Final chapter, wow. So many thanks to all you amazing people who put up with this silly little story. Never in a million years thought anyone else would be into this, but I'm so glad that you guys were. I probably won't be back in the GG world (who knows, never say never, right?), so thanks to all you GG fans for allowing me to play hehehe. Its been fun, guys.
Angela Petrelli was, if nothing else, a proud woman. She gloried in the recognition she received as the head of so and so charity leagues or as first chair on the board of trustees for this and that. Her wardrobe was chic, elegant and always very now. The family home underwent annual tweaking under the guidance of the most celebrated interior decorator of the moment in order to preserve Angela's ability to stun and belittle every guest warmly ushered over her threshold. Even amidst the grief of her husband's too sudden death Angela had the state of mind to ensure that every detail, down to the very cufflinks and shoelaces adorning the deceased for his eternal rest, would reflect well on the Petrelli name. Of all her achievements the greatest sources of heart-swelling, chin-raising pride were her handsome boys. Nathan; athletic, square jawed and hard nosed like his father. Ambitious and intelligent, he fell nicely in step with the goals and dreams she had planned for him long years before his first 4.0. Peter, however, was quickly on his way towards becoming a mar in her world of high esteem. For all his redeeming qualities, he simply lacked that certain dogged hunger for greatness that marked his elders as Petrelli's.
'At least he's cute,' Angela observed sardonically as she peeped in at her youngest son from the doorway to his bedroom. She admired the thick fall of dark wavy hair across his pale forehead as he leaned over his crowded desk, strikingly defined eyes blinking wearily as he studiously poured over the materials before him. 'Studious,' Angela had to restrain herself from releasing an unrefined snort in derision of the idea of that particular attribute applied to her capricious boy. She moved into the room, not failing to notice her son's desperate shuffling of papers as soon as her presence was detected.
"Mom," Peter twirled his chair around to face his approaching mother, flashing the woman a charming grin as he tucked a pencil behind his right ear, a move he was hoping would convey the impression that he was giving the tool a break after hours of furious note taking. "What's going on?"
Angela walked up to her son with a smile. "Still studying physics, I see." She leaned in to press a kiss to his forehead, letting both hands rest at the junction of his jaw and neck.
"Yeah, it's a bear," Peter sighed with convincing exhaustion, appreciating with only the smallest smidge of concern that the normally unfeeling woman had opted to leave her hands in their tender embrace even after pulling out of her tight peck, "but, you know, I'm doing by best."
"Your best?" Angela echoed, her slightly cocked eyebrow sending a warning thrill straight to Peter's gut. Her left hand quickly flitted upwards to retrieve the nestled pencil from behind his ear. "I see," her voice rang sarcastically as she held aloft the bright and shiny yellow number 2, unsharpened and unused. "What have you been writing in, blood?"
"Would you believe me if I said yes?" he asked hopefully, with a very slight grimace. "Hey, what are you…" he protested as she reached behind him, feeling under the mint condition physics text, which was suspiciously cracked open to the exact middle of it's 600 odd pages.
"Well, well," Angela cried triumphantly as she pulled out a much more well worn paper back, ignoring the groans of her son as his head lolled behind him in defeat. "I wasn't aware Ray Bradbury also wrote prep school physics texts."
"Ray is a man of many and varied talents," Peter grinned winningly.
"Don't be smart," Angela snapped, dropping a gentle whack atop the seated boy's head with his copy of the Illustrated Man.
Peter scowled, dramatically soothing his wounded cranium. "Skip the lecture, okay? Nate was just in here giving it the ol' college try…"
"And it obviously worked so well," Angela muttered dryly, holding up his book for emphasis.
"Aren't I allowed breaks, warden?" he asked defensively.
She held up his unmarked pencil without a word.
"I think I had a pen around here somewhere," he murmured, patting himself down with openly affected bewilderment.
She sighed resignedly, shaking her head as she bent to scoop up a carelessly discarded jacked from off the floor. "Your brother asked me to let him deal with your schooling issues and so I leave this in his capable hands." She absentmindedly folded and smoothed the blazer, refusing to meet the boys eyes as they both thought what neither would say; chiefly that if Arthur were still alive…
"Regardless," Angela snapped herself out of the morose bend of her thoughts with a small shake and marched across the room to hang the item in her son's closet, "this isn't what I wanted to discuss with you. I had quite the interesting encounter this evening." She turned back to face the clearly uninterested young man.
"Let me guess, someone got so bored of the pointless, not to mention endless, chatter that they fell asleep, swan diving right into the soup of the day," he suggested nonsensically, rocking his chair from side to side as he fully enjoyed the perturbed look he had earned.
