A/N: Hopefully all the build up is worth the reveal :) Thanks again! There should be more to the verse sometimes in the not so distant future, if I can ever get my act together to get it polished!

CHAPTER FOUR

It was perfect.

The house, the food, the music, the lighting. The roast was moist, the dessert was succulent, the wine was rich. The ambiance was spectacular. With flickering lights and soft music, the house had never looked so alluring.

And Rory was not necessarily prone to vanity, but she looked pretty darn good, if she did say so herself. The dress fit her like a glove, revealing but not too much. Her new bra certainly did the trick and she had to admit, as gaudy as her undergarment selection had been, the silk stockings really did pull it together nicely. A nice pair of black pumps, a dabbing of sheer makeup, and she was good to go.

When Dean finally rang the doorbell at quarter after six, Rory had been through the plan fifteen times in her head. Invite him in. Serve some appetizers on the couch. Take him into the kitchen where dinner was served and waiting. Make cute chitchat, sit next to him, feel his leg, take him to the bedroom for dessert.

Literally. Figuratively. Every way possible.

Fool proof.

Everything she wanted.

Perfect.

It was a funny moment, standing there. Knowing Dean was right outside, knowing everything she had planned. She'd waited so long and now she had no regrets. This was it, she realized. Perfection in the making.

And she was so ready.

She opened the door.

Dean was standing there, his hands shoved in his pockets. One look at him, and her heart skipped a beat and it took everything she had not to attack him right there.

One look at her, and his face went startlingly blank. "Um. Hi," he said. He glanced around nervously, eyes lingering on Rory. "Um. Are we going out and I missed the memo?"

"What? No!" Rory said quickly, taking him by the hand. "Come in, come in."

He allowed himself to be pulled inside, his look of uncertainty deepening as he saw the living room. "Wow. Um. You've been busy," he commented.

She led him to the couch, sitting down and pulling him next to her. "Well, I figured you could use something a little more...restful."

Dean nodded slowly. "Right," he said, looking non-too-subtly at the candles on the coffee table. He swallowed, smiling awkwardly. "You look. Really nice tonight."

Rory beamed. That had been the general idea. "Thank you."

Dean looked down at himself. His pants were casual work pants, and he was wearing a button up that was tucked in. "But I feel sort of underdressed."

She laughed, trying not to sound hysterical. She'd been thinking just the opposite. "Don't worry," she assured him. "You're perfect."

His face warmed to that, a strange smile tugging at his lips. "Well, I think you're perfect, too," he said, leaning into peck her on the lips.

Rory's hormones flared and she bit her lip when he pulled away. Reaching out to the table, she picked up the plate of snacks. "Pig in a blanket?" she offered.

Surprised, he plucked on off. "You actually made pigs in a blanket?" he asked, almost a little awed. "With real little weenies?"

Weenies. Dean wasn't making this any easier.

She was cool and in control. She let it pass. "And real crescent rolls," she said proudly.

He popped it in his mouth, chewing happily. "That's amazing," he said.

"Then you'd better have more than one," she suggested. He could have as many as he wanted as long as she got what she needed in the end.

He took another, eating it in a single bite. "So what brings this on? Candles, music, cooking?"

She shrugged. "Can't a girl just do something for her boyfriend."

His eyes narrowed playfully. "Yes, but usually you just buy me a book or surprise me with takeout."

"Well, we're stepping it up a notch," Rory said. "In fact, I have another surprise for you."

Dean raised his eyebrows. "Another one?"

More than one, but no need tipping him off now. "But it's in the kitchen."

"The kitchen?" he asked. "Rory, you did not make dinner, did you?"

"And what if I did?" she asked grinning.

"You could have hurt yourself!"

She laughed. "That's true, and I will admit, I had a close call while chopping carrots. But between me, you, and the carrot peeler, I had it covered the entire time."

He opened his mouth. Then shut it. "Wow," he said. "This must really be a special night if you're cooking. I didn't miss an anniversary or anything?"

Well, Rory hoped to create an anniversary, but that wasn't something to discuss now. "And if I said yes?"

He laughed, leaning close to her. "Then I'd have to call you a liar."

"With all this hard work, that's all I get?" she asked with a pout.

"Nah," he said. Then he bent his head toward hers, kissing her. It was a lingering kiss, but he pulled it away far too quickly for Rory's needs. "How's that?"

She pressed her lips together, still tasting Dean on them. "Well, that's a start," she said. "Now, come on. Let's go eat."

"Normally, I'd still want to know what was behind all this," Dean said. "But I admit. I'm starving tonight."

