rory agreed.

"Louella knows I love her," Lorelai said. "Where are you going?"

"A party."

"Oh, I'm so proud of my social butterfly," Lorelai crowed. "Since the idea of a party a few years ago would've made you run and hide."

"I'd still rather read than watch a bunch of people I don't even know or like get completely drunk and humiliate themselves in front of large crowds."

"I know. And I'm very glad about that."

"Don't think you're getting this lucky again," Rory warned, teasing.

"If little Peach is anything like you, I'll feel lucky," Lorelai replied.


"Jackson bought Davey Super Mario. He was playing it when I went to see Sookie."


"Rory?" Lorelai had lowered her voice to a stage-whisper. "I need a favour."


"Can you -" she looked around "- pick me up a coffee later?"

"Luke's got you on probation?"

"No coffee probation, coffee banning. I am not allowed to drink caffeine. I am not allowed to smell anything that caffeine might be in. I can't read any labels that have 'caffeine' written on them, I can't -"

"Okay, I get it. Luke is looking out for your health and its health. What a horrible guy."

"You're on his side? I gave you life."

"That's the word on the street, Mom."

"Caffeine withdrawal is detrimental to my well-being. From a poll of women in the household, it has been discovered that coffee is a staple liquid, and without it the life force behind the house might fall."

"I'll get you your coffee, Calvin,' Rory said.


Lorelai watched as Rory searched for her purse. "You look pretty, babe."

"Thanks." Rory spun around the room, before lunging at a sweater. She joyfully unearthed the purse and kissed her mother's cheek. "I'll see you later."

"Coffee!" Lorelai called after her.

Honour had accompanied him to the party. Logan was surprised – she'd made it clear that she sort of hated Finn and Colin – but she was still sitting beside him, in the front of his car. Rory was in the back.

Periodically, he checked to see if she was still there. The whole vehicle was silent. It was reminiscent of a library.

Or a funeral – there was more of a shadow hanging over the car.

He had discovered that Rory was normally very chatty. So was Honour. He was not. Therefore, he was not the best guy to end the silence. He was starting to feel strained with the effort of acting like it didn't matter. The atmosphere was uncomfortable – for him, mostly. Honour was humming beside him, and Rory was looking out the window, in her own world.

He tapped his fingers on the wheel a little, trying to get an idea of something to say. He gave scathing looks to both Honour and Rory. He could use some help.

Actually, he was confused as to why he couldn't come up with anything to say.

Logan gave up. He stopped sneaking looks at Rory, he ignored Honour's humming, he just concentrated on driving to Finn's parents' place..

The silence marched on.

God, he was an idiot.

Honour was the first person to talk to her at the party – actually, they weren't even inside when she started chattering. "Sorry for the mind-numbing awfulness on the ride here," she said, "but I was hoping Logan had brushed up on his conversation skills." She laughed. "Alas, I was wrong. We met at your grandparents' party, remember?"

"Yeah," Rory said, relieved. "It's nice to really meet you."

"Same here." Honour brushed her hair back. "Don't you hate those things?"

"I don't really go to many," she said.

"Hmmm. So you're not a society girl," Honour mused.

"Is…that a good thing?" Rory asked.

Honour shrugged. "It certainly is different for Logan." She smiled.

Colin nudged Logan. "Is that the girl from that bar you took us to?"

"So what if it is?" he snapped.

"Nice choice, mate," Finn complimented, putting an arm around Logan, and trying to down a shot. "Although, she's not my type."

"Don't be an idiot, Finn," Colin said. "Any girl with a pulse is your type."

"We're friends," Logan said, shortly.

"Sure you are," Colin muttered.

"That's almost blasphemy," Finn agreed.

Logan rolled his eyes. He brought Rory to this party, and somehow, he'd ended up talking to these two. "I don't think I can continue this conversation without a drink," he told them.