"Such a handsome face," Angela drawled appreciatively, momentarily cradling his jaw in her right hand before shattering the moment when the gentle touch turned into a painless slap, "but such a mouth."
"So what happened?" Peter conceded, chuckling and rolling his eyes at the typically Angela move.
"I happened to run into an old acquaintance of yours," Angela explained simply as she leaned in to straighten her son's twisted collar.
"My acquaintance?" Peter clarified incredulously, screwing his face to the side as he looked up at his mother. "Who the hell…"
"Language," Angela scolded, pulling his collar roughly. "Why you choose to mimic your brother's vices while ignoring every good trait is beyond me."
Peter wrenched himself from the motherly grasp. "Focus, mom. Who are you talking about?"
"One Emily Gilmore," she answered nonchalantly, completing her grooming with a flick of his hair. "We just 'happened' to be dining at the same café tonight. A mighty coincidence; and I don't believe in coincidence."
"Rory's grandmother?" he asked, mouth agape as his mother calmly turned to his bureau mirror to pat at her hair. "You had dinner with Rory's grandmother."
"Not only her grandmother," Angela smirked into the mirror before turning the wicked expression over her shoulder to rest uneasily on her son. "The young lady was also there. She's quite lovely, in a painfully awkward, far too thin type of fashion. But that's just my opinion."
"I swear mom," Peter jumped out of his chair and rushed to his mother's side, eyes flashing dangerously as she continued maintenance on her styled hair, "if you were mean or hurtful to her I'll…"
"You'll what?" she asked sharply, meeting his glare unflinchingly. She continued when he remained silent and cast his eyes to the floor. "Don't bandy about empty threats Peter. If you're going to threaten someone it should always mean something."
"Gee, thanks for the life lesson, Mrs. Cleaver," he drawled darkly, "now tell me again about the proper way to hide a body. Was it stash, bury, clean up or clean up, stash, bury?"
"I'll have you know that I was perfectly polite and that is only because I know how you feel about her," the woman snapped, pushing past her son. "To be honest I pitied the girl. It was only too obvious that Emily had orchestrated the entire meeting. That odious woman must be overjoyed at the prospect of worming her way into our family."
"I thought she was supposed to be your friend?" Peter asked almost accusingly.
"Dear sweet Peter," Angela laughed weakly, "once you reach a certain stage in life friendship takes on a new world of meanings.
"Just tell me plainly, should I even bother trying to ever speak to her again or is she so scared off that at this very moment she's hopping the next steamer to Hong Kong?"
"We barely spoke at all," Angela remarked flippantly, sauntering over to the bedroom door. "I'm sure the next time we meet we'll become the best of friends."
"The next time?" Peter repeated worriedly, a frown deepening upon his normally clear brow as he followed his mother. "What next time?"
Angela turned to her son with a tell-tale smile, thrusting the forgotten book into his unsuspecting hands. "It's a big city, Peter," her voice rang portentously as she walked into the hallway, "people run into one another all the time."
Peter's gaze flickered between the book in his hands and the now empty doorway. He tossed the object, sending it sailing in a wide arc before landing in a flutter of pages on his bed, by which time he was already fast on his mother's heels demanding information on the girl who at that very moment, unbeknownst to him, was having her own struggle against the maternal authority in her life.
Half way across town Rory and Emily sat in increasingly uncomfortable silence that had begun the moment Angela walked away from their table.
A carefree Rory would have squealed, gushed and called Lane over their luxuriously plush accommodations, in fact she probably would have made a point to call her from the pointlessly extravagant bathroom phone, but instead of exploring the closet the size of her bedroom or the Jacuzzi tub built for five Rory stomped over to the bathroom, communicating her displeasure with a loud slam of the door as she figuratively and literally shut out the elder Gilmore. Believing she was being generous in giving the teenager time to pout alone, Emily went about her nightly preparations and waited an hour before addressing the girl. "Rory, its getting late, come to bed now."
"I'd rather sleep in here," the muffled reply escaped from between the doorjamb.
"That's the bathroom, for goodness sake," Emily squawked, appalled at the mere suggestion and giving the doorknob a halfhearted tug. "You're acting like a silly child and I'm at a complete loss as for an explanation."
An angry, strangled sound echoed about the bathrooms tiled walls as Rory rushed to throw open the door and confront the woman on the other side. "You don't know why I'm upset?"
"No, I really don't," the older woman sniffed imperially and turned away from the glowering girl.
"Tonight, grandma, tonight!" she cried, eyes blazing electric blue as she followed her grandmother into the sitting room. "You knew Mrs. Petrelli was going to be at that café, that was the whole point of this trip. I cannot believe I actually bought that heart felt spiel about wanting us to be closer."