Rory laughed. "I think I know the feeling," she agreed. Then she stood, holding her hands out gallantly. "After you."

He stood, eyeing her with a mixture of wonder and amusement. "Yes, master," he said.

Rory certainly did like the sound of that. And she hoped Dean would still be saying that when dinner was nothing more than an afterthought for both of them.

-o-

Dinner was...

Tasty? Perfect? Sweet? Cute? Fun?

Maybe, for Dean. For Rory? Dinner was just slow.

Dean had been the ever-dutiful boyfriend. He savored every bite, complimented her five times on every course. He was effusive and adorable and told her funny stories about the customers he'd had in the store that day. He played footsie with her, and keenly ignored her hand every time it ventured further up his thigh.

Needless to say, he really wasn't getting the hint. This was going to be harder than she thought. He was going to make her spell it out in very graphic detail.

But fortunately, she was all too ready to oblige. And she did have one more trick up her sleeve.

Dessert.

"Wow," Dean said, rubbing his stomach. "That was...amazing. I had no idea you could cook so well."

"Well, I've just never been so motivated," Rory told him truthfully. Because honestly, she barely remembered the cooking. She couldn't even remember what it tasted like. Had it been chicken or beef in the end and what were those potatoes called that went in with the meat all day?

Who knew? Who cared? Besides Dean, anyway, and right then, she wasn't really concerned with what Dean thought he wanted.

One week of unrequited passion and she was actually turning into a harlot. Dean needed to get this over with and make a decent woman of her once again before she burned up from the inside out.

Dean grinned, clearly oblivious to her maniacal planning. "Well, Miss Motivated. Why don't you go out and find something on TV while I clean up for us?"

The offer in and of itself was actually ridiculously sweet. The stuff that most women would be giddy to hear. Part of her wondered if she was missing the point, but then she remembered how she'd felt all week.

It wasn't her point to miss. So, no. Neither of them would be doing dishes. Not tonight. Not anytime soon. Not if Rory had planned this as well as she thought she had. And considering her checklists, her pro/con lists, her pure need, she had planned this basically down to the last detail. "But we haven't had dessert yet," she said.

"There's dessert?" Dean asked. Oh, so innocently. Too innocently.

She was not to blame if her smile was predatory. "Peach cobbler."

"You made peach cobbler?" he asked, just like a mouse blinking in wonder up at a snake.

She grinned, more at her mental use of simile than anything else. "You like it?"

"Like it? I love it," he said enthusiastically.

"Perfect," she said, and it was perfect. The night, the food, the ambiance. Rory, Dean. Everything. She had thought the pinnacle of her life was Yale, the campaign trail, the Detroit Free Press. Maybe the Gazette. But those accomplishments all paled in comparison to this moment. "Now. Why don't you go on to the bedroom and I'll be there in a minute."

His brow furrowed. "The bedroom?"

She tried to act nonchalant. "It's more intimate," she said.

"You don't want to watch TV?" he asked.

She contained her frustration. He was sweet, adorable, hot, and responsible. With all of that going for him, she would have to forgive that he was a little dense sometimes. Though it did make the seduction all the sweeter, right? "Just trust me, okay?" she asked.

He hesitated, but then he nodded, obedient if uncertain. It really was like a bad romance novel, which was okay with her as long as it ended up just like the whole genre that she almost refused to admit she'd ever read.

"Okay," she said, smiling broadly. "I promise. I'll just be a minute."

He nodded, turning and moving with clear confusion to the bedroom. He opened the door and paused, looking back at her.

"It's okay, I promise," she assured him. He would understand soon enough. "Make yourself comfortable. Maybe start a book."

He didn't look overly reassured, but he went in anyway.

Which was Rory's chance.

Fortunately, she already had the pie on plates, which was a smart move because she was shaking so hard that she wasn't sure she would have been able to slice it at the moment. Fumbling with her dress, she pulled it off over her head, letting it drop to the floor. She straightened her lingerie, not letting herself think about how forward it was.

Of course it was forward. That was the point. If Dean wasn't picking up on subtle, she'd force the issue. It was a good issue to force, wasn't it? Dean loved her, she loved him. This was good. This would be very good. For both of them.

Looking down at herself, a surge of excitement and nervousness swept through her. All that waiting. Waiting, waiting, waiting. She'd planned, she'd perfected. She'd talked to everyone. She'd gotten advice. She'd done everything right. She'd won a place in Dean's life and now she was going to get the rest of the package, too.

It was all going to pay off. Her week of pining; it would be worth it.

