Title- Always
Author- Kàra, since apparently FFn thinks my penname, within the contents of a document, is a link or something as it keeps deleting it (freaks!)
Summary- In "I'm OK, You're OK" what if Doyle had waited a little longer to come see Paris? With Paris there to support her, Rory doesn't take Logan back. Fast forward to The Real Paul Anka. With no Logan in the way, will Rory and Jess get a chance to really work things out?
Rating- Strictly PG-13 for now, may go up later

A/N- I'm very much flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants on this fic. The Crying Game was all written before I even began posting, but this is spur-of-the-moment, so updates won't necessarily be nice and frequent. I always told myself that I would never let myself be one of those writers who goes months or (god forbid!) years between updates, but feedback is addicting and I couldn't wait to post. And hey, I got to use an obscure word in the very first sentence! Jess would be proud of me...

1. Exodus

The loud rapping of knuckles on the door shocked the two girls on the sofa out of their misandry and into action. "Did we actually order that pizza?" Paris asked suspiciously.

Rory shrugged, not noticing or sharing her friend's concern. "I thought it was just discussed," she said, sitting up slightly.

"Who is it?" Paris called.

"It's Logan," came the muffled reply.

"I don't want to talk to him!" Rory responded, feeling slightly panicked. It wasn't that she didn't still care about Logan, but the honest truth was, something was broken between them and she knew it. If she spoke to him face-to-face, she was afraid his innate charm and endearing ability to be sincere when he wanted might make her lose all sense; it had happened before, when he would smile at her and she would paste on a smile back because she didn't want to look at the cracks in their foundations. She was tired of a weak foundation, she was sick of having someone who seemed to make himself into who he thought she wanted him to be and repeatedly slipping up only to come crawling back and begging for forgiveness because she was familiar and comforting.

Luckily, tonight she had her friend to back her up. Paris rose to her feet, casting her a comforting look- well, as close to comforting as Paris could conceivably get. "I've got this," she assured her. The blonde strode to the door and pulled it open a crack, leaving the chain on. "Well, if it isn't New Haven's favorite whorehound," she said snidely.

"Is Rory here?"


"Can I talk to her?"

Paris gave him a withering stare (at her mind's use of that particular phrase, Rory's memory suddenly turned up images of a very different ex-boyfriend for no reason that she could understand... but she shook that aside to pay attention to the conversation) and said, "No. You can talk to me." She opened the door wide. "What do you want to talk about? Life? Love? Common symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases?"

"Rory-" Logan began, looking past the blonde to where Rory retained her position on the sofa. "Five minutes, please!"

But Paris, typically, appeared to have no intention of backing down. "You know, there's a few things I've always wanted to say to you, but out of respect for my friend Rory here, I've refrained. However, the circumstances seem to have changed!"

"You don't know what you're talking about, Paris," Logan said, brushing her off. Rory felt a flare of anger at his immediate dismissal of her friend's opinion. Didn't he get that, though Paris certainly didn't have any direct influence on their relationship, her friends mattered to her? She didn't want to see their input ignored by someone who claimed to love her! (Again, her mind suddenly wandered to the only one of her boyfriends who had been able to easily put up with Paris, even get along with her to some extent... but again she pushed him out of her mind. Now was not the time to dwell on heart-breakers...)

Paris and Logan were still verbally sparring when she came out of her reverie. "...Nothing but a two-bit, spoiled, waste of a trust fund," Paris was saying. "You offer nothing to women or the world in general. If you were to disappear from the face of the earth tomorrow, the only person that would miss you is your Porsche dealer!"

"You wanna chime in here?" Logan asked a little desperately, glancing at Rory.

She gave him a disinterested look. "Nope, I think Paris has it pretty well covered."

"Okay, that's it!" he exclaimed, blue-grey eyes flashing angrily, physically shoving Paris out of his way and ignoring her exclamation of protest. "Rory, I just need sixty seconds!"

"Go away, Logan," Rory said tiredly. Almost speaking over her, Paris followed up with an indignant cry of, "No one invited you in! Get out right now before I go all Bonaduce on your ass!"

Logan strode up to Rory, and for a moment she felt an unnerving flash of fear that he might push her around as he had her friend. "I'm not going away, I'm not going anywhere. We're going to talk."

"I don't want to talk to you, Logan!"

"Please, Ace, I love you, I just want a chance to make it up to you!"

Paris glared from her place by the doorway. "You cheated on her once. How can she be sure you wouldn't just do it again?"

He whipped around to shoot her a furious look. "Would you shut your mouth?" he exclaimed in frustration. "I'm not talking to you, I'm talking to Rory." For a moment, Rory was swayed by the fact that he had never used her name this many times in a conversation before, but immediately her anger returned when he turned back to her and said, "Please, come home."

"Your apartment isn't home, Logan, it never was," she said snidely.

"Ror, I love you, okay? Please, just... I want another chance! You have to understand, in my mind, I really thought we were broken up!"

She stared at the floor, not wanting to meet his eyes because they were too familiar and too persuasive to her. Even furious and disenchanted with him as she was, there was no denying that the chemistry between them sometimes induced her to make rash decisions.