Emily primly lowered herself onto the brocaded settee. "Really, Rory, you become more like your mother every day; I'm always the enemy, always out to ruin your life."
Rory plopped down besides the robe-clad woman, shoulders hunched as she and Emily matched gazes. "Tell me it isn't true. Look me in the eye and tell me this isn't why you brought me to New York."
Emily met her granddaughter's beseeching eyes with her own steely glare for a brief moment before standing to her feet with an exasperated huff. "I may have called a few choice locations in order to inquire after their reservations."
Rory wordlessly stood, beginning to walk away from the other woman but abruptly stopped when her grand mother called out "Forgive me if I'm not as good a liar as that boy you're so fond of, my dear."
A pained contortion flashed across Rory's pale face as she slowly turned to face the elder Gilmore. "You know, I've always defended you. I've always thought mom only sees such negativity in you because she's looking through her hurt teenage eyes but, wow, in one evening you've really proven yourself to be as selfish and manipulative as she's always claimed."
"I'm selfish, am I?" Emily scoffed, dropping her chin and glaring saucily at Rory from under her brows. "How is it selfish to try and nudge along your misbegotten romance? I was only trying to help."
"I wasn't ready to meet Peter's mom, grandma!" Rory cried, eyes bugging with the intensity of her fervor. "Meeting someone's mom is a really big deal and I wasn't ready for it. What kind of impression do you think I made, standing there agog, my jaw dangling somewhere around my knees. I couldn't think of anything to say, I was so nervous I knocked over my water. It was horrible, and I have you to thank for it. So, you know, thanks. God, I just want to go home," she threw her hands into the air and stomped over to the bedroom, launching herself onto the downy comforter.
"We can't go home," Emily followed after her, hovering at the foot of her bed, her voice horror stricken at the idea of taking leave. "Angela invited us for tea tomorrow, we can't just ignore that, it would be like spitting in her face."
"I know," Rory moaned, her voice slightly stifled as she pulled a pillow over her head. "Which is why I said I want to go home. Want. I didn't propose that we leave; I was merely expressing a desire. I didn't say 'Lets go home'. I said 'I want to go home'. Mind the syntax."
"You don't have to get smart," Emily harrumphed, turning away from her horizontal charge and casting an askance look from under an arched brow. Awkward, heavy, pregnant silence reigned as Emily slipped into her own bed, situating herself against the headboard as she meticulously lotioned her hands. Her drawn lips twitched unbecomingly as her eyes were pulled to the prone form of her granddaughter. A loud 'tsk'. "Well, I'm sorry," the insincere and painful apology bluntly wrenched its way out of her stiff lips. "I didn't think things would go so badly," she grudgingly explained, an expression very near to a pout darkening her face. "I suppose I'd forgotten what a frosty witch that Angela could be."
"Grandma," Rory exclaimed as she peeked over her shoulder, supporting her weight on her left elbow. "You're vicious."
"Well, she is," Emily grumpily responded, though her expression softened as she noted that Rory had removed her down and linen headdress and was actually looking in her directions without a glare. "I was honestly trying to help you, Rory. Having the Petrelli family in your corner would be very, very beneficial to you. Your grandfather and I see that, even if you and your mother don't."
Rory extracted herself from the sinfully comfortable bed with a sigh, traversing the gap between the two beds with three loping steps. "You shouldn't have done it," she lightly reprimanded as she sat Indian style at the foot of the bed, plucking at the duvet beneath her. "It's my life, grandma. If I'm going to be with Peter…if," she emphasized upon seeing the other woman's eyes light up, "I said if, well then I'd like it to be because we actually like each other, not because my grandparents consider it a fortuitous match. I'm not Dunya, Peter's certainly no Luzhin and this isn't 1800's St. Petersburg."
"Fine, you've made your point," Emily fairly spat, petulantly crossing her arms across her chest in so fair an estimation of an unhappy child that Rory couldn't fight a quiet chuckle. Taking this as a good sign, Emily returned a small smile and allowed her hands to drift down to rest on her tented knees. "Well," she extended, "what do we do now?"
"You did lure me here under the pretenses of a shopping trip," Rory smiled widely, ignoring her grandmother's wounded sniff, "and so far I only have one new outfit, not exactly whirlwind."
"Angela would never forgive you for daring to wear the same outfit back to back," Emily smirked. "I say we wake up early, grab some food…"
"Ooo, room service!" Rory interrupted excitedly, fairly bouncing on her bum.