Carefully, she picked up the plates, walking carefully toward the bedroom. No turning back, now. Not that she wanted to. Rory was always sure of what she wanted, goal-oriented and determined. And she always prevailed. At least, those were the things she let herself remember.

With one last breath, she went inside.

Dean was seated on the chair, half buried in Rory's stuffed animals. He was examining Colonel Clucker when he looked up.

And very nearly freaked out.

For a second, he just froze. Eyes wide, a little terrified, face pale.

For that moment, Rory worried she might have sent him into shock or something. Or worse, triggered his ulcer. What if her aggressive attempt to satisfy her own needs killed him?

But he blinked. Once, twice, face flushing red.

She let out her breath, trying to smile with a certainty she suddenly no longer felt.

Abruptly, he stood up, turning around toward the window, a hand over his eyes. "Rory, what are you doing?" he asked, his voice noticeably strained.

So he was just overwhelmed. He was the innocent man. She was the sultry seductress. She'd watched Moulin Rouge. If Nicole Kidman could pull it off in an elephant, she could pull it off here.

"Bringing you dessert," she said as innocently as possible. She walked closer to him, her confidence returning. If she needed this, so did Dean. She was doing them both a favor.

He turned around briefly, before turning abruptly back again. "In that?" he asked, sounding more like teenager in puberty than a full-grown man.

She laughed easily. "Well it's part of your dessert silly," she said. She held out the pie. "Do you want a bite?"

He flinched.

"Of the pie, I meant," she said. "To start with anyway."

He took to pacing, glancing at her every so often with jerky head movements. "Rory, I think you should go put your clothes back on."

She put down the plates on her desk, moving closer to him. This wasn't about peach cobbler anyway, and now at least all the cards were on the table and Rory was going to take the pot. "I think you might be more comfortable with yours off, too," she said.

"No, no, no," he said quickly. "Really. I mean-"

She shushed him, pulling his arm to stop him.

To her relief, he obeyed, allowing himself to face her. She moved even closer, until their bodies were touching. She ran her fingers under his shirt, feeling their way up his stomach toward his chest.

He closed his eyes with a muffled groan.

She moved her finger down, toward his pants. Feeling for his belt, she pulled it out, unhooking it.

Dean exhaled deeply, his body caving to meet hers almost unconsciously. With no resistance, Rory pushed back, pressing their bodies together and fumbling with the button on his pants.

It was easier than she expected, and the pants loosened, falling away from Dean's slim waist easily.

His dropped his head against hers, his breath hot against her, just like she remembered. "Rory," he moaned, and his hands fluttered on her shoulders before finally settling, long fingers tracing the edge of her bra.

It was almost too much. Rory surged up, pressing her lips against his, pulling his head down with force as they kissed. Her other hand played with the hem of his underwear, venturing downward.

Then, abruptly, Dean stiffened. "No," he said. Then he pulled back, turning away almost desperately. "No, no, no."

He was saying no. He was saying no.

How could he be saying no? Why would he be saying no? Was he really saying no?

Her face went red, embarrassed and frustrated, and tears pricked at her eyes. "What?" she asked, feeling almost unhinged by it all. She was doing it all right. She'd done everything right. She was Rory Gilmore, seductress extraordinaire. "Why not?"

He looked at her, bent over a little, eyes pleading. "Rory, no," he said. "I. We can't."

She rushed toward him again, shaking her head. "We can," she said, believing that she could believe it enough for both of them.

He took a rallying breath, shaking his head. "No, we can't," he said. "I mean. Can we just talk about this? I mean, before we do this, shouldn't we talk?"

"We've talked all night," Rory argued. "We've talked from the second I got back to town. Enough with talking." Because all the talking was making her one fry short of a Happy Meal and the fries were the best part of a freakin' Happy Meal. Without the fries, it wasn't even so happy, and a Happy Meal without the Happy just didn't make sense.

His face was almost pained. "But we haven't talked about this."

He was serious. And insane. And yes, seriously insane and insanely serious. He was the one missing the fries in the Happy Meal. Not to mention the burger, drink, and even the little toy.

He closed his eyes, licking his lips. "Please, Rory," he said. Then he looked at her again. "Just. Can we please talk about this?"

It took all of her self-control and some she didn't know she had. Woodenly, she nodded, her body almost too numb to do anything else.

He swallowed. "Maybe a bit more dressed," he suggested.

Rory jaw locked and she turned uncomfortably and picked up her robe. He wanted her dressed. All this and he wanted her dressed.

What did that even mean? Was it possible that he was gay? Was it possible that she was gay? Was it possible that she had fallen into an alternate universe again? One much more cruel than Friday Night Dinner with sex tales?