She was slightly uncomfortable in the face of all this opulence. A summertime party, with a bunch of wealthy recent college grads, was not her kind of place. She stood off to the side, Shirley Temple in hand, and watched the scene.

She had never been much of a dancer, anyway. Rory grinned at the thought of her six year old self, hoping to become a dancer of any kind.

A combination of bad music, loneliness and the heavy scent of alcohol could transport her back into her memories.

She saw Logan push his way through the crowd, moving toward her. "Hey," she yelled over the din.

"Hey," he yelled back. "You alright?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," she replied.

One of Logan's friends approached then. "Come on," he said, "I can't believe you've been standing still all night." He held a hand out to her.

She looked over at Logan, but he was already gone.

Dammit, he should've known that would bother him.

He breathed heavily, trying to calm himself. Putting a hole through the wall or something equally stupid wouldn't help.

But she had set the rules: they were friends. By that logic, he was allowed to be annoyed, but he wasn't allowed to be annoyed for certain reasons. He could be annoyed because he thought Robert was a jerk (which he was), or he could be pissed off because they had been interrupted in the midst of a perfectly good conversation.

He couldn't be pissed because he was having more than friendly thoughts.

She had that aura of innocence, but she had to know what she created.

Logan stalked over to the bar.

Rory wove through the pack of gyrating bodies, and ended back where she had come from, a spot on the perimeter of the room. She inhaled deeply, trying to regain some of the oxygen she had lost, while dancing.

She had just confirmed that dancing really wasn't her thing.

This house was amazing. Rory slipped out of the room, onto a patio and sat on a bench at the edge. From that distance, the music was tolerable. Almost. She winced as the pulsing beat of another cheesy dance song came on.

The DJ sucked.

Rory put her back to the house and leaned her arm on a rail. Pretty view, she thought. She forgot whose it was – or had she even known? The fumes of alcohol were getting to her head. Pathetic.

There was a lake a ways away, surrounded by trees. The last glimmers of a sunset were fading over the water. Rich people do enjoy their views, she thought.

Cynical and bitter thoughts. Rory shook her head. She pulled her legs up on the bench, not caring how it would look. She felt very, very young. She rested her head on the top of her knees and continued watching the red sun. Threads of red were in the blue clouds. Red sky at night…

Quiet footsteps were coming toward her, moving closer and getting a little louder with each step. They were still barely discernable over the strains of music. She jumped, when she realized the person of the quiet steps was beside her. "Hey," Logan said. He was grinning at reaction.

"Hey," she replied. Rory stared straight ahead. She didn't trust herself to look at him.

"Not a party girl?"

"Just needed some air," she said. "But it's a good party," she tacked on.

"Yeah, well," Logan said. "Colin and Finn know how to throw them."

"They do," she agreed.

He narrowed his eyes at her. "You hate the music."

"No!" she exclaimed. She wilted. "Is it that obvious?"

"Yes," he said. "But only to me."

"It's just not my kind of music," she explained.

"I never said anything," he said, holding up his hands.

"You brought it up."

"You don't need to explain."

"Well, I felt like I had -" she broke off and glared at him. He smirked. She turned away.

"Rory…" he looked so apologetic that she laughed.

"I'm kidding, you know."

"Very funny."

"I know."

He bumped the elbow that was resting on the rail and she moved away. "Hey!"

"What?" Logan replied, innocently.

"Looks like we have two comedians," she mumbled.

He laughed.

Rory adjusted her headrest, crafted out of her arms, and went back to watching the sunset. "It's so pretty," she murmured.

"Yeah," he said.

His hand caught her elbow and she looked up at him – and they were kissing. His hand slid to her waist, and she was kissing him back. "Logan," she whispered.

"Ace," he replied.

"I don't – I though – what are we doing?"

"I don't think friendship is going to work," he said.

"Why not?" she asked, stupidly.

He fixed her with a look. "I know," she said. "So…?"

"If you want."

She chewed her lip a moment. She gave him a quick nod. "Okay."