Emily laughed, whole-heartedly agreeing with the girl's suggestion. "And then we're off, not to return without shopping bags groaning with plunder."
"I hope all those eager sales assistants are getting a good nights rest," Rory grinned, flopping back into her own bed. "I think I'll be feeling quite demanding tomorrow."
"As is only right," Emily nodded with a chuckle. "Good night, Rory."
"Night grandma," she snuggled into the blankets, allowing the soothing warmth from both the bed and the reconciliation with her grandmother to lull her off to sleep. She had nearly achieved that blissful state when her eyes opened with a sudden jolt, realizing that following that lovely morning she would be once again face to face with the intimidating Angela Petrelli, on her home turf yet. She turned onto her back with a groan, dragging her eyes to the ceiling and wondering if it was too late to take Peter up on his offer to transport her to Paris.
"Are you sure I look okay?" Rory asked anxiously as she and her grandmother stood before the door to the imposing Petrelli home the following afternoon, having more than fulfilled their earlier threat to paint the town green with cash dropped on clothes, shoes and accessories, as made evident by the bulging bags left in the care of the unfortunate chauffer.
"For the hundredth time, you look beautiful," Emily assured the young woman while giving the doorbell a short even push. The visitors could hear the distant chimes, delicate and soft, followed by the sound of sprightly steps. Moment's later Rory's heart leapt from the safety of her ribs as a figure, distorted by the glass and wrought iron of the door, stepped into view. The door pulled inward, revealing a slender, dark haired woman with an easy smile and bright blue eyes startlingly similar to her own.
"You must be the Gilmore's," the woman smiled pleasantly, deep dimples standing out as she did so. "I'm Heidi, Nathan's wife. It's wonderful to finally meet you, I've heard so much."
Rory returned the smile happily, much of her unease evaporating at the sincere welcome. "Peter's told me a lot about you too. Good things," she quickly amended.
"I wouldn't expect anything else from Peter," Heidi returned, her smile brightening considerably at the mention of the boy she cherished as her own blood.
A ringing "Welcome" from within the home engaged the attention of all three women, drawing it to the staircase. "Welcome to our home," Angela stepped briskly down the gracefully curved staircase. "Please, please come in. I'm certain Heidi wasn't being intentionally rude by keeping you at the door step like traveling salesmen," she smirked primly with a significantly displeased look that froze the smile on the younger Mrs. Petrelli's face. "Please forgive her, she's from Maryland," she added in explanation, drawing Emily alongside her. "Come, tea is served out in the garden, a lovely little spot."
The younger women held back, Rory casting uneasy glances at Heidi as she took deep, calming breaths. Suddenly remembering the teenager, Heidi laughed and gently shook her head. "Nathan and I have been married for four years," she lead Rory through the house, following the older women, "but she makes it seem like forty." Seeing that her words seemed to heighten the girl's apprehension, obvious as Rory anxiously worried her bottom lip, Heidi placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. "She really isn't that bad. She's just…uniquely Angela. All we can do is thank God that she's one of a kind."
Rory smiled hesitantly as Heidi talked, too busy taking in the opulent surroundings to pay much attention. Trying to reconcile the beautiful setting with the boy she had known and cared for was difficult. While dating the rough-edged, seemingly street savvy Jess one of her favorite past times had been to imagine his life pre-Stars Hollow; where the mysterious boy had been raised, how he had grown, his background, his story. It had been exciting, her vivid and fruitful mind eagerly filling in gaps and careful omissions. Spiral staircases and foyers, vaulted ceilings and chandeliers hadn't exactly played into those fantasies. 'Material things like this shouldn't matter,' she silently scolded herself as they stepped through the French doors, greeted by the heady perfume of the creeping jasmine and rows of blooming rose bushes.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" Angela asked from her position at the head of the elegantly appointed table, complete with a gorgeous looking spread, as Rory absorbed her surroundings with clear admiration.
"It's wonderful," Rory answered genuinely, tearing her eyes away from the brilliantly verdant colors and soothingly wind swept fluttering all around her. "An oasis."
Angela's eyes briefly narrowed at the girl's words, through the look quickly retreated back into her more commonly used mask of polite disdain. "You see an oasis," she commented, passing Rory a plate of petit fours. "So did my husband. That's what he called this place. Gardening was one of his many eccentricities. Needless to say the quality of the up keep has severely diminished since his passing."
Emily dropped her head in sympathy and she would have placed a comforting hand on the bony wrist of the Petrelli matriarch if Angela, correcting perceiving her intention, hadn't busied her hands by pouring a cup of steaming ginger tea. "Enough about the Petrelli's," she announced dismissively, "tell me more about you, Rory. You can't possibly be as perfect as your grandmother insists."