Slipping the robe on, she made a point of tying it before turning back around. She found Dean redoing his belt, visibly shaking.

At least that was a feeling she understood at the moment, because she didn't understand anything else.

He took a moment, composing himself, before he looked back up her. Moving over to her, he took her hands in his in a very gentlemanly gesure. "Rory," he said, starting off slowly and evenly. "Is...this what's been bothering you all week?"

She gave a snort. "So you were picking up on the hints," she muttered. Maybe her mother had been right about the eunuch thing.

He winced a little, squeezing her hands for a moment. "But maybe you weren't picking up on mine," he said.

What hints? That he wasn't into her like that? That he wanted to be with her but not make love to her? That she was suddenly an unattractive, asexual woman?

Her voice was rough when she spoke. "What, that you're suddenly not attracted to me?" she asked, feeling more than a bit sulky. To get so far and be rebuffed? It wasn't just frustrating. It was mortifying.

She was a ridiculous mess. She'd made a fool of herself and for what? To ruin what they had? To realize that it wasn't going anywhere?

"Rory, no," he said. He leaned down, trying to catch her eye. "Look at me."

Reluctantly, she did, even though she didn't want to. It hurt too much, everything hurt too much. But when she looked up, she could see that his face was soft and sincere.

"That's not it at all," he said. "I think you're amazing. Gorgeous. The best girlfriend in the world."

He meant it. She knew he meant it. He wasn't a good liar, but he was awesome at telling the truth. Which just made this all the more confusing. It was what she wanted to hear, but not everything she needed. "So why won't you have sex with me?" she finally asked, flat out.

His shoulders fell. He ran a hand through his hair. "Why didn't you just ask me before?" Dean asked, his brow creased seriously.

Because she was neurotic, insane, and in the throngs of sexual need. Such contexts did not lend themselves to rational thought. She winced. "Because I didn't want to know why," she said. "I just wanted to fix it."

Dean raised his eyebrows. "By planning a seduction?"

"It seemed very Nora Roberts," she said, with an apologetic tone.

"You've read Nora Roberts?"

"What haven't I read?"

He seemed to accept that. He swallowed, nodding before looking at her steadily. "I'm not avoiding having sex with you to hurt you," he said.

"But you are avoiding having sex with me?"

He sighed. Then he reached out, taking her gently by the arm and settling her on her bed, which she had wanted, but she had hoped it would be with a lot more passion and a lot less clothing. "Rory, listen," he said, sitting slightly away from her. "I love you very much."

"And I love you," she said, scooting closer to him, a hand reaching out, lingering on his arm.

He pet her arm, stilling it. "And I'm very attracted to you," he said.

She leaned even further forward. "And I'm very attracted to you," she said, feeling herself flush again.

Carefully, he eased back. "Rory, you have to let me finish," he said.

"We can finish later," she said.

"No, I think we need to talk about this now," he said.

She sighed, sinking back and letting her shoulders slump. "Talk about what?"

"About why I don't think we should have sex."

Her eyes went wide, her back straightening in shock, shaking her head. "There is no reason we shouldn't have sex!"

"But-there is," he said. "I just...I've thought a lot about this."

"Thinking? Thinking is bad," she said. "Very, very bad."

He shook his head. "No, Rory, listen," he said, grabbing her shoulders and forcing her to look at him. "I need you to focus."

She stilled, even though every fiber in her being was screaming to tackle Dean backward onto the sheets. He may have been gigantic, but she would have the element of surprise on her side. She might be able to rip off his button up shirt before he had a chance to think and fend her off.

He was staring at her intently. "We've been here before," he said.

She nodded. "So why not go there again?" she asked, running a hand up his arm.

At that, he laughed, incredulously, pulling back and standing. "Because it was a disaster last time," he said. "It was the worst mistake I ever made."

And that stopped Rory dead in her tracks, powerful enough even to still her throbbing libido. She cocked her head. "What?"

"Rory, last time, I almost ruined both our lives. And Lindsay's. I mean, it's not that it wasn't good, okay?" he said, sitting next to her again and looking at her imploringly. "But the timing-it was all wrong-and because I couldn't wait to do it right, I screwed up our first time. I just...I don't want to put the cart ahead of the horse again, you know?"

She just stared at him.

He looked apologetic. "It's not that I don't want it," he continued. "Because, Rory, I do. I really do. But I want our relationship to last more than I want to satisfy our physical desires. I love you more than that."