Logan, however, took her avoidance of eye contact as a sign of her resolve weakening. Trying to press his perceived advantage, he seized her shoulders, clamping down on her arms perhaps a little harder than he'd meant to as he said, "Rory, look at me!" He shook her slightly, trying to cajole her into meeting his gaze

Paris saw the beginnings of fear on her friend's face and flew across the intervening space to plant herself neatly at their side, arms crossed and a look that screamed 'homicidal rage' on her face. "Huntzberger, I am only telling you this once more: Get. Out. Of. Our. Apartment."

He didn't even bother to look at Paris, eyes fixed on the brunette. "I'm only going if Rory wants me to," he said quietly, removing one of his hands from her shoulder.

Rory didn't respond.

"Ace?" he asked hesitantly.

At last, she glanced up, looking him square in the eyes. "I don't love you anymore, Logan."

His other hand dropped away, clenching into a white-knuckled fist as if he'd been burned by her skin. Jaw tight, he nodded stoically, and there was a hardness in her eyes that she'd never seen there before. He took a few steps backwards away from her, then turned around and walked out of the apartment (she couldn't help but picture a shorter, dark-haired boy making practically the same set of motions almost two years ago... and again she had to push the thoughts away). Just before he disappeared into the night, Logan turned back. "Bye, Ace," he said, face betraying his pain. "I guess I'll see you around whenever."

She nodded.

The silence in the apartment was somewhat deafening. Rory glanced at Paris, who sighed. "I understand that, in a situation like this, ice cream is the preferred method of comfort," she said with a hint of a question in it. Rory nodded again, not really trusting her voice to be able to handle the lump in her throat just now.

"Just so you know," Paris continued. "I'm not hugging you."

Understanding that this was her friend's roundabout way of making sure she was alright, Rory smiled. "I didn't expect you to. Now, what do you say to some Rocky Road to go with the rest of the Chinese?"

Before Paris could respond, Doyle burst in, still wearing Rory's jacket. "What the hell is this door doing unlocked?!" he exclaimed.

"What are you doing here?" the stunned blonde demanded, expression switching from friendly concern to murderous instantly.

"I want to talk to you," the former editor said firmly, and Rory began to wonder if perhaps he had imbibed before returning to the apartment.

Paris crossed her arms. "I told you to go," she said, but there was already the tiniest bit of softening around her eyes, and Rory smiled to herself. Murmuring an excuse that neither party heard, she slipped out of the living room and into the bedroom she had recently reclaimed.

Two Weeks Later...

Rory had been avoiding the apartment for the last few days, because the newly reunited Paris and Doyle were being quite frankly very sickening in their own way. She wouldn't have been particularly bothered by their amorous behavior if it weren't for the fact that she was freshly alone. It was fine, of course. She knew for certain that she had no more feelings for Logan anymore. How could she when he had no respect for her? But that didn't mean that she didn't miss having someone in her life.

Unfortunately, it was impossible to keep away from her place of residence forever, because there were some very creepy people in all-night cafes that Rory really didn't have much interest in meeting.

When she entered the apartment, she made a point of being extra-noisy when she gave the door the customary two kicks to loosen it. Thankfully, the apartment was quiet. There were a few open boxes of Thai takeout on the counter and a stack of mail next to it. Clearly, the couple hadn't bothered with sorting the mail or putting away their food before becoming engrossed in... things. With a sigh, she picked up the pile of envelopes and began flicking through it, setting all the mail addressed to Paris or Doyle back on the counter while keeping a few of the letters for herself.

One piece of mail, however, made her pause. Rory set the rest of the mail carefully on the counter and crossed the tiny apartment to sink down onto the sofa, staring at the flyer in her hands. It was an invitation to an open-house at a place called Truncheon Books in Philadelphia. Quickly, Rory put the pieces together- books, Philadelphia- and realized who the invitation was from before she even saw the neat little handwritten note in the margin beside the contact details.

Thought maybe you'd like to see the place. Hope you can make it.

It was brief, trivial, and relatively uninformative, but she was disproportionately touched that he had taken the time to single out this one invite to put a personal note on it. A little smile threatened the corners of her mouth as she scanned the information provided on the oversized postcard. The open-house was this upcoming Saturday. She didn't have any plans, as far as she was aware.

Jess had been on her mind a lot lately. Well, he had always been on her mind more frequently than what she guessed to be normal for an ex-boyfriend, but over the last few months she'd thought about him even more than usual. Seeing him back in November had been a shock, to say the least. She had been startled to find that she was still hugely attracted to him... maybe even more so than before, given his new, calmer demeanor. He wore maturity well.

A part of her acknowledged that she had never really felt like their story was over, like there was still something else coming for them. She had a suspicion that, whatever that next chapter held, closure or friendship or... well, she could envision another possibility, but she didn't really want to consider that just now. She didn't even know if he still thought of her that way, let alone actually wanting to give them another try. More likely this was just an overture of friendship, his attempt to let the past go and get back on friendly terms (a good idea, considering they were soon to be connected through marriage). But whatever it was that the invitation meant, she knew that the next stage in their tumultuous history would begin if she decided to accept the invitation.

And all at once, it hit her that despite her mind trying to rationalize the situation, she had already made the decision: she was going to Philadelphia.

Rory smiled, and for the first time in months (no, if she was honest with herself, it was the first time in years) it felt really right on her face.

A/N2- I don't know when I'll update this. I don't have a great deal of time for writing until Easter holiday starts next week. However, the next chapter of The Crying Game will be posted late this afternoon (since I now realize it's 1:30 in the morning and I've been writing since midnight trying to get this chapter done in one sitting... Reward my efforts, please? You know what to do...)