"She is," Emily raised her chin stubbornly. "Even more so."
"Grandma," Rory flushed violently. "I'm…so far from perfect," she explained awkwardly, waving the words away with her right hand.
"I hear you're quite the academic," Angela mused, lips poised at the edge of the delicate Viennese teacup. "Is that much true?"
"Well, I suppose so," Rory conceded, not quite catching the predatory gleam in the older woman's eye. "Saying that I like to read is definitely an understatement. I have many very determined, almost lofty, goals and dreams for my life and I know that taking my education seriously will only make those dreams more attainable. Especially if I want to attend Harvard, which I've kind of planned on doing since I could walk."
"Ivy league aspirations," Angela remarked evenly, lowering her cup to its saucer with a delicate clink, "and such an admirable sentiment. Refreshing in a young woman."
"Thank you," the relieved teen responded, appreciating the encouraging smile shot her way by Heidi as well as the small squeeze under the table courtesy of her grandmother.
"It does make one wonder, however," Angela continued almost offhandedly, fingering a nearby tray of cucumber sandwiches.
"Wonder what, Angela?" Heidi inquired with mild suspicion, a sense of dread stirring in the pit of her stomach. She may not have been gifted with foresight but she certainly recognized that tone well enough to know that it never bade well.
"I wonder what exactly you see in my son," Angela clarified, not bother to smother the harsh bite to her words. "He's handsome, to be sure, that goes without saying, but a smart girl like you wouldn't be swayed by looks, would she? No, no of course not. It's no secret that he doesn't share your sense of academic responsibility, he's as far from the top of the class as is possible, I'm afraid. So what is it that draws you to him?"
Rory's lingering blush turned impossibly crimson under the scrutiny of the three adults. "Well," she busied her nervous fingers with her drained and wasted tea bag, "a lot of things."
"Oh," Angela replied, not even attempting to temper the mocking smile that insisted upon playing about her lips.
"Peter has a lot of great qualities, Mrs. Petrelli," Rory swore, "I wouldn't even know where to begin."
"Mmm," Angela purred ominously, "you're right of course; many excellent qualities. He's supernaturally powerful, comes from a wealthy and influential family, two members of which happen to be Harvard alumni. Surely a girl of your admitted aspirations couldn't fail to realize that."
Rory stared aghast at the older woman, cringing under that knowing, imperious stare. "Mrs. Petrelli if you're implying that I…"
"I'm not implying anything, Miss Gilmore," Angela delicately patted at her mouth with the freshly laundered linen napkin, laying it neatly on the table before settling her gaze back on the girl at her right. "I'm asking out right. You're not the first young woman to chase after one of my boys," she cast a none to subtle glance at her long suffering daughter-in-law, "so I'm certainly well versed in exactly what girls such as yourself see in boys like my Peter."
'Because I first knew him as Jess…' Rory looked down at the white knuckles of the desperately clasped hands in her lap, taking a moment to steady her uneven breath before daring to meet the level, piercing glare of the dark eyed woman. "Peter's the only boy I've ever known who gets all my literary and pop culture references, and believe me I make a lot. The only one who has ever been willing to rig a snowman-building contest just so I could win. The only person caring enough to fix a stranger's broken gnome but still have the humility to be embarrassed for getting caught doing a good deed. Maybe…maybe you ask me what I like about Peter because you can't see how truly and utterly amazing he really is."
"Is that so?" Angela replied with a dangerously hard voice, rearing her head back in a motion that was too good an imitation of a python preparing to lunge for Rory not to gulp loudly.
Emily smirked at the obviously riled Angela. "Wonderful tea, Angela," she complimented cheekily, sipping quietly as she watched her friend discreetly fume.
Seeing that Emily had provided a momentary distraction, Heidi quickly announced that she had forgotten a tray of goodies in the kitchen and suggested that a grateful Rory accompany her. The moment the two young women were out of earshot Heidi let out a delighted trill of laughter. "That was excellent," she congratulated Rory, leading her to the well-appointed kitchen. "I didn't get that look from Angela until I had been dating Nathan for months."
"You mean the one that clearly displayed her desire to kill me?" Rory asked incredulously, accepting a chilled water bottle and perching on a barstool at Heidi's invitation.
"She was a little put out, phrased mildly," Heidi shrugged cheerfully, "but it was mixed in with grudging respect."
"I didn't quite catch that, but then again I was blinded with terror," Rory chuckled nervously before looking around at the empty counters. "I thought you forgot something."
"Oh, right," Heidi jumped up and leisurely walked over to the cold oven, pulling out a tray of fruit tarts. "Ta da. I always 'forget' something, it provides for a convenient exit."