And, just like that, it made sense. All of it. And her mother had been right, damn it. She should have just asked. If she'd just asked, she could have spared herself this week of torture.

She'd known Dean had changed. She'd known Dean had overcome his guilt. But she hadn't realized just how much. Of course he didn't want to give in. Sex had been their downfall. It had been one of her biggest mistakes, too. But it was a mistake she'd conveniently left in her past, a dirty little secret that came out when she was drunk and sharing skeletons to impress her friends.

But, for Dean, it had been so much more. Life-altering, encompassing. For him, it had changed everything, been the formative experience to shape his adulthood. It only made sense that he would be wary of giving in again. Even if the situations were different, even if it was okay now, Dean wanted more for them. It wasn't about sex for him

The last week aside, it wasn't about sex for Rory either.

She sighed.

He looked nervous. "Say something," he said.

She sighed again, looking at him. Looking at more than the fine sculpting of his body, the sharpness of his features, the soft curl of his hair. Looking at him: his gentle nature, his devoted concern.

"Rory?"

"You are so amazing," she said, smiling in awe. Because he was amazing, hands down, plain and simple. She had never known someone that amazing. "I can't believe you're mine."

He looked perplexed for a second. "What?"

She smiled, moving her hand to his face, touching his skin softly. "You are so amazing," she said again. "Here I've been, thinking with my downstairs brain and you're thinking about what's best for us."

"But I should have told you," he said. "I just...I thought we could see where it went."

"Well, wherever it goes," she said. "I'm just glad we're going there together."

A grin split his face and he leaned forward, kissing her. It was full and deep, and fire spread through her, but as he pulled away, she let the urge pass. She looked up at him. "I love you," she said.

"And I love you," he said.

She leaned forward, kissing him again. Pulling away, she sighed. "So," she said. "Now that I'm on board with this non-sex thing, I just have to ask just how long we're thinking?"

Dean shrugged. "I don't really know."

"Like a month? Weeks? We have to be going steady? Maybe if I get RG + DF tattooed across my forehead. I would even wear your blood around my neck in a vial, but that might be a little too Angelina Jolie, the freak years."

He laughed. "I was thinking we'd just play it by ear."

"Honestly, that's not really the part of the body I'd like to play it by," she said.

"Rory Gilmore," he said, with a smile. "You have a dirty mind."

She leaned in, trailing her finger on his ear before kissing him once. "Well, I apparently have to take it where I can get it."

He laughed a little, kissing her back, a little longer, a hint of tongue. "Just don't look too far," he said.

She raised her eyebrows demurely. "Then you better stick around," she murmured, kissing him again, but slower this time. The kiss was open-mouthed and hot and her body ached with it. Then Dean pulled her closer, cupping her head and pulling her around until she was on his lap. His hips raised and she moaned.

Then, he stopped.

She sat there, eyes closed, mouth open.

"Rory," he whispered.

She nodded. "You sure you don't want to rethink this?" she asked.

He nodded. "Just give me a minute."

"Give me five."

"I may need a shower," Dean said.

"I may need one first."

Dean laughed, short and hard. "I'm just full of great ideas tonight, huh?"

At that, Rory looked at him. His faced was flushed, and for a second, she knew she could have him if she really wanted him. It wouldn't take much to push him beyond the point of no return.

But he was right. He had a habit of that these days. About them. About waiting.

This was worth waiting for.

They were worth waiting for.

She smiled, sliding off him. "You go first," she said. "Towels are in the hall closet."

He hesitated a moment, before licking his lips and smiling at her. "I love you," he said.

And that-right there-was the reason why. Better than doing her own laundry, better than coffee in the morning, better than sex-was the love of a good man. "I love you, too," she said.

"You know," Dean said, as he stood up. "This whole thing was pretty elaborate. I'm kind of flattered."

Rory made a sound of dismissal. "You should see what I do for my mother when she puts coffee on in the morning."

"Someday I'd like to," he told her.

She nodded, pleased with the notion. "And someday you will."

"That's something I'll hold you to."

"I'm counting on it," she said.

He grinned, nodding a bit again as he stepped into the hall. She heard him open the bathroom door, closing it behind him with a snick. It took a moment before the water ran and the shower kicked on.

Rory flopped back on her bed, staring at the ceiling. She still felt hot and flushed, but it was abating again, this time, for real. She knew the reasons, and while they didn't make it all go away, it made it easier.

She thought of Dean, stripping his clothes. She thought of Dean's boxer-briefs on the floor and the color of his skin under the flow of the water.

She sighed, closing her eyes. Oh, Dean, she thought. I'm definitely counting on it.