"Very good thinking," Rory nodded approvingly, taking a strawberry laden dessert with a moan of pleasure.
"You know why she was so hard on you, right?" Heidi asked, her hand hovering over the tray as she chose her own treat.
"Because I'm a filthy harlot who wants to steal her little boy?" she thickly suggested between bites.
"No," Heidi answered confidently, bright eyes flashing. "Because you can. All of Peter's other girlfriends have been silly twits and Angela knew they would never interest him for any significant amount of time. She liked that. But you," her dimples deepened, "you're different. Special. Angela sees it and it terrifies her. And by the way," she dropped her voice conspiratorially, "Peter's talked to me about you and trust me when I say he thinks you're every bit as wonderful as you consider him to be."
Rory glowed under Heidi's reassuring praise. "Really?" she asked hopefully, a part of her registering how silly it was for the words to bring her so much joy but a bigger, more vital, more intrinsic part decided that she didn't care.
Before Heidi could respond a loud slam vibrated through the house. "Mom!" an eager voice called loudly. "Mom!"
"Why don't you go ask him yourself?" Heidi winked, nodding toward the front room. "I'll make your excuses."
Rory gave the older girl a quick squeeze, whispering "Thanks for everything" before dashing off to see the boy she had missed from the moment he left her weeks prior. He was still calling out for his family when she turned into the foyer. It should have been a beautifully romantic moment, full of Disney quality cheese. All the elements were there; a breathless Rory bursting onto the scene, cheeks rosy and doe-like eyes sparkling up at Peter as he stood midway up the staircase, torso twisted to see to whom the clattering footsteps belonged. It all made for a charming picture, if only Rory hadn't decided to burst out into side splitting, decidedly indelicate guffaws.
"Okay," Peter deadpanned resignedly; the look of delighted surprise that had blossomed over his face upon first sight of the unexpected girl abruptly disappeared as he realized just what was causing her outburst. He thumped heavily down the steps, letting his messenger bag slide from his shoulder. "C'mon, lets have it. Let it all out."
"My mom is gonna kill me for not bringing a camera," Rory snorted, hands clasped to her mouth in an attempt to smother the unruly chortles. "She'll never believe it. Your hair…it's so…neat and tidy, all parted to the side."
"I like to think it makes me look like a mobster, thanks," Peter scowled defensively, a hand involuntarily jumping up to pat at the hairstyle he absolutely loathed.
"More like a little boy," she cackled, taking even more pleasure from the obvious discomfort he felt at having the last vestiges of his bad boy image ripped away.
"Mean girl," he shook his head, refusing to let himself see the humor in the situation just yet. "I'll have you know the stupid school makes me wear it like this."
"The jacket too?" She giggled, the violence of her laugh attack beginning to give way as the shock of seeing Jess' uniform of band tee's and rude graphic designs replaced by an actual uniform ridiculously similar to those worn by her male Chilton classmates. "You do realize you're wearing a crested blazer? And that your pants have a pleat?" Her grin widened as she saw his veneer of offended pride beginning to crack enough that his mouth quirked in the beginnings of a smile.
He shook his head, moving down the last few steps still separating the pair. "You know you only perpetuate Mr. Franklin's unfair stereotype when you act so cruelly, lady Pot."
"I am not being a hypocrite," Rory maintained, feeling her face suddenly enflamed as Peter drew dangerously close. "I've never tried to hide who I am, plaid skirts, sweater vests and all. You're the one who masqueraded around town in a leather jacket and those t-shirts with your crazy hair."
"You liked my crazy hair," he reminded her suggestively, taking her hand in his and running his thumb over her knuckles with the tiniest bit of an electrical jolt, just enough to make her pulse jump and draw a gasp.
"I know," she returned breathily, moving her free hand up to tousle the too neat locks while making a mental note to apologize to Emily for ever doubting that coming to New York was a good idea.
"Hi," he almost whispered, claiming her other hand as well and using them both to press her against him.
"Hi," she greeted happily, allowing herself to be pulled in, raising her face expectantly for what was sure to follow.
"Hi," a third, unwelcome, voice joined in as thin limbs twined themselves around Peter's neck. He grunted as his niece launched herself onto his back, her momentum forcing the teens to crash together in a less than pleasurable meeting of chin and forehead. Rory warily pulled away to see a grinning, impish face surrounded by a mass of curling blonde hair resting sweetly on Peter's shoulder.
"Claire…" Peter warned testily, cricking his neck to the side as he fairly ground his teeth. "What are you doing?"
"Just saying hi," she answered innocently, tightening her hold on Peter's neck as she eyed the other girl with unveiled curiosity. "Who's this?"
"Can't exactly talk with you crushing my windpipe," he flashed an apologetic wince at Rory when he had finally pried the surprisingly strong girl off of his back before turning to the intruder. "Tell me Nathan didn't put you up to this."
A noncommittal shrug was the only response he received, Claire chose instead to turn to spindly limbed girl she didn't know. "I don't think we've met, I'm Claire Petrelli."
"Actually, we kind of have," Rory smiled, accepting the girl's firm handshake. "I'm Rory, we talked on the phone last week."
"You're Rory?" she asked, running a calculating gaze over her body in a move eerily reminiscent of Angela. "You know, my grandmother says it's terribly brazen for a young lady to call a boy."
"Have I told you lately how much of a pain you are?" Peter took Claire by her shoulders, trying to steer her toward the stairs. "Get out of here, will ya?"
"Peter, stop, its okay," Rory pushed him back with a gentle shove against his chest, turning instead to the highly offended girl. "You know Claire, my grandmother and I have been doing a lot of shopping lately. I found this," she dug into her pocket and held up a necklace with a fine silver chain, noting how the girl's eyes lit up as the tinkling charms shone in the light, "and I thought you might like it."
Claire looked up at the kind smile of the older girl, searching her open face for any sign of duplicity. "A bribe?" she asked suspiciously.
Rory's smile never faltered. "Well, you are the daughter of a politician," she reasoned.
Shock at the gentle tease quickly developed into a genuine peal of laughter as the pre-teen took the trinket into the palm of her hand. "I like her," she told Peter, effectively giving her blessing before running off to have her mother fasten on her new necklace. She stopped in the doorway, looking back at the two chuckling teens. Focusing on Rory, she grinned and said "You can go ahead and kiss him now."
"Not until I get some jewelry too," Peter feigned solemnity as Rory tucked an arm around his waist.
"Maybe later," she joked, leaning into the warmth of his body. "Can we get out of here?" she asked quietly. "Today's been a little…overwhelming."
"Sure," he agreed, knowing without asking exactly who had been the source of the day's grief. "Are you hungry?"
"Ah, I forgot who I'm speaking to. C'mon, I know a place."
"Not your mother's type of place?" she asked hopefully as they walked through the front door.
"God no," he laughed at her exaggerated grimace before wrapping both of his arms around her and instructing her to "Hold on tight."
"Why?" she asked suspiciously, receiving her answer when Peter took to the skies with a grin, clearly enjoying her desperate shrieks.
"Oh my god," she cried, clinging to the climbing boy without a thought to propriety. "What…are we…?"
"Flying," he answered, face beaming with the pleasure of wind raking through his hair, tugging at his limbs.
"I can't believe it," she panted, not yet sure whether she wanted to laugh or cry. She reluctantly pried her eyes open, digging her fingernails into Peter's back as she saw him swoop around the corner of a high rise. "Oh god, Peter, don't do that!"
"Relax," he instructed her, "look around. You'll never see a view like this from a limo, Ror."
Gulping heavily, she compromised by peeking out from one eye. "Oh wow…" she quietly exclaimed as she finally got a look at what was being offered to her. The warm light of the afternoon sun set thousands of windows dancing and winking happily at the passing couple, the only sound was the rushing wind in their ears, protected from the cool air by each other's embrace. No Angela or Emily. No confused attempts to reconcile Peter and Jess. Just…them.
All too soon Peter was landing in a copse of trees thick enough to sufficiently camouflage their descent. "People are pretty used to us, you know, being who we are," he explained as they wandered out of the brush and into a small park, "but landing in the middle of an open space surrounded by strangers will still earn you some strange looks."
"That was the most amazing experience, Peter," she earnestly thanked him as he led her to a nearby vendor. "I don't know how you kept yourself from doing that for six whole months. Wish I could fly."
He handed her a heavily dressed hot dog and snuck an arm around her shoulders as they walked down a paved walkway. "I wouldn't change anything about you," he whispered into her ear, successfully sending a shudder throughout her body. "Besides," he dropped to a grassy spot under a tree, motioning her to join him, "if you knew how to fly I wouldn't have any excuse to hold you like that."
She smiled sheepishly at his undisguised flirting, bumping their knees together in reprimand. "Stop," she demanded half hearted, "eat your hot dog."
"Yes ma'am," he ducked his head, taking a wolfish bite while his eyes continued to twinkle mischievously.
"This is more like it," she nodded happily, taking a whiff of her cholesterol laden dinner. "This is more along the lines of how I pictured you."
"Eating a hot dog?" he asked, confused.
"Well, yeah," she shrugged, "in a park, relaxed, sitting in dirt. Not holed up in some palatial estate. Being at your house and knowing that it was your house was just…strange."
"That's because the whole Petrelli insanity, it isn't my world. It's my parents world, my brother's world, and I'm sure Claire will fit in just fine, but it isn't me," he tugged at the lapels of his uniform, "this isn't me."
"I'm glad," she leaned over to dab at a dollop of ketchup at the corner of his mouth with her crumpled napkin, "because it isn't me either. You know," she smirked wickedly as she looked him over, "I think I get why you and my mom didn't get along. You're too much alike."
"Wow, comparing me to your mother. This is amazing for my ego."
"I'm serious," she nudged his shoulder excitedly, her eyes blazing with the light of discovery. "You both grew up in wealthy settings but never really fit in, raised by parents who had certain expectations you didn't want to fulfill. This is insane, you're not pregnant are you?"
"I'm not listening to this," he pouted, stuffing his food into his scowling face while Rory howled at his misfortune.
They sat in companionable silence as they continued eating, watching joggers and children at play. Done with his devil dog, Peter leaned back onto his elbows and entertained Rory with stories about Nathan bringing him to the park to practice flying as a child and how at 10 years old he found a wallet under a bench and took three different trains in order to get the object back to its owner.
"When I got home I was in so much trouble," he shook his head at the memory, remembering the look of outrage on his mother's face. "I don't think I spent another day at the park that whole summer."
"Well no wonder," Rory looked at him in amazement, holding her chin in her hands as she slowly shook her head. "They probably thought you were dead or kidnapped."
He laughed sadly. "I think that's what my dad said." He frowned and distractedly plucked at the grass. "I don't think I've told you…"
"I know," she hurriedly interjected, curling her smaller hand around his busy fingers. "I mean, I don't know everything but your brother told us back at Luke's. I'm so sorry J-Peter. My dad and I don't have the greatest relationship but if something happened to him…I'm sorry."
He threw himself onto his back with a sigh, folding his hands behind his head and squinting up through the thick canopy of leaves. "It really sucks, losing someone like that. I miss him," he swallowed heavily, blinking away unbidden tears, "but what's really, really hard is how many regrets I have. We didn't get along, fought all the time. Just too different, you know?" He looked up at her, silently begging her to understand. "After he died I kept thinking 'What if I had just given a little more?' What if I had been less stubborn, more open to his point of view. What if…" he laughed humorlessly. "The most painful phrase in the English language."
Sometimes grief doesn't require words, empty platitudes fall flat when confronted with a pain that goes on and on. So she didn't say anything. Instead she leaned over and kissed him; sweet, gentle comforting. A silent way to say "I'm here, I'm with you, you're not alone".
"Thanks," he murmured after she pulled away, running a hand through her loose hair and appreciating the fact that the red rim around her eyes wasn't for his father. "So now what? Do you want to go back and hang out with my mom some more?"
"Umm…" her eyes went wide as she tried to figure out a way to delicately extract herself from any future play dates with Angela Petrelli before a rumbling underneath her cheek alerted her to the fact that Peter was laughing. She sat up with a start, throwing her crumpled ball of trash at his head. "You jerk!"
"Hey, your mom banned me from your fridge, remember?"
"Yeah, well, you deserved it," she stood and dusted the bits of grass from her new outfit. Looking down at the still seated boy, soppy grin plastered across his face, crazy hair sticking up in all directions, she found herself ready to forgive his mother for, well, being herself, because like it or not he wouldn't have been there without her.
Jess had come into her world and upset just about everything; for good and for bad. He had changed her life, challenged her and prompted her to grow up in new and exciting ways. For a time she had a sense of danger in her life, a bite of the forbidden fruit. He had been a thrilling addition to her otherwise staid life, and when this boy had taken Jess away, claimed that he had never existed, it had hurt. The stinging betrayal had kept her away from him for weeks. Now, as that same boy swept her through the air she found that she couldn't feel the aching loneliness left when even the memory of her relationship with Jess had been wrenched away from her. She snuggled into the hard chest that was her only protection from a long and painful descent. She didn't need to mourn Jess any longer, she realized, because he had been Peter all along.
Well, that's all folks. I'm not sure what people were expecting from the ending, but I hope this is satisfying. They're together…for now. ::shrugs:: Not all high school romances end up in long term relationships. I have my own idea of what their future holds. I actually have an idea for an epilogue of sorts but I don't know, maybe you guys want to make up your own ending for them. At any rate I'm happy with it. Thanks again for sticking with me…its been fun!