A/N: I know that I owe you guys an update on FFS. Unfortunately, I've decided to put that story on a temporary hiatus until after exams. I've reached a point in that story that requires me to put to use a lot of my research. It's become a bit too much of a strain on my work load at the moment, so I'm going to hold off for a while.

So instead, I bring you this one shot. I came up with this idea while walking to class one morning. I wrote half it in class the other evening. I wrote the rest before I went to bed last night. Hope this will hold everyone over for now!

Title: Almost
Summary: Logan's thoughts and feelings about Rory at the beginning of S5.
Disclaimer: I don't own Gilmore Girls.


He'd never met anyone like her before.

She intrigued him. Not just because he couldn't have her easily, as he could if she was any other girl. She was someone that he could not quite figure out. She was a constant surprise.

He didn't even recognize her right away the second time they met. She had stayed silent during that first meeting, and to be honest he wasn't paying too much attention to her, even when he was speaking to her friend the bartender. In any case, he had been more focused on the girl whose body his arm was wrapped around. It was a little unfortunate, but not at all surprising that she had slipped his mind. He normally had a rather short attention span when it came to girls.

On that second interaction, he couldn't help but notice her beauty. It was the first thing he noticed before remembering their first meeting. She wasn't beautiful in the obvious way that he was normally attracted to. But it was clear to anyone looking (and yes, he was most certainly looking that time) that she was pretty. Gorgeous even.

They had been searching for the latest love of Finn's life. He had gone along on the hunt not because he believed Finn would find her (they had nothing to go on other than short name and red hair; he currently had a thing for redheads) but because he thought he should be there to pull Finn away on the off chance they found the poor girl and she decided to call the cops.

Finn thought for sure he had found the correct door (although Finn's memory could never be trusted when he was drunk) and was actually going to leave a number; Logan's number, in fact. Logan was going to protest until the girl hanging up posters nearby spoke up. He had ignored her at first, of course. He assumed that she couldn't possibly understand what a delicate situation dealing with Finn could be, especially when kept from the possible woman of his dreams. That is, until she finally said something to make them all notice.

"That's my room."

He turned to her smiling, and Logan gave her the quick once over. She was cute, that much was obvious. And she looked annoyed.

"Okay, put my number," he said with a smirk.

Colin and Finn left him to smooth things over with the girl, who didn't immediately turn to putty at his obvious appreciation of her physical appearance. It's not as though Logan didn't know he was attractive. He was perfectly aware of the effect he had on women. But she wasn't like most girls.

It wasn't just her looks that attracted her to him at first, which was also unusual for him. Sure she was cute, but Logan could have no problem getting an attractive girl. What interested him was how she did not fall for his usual charm. In fact, she clearly did not like him. He couldn't really blame her. They had just met the day before, and he didn't even remember it. (Though how he could forget seeing her, a beautiful woman, was beyond him.) So picking a disagreement with her had not only been easy, but it was fun.

The interaction had amused him. Anger certainly worked on her. There was something about her that made him want to see her again, in a way that he'd never wanted to run into a girl again before. She didn't fall for his bag of tricks. She wasn't interested in his money. It would take more good looks and his smile for this girl to even consider spending time with him socially. When he walked away, hoping that he'd see her again, it wasn't for the reasons he normally wanted to see a girl again. It wasn't about trying to sleep with her, although he wouldn't say no if the circumstances ever allowed that to happen. He couldn't remember the last time he had so much fun simply talking to a woman, despite the fact that she spent most of the interaction yelling at him.

He was a little surprised when he next saw her in the news room, pitching ideas to the editor. But then again, he shouldn't have been. Of course she would pop up in every area of his life; this girl he couldn't quite figure out. He'd spent a lot of time pondering the interaction since he last saw her, trying to decide how she fit into his life. He wanted to know her, but he was unsure why it mattered. It wasn't about her being beautiful. It wasn't about trying to sleep with her. It had more to do with the fact that she acted the exact opposite of the way everyone else behaved around him when he first met someone new. Instead of falling at his feet and kissing his ass the way Doyle was doing when he casually strolled into the Yale Daily News office, kissing his latest fling goodbye, she glared at him. If looks could kill, he thought; but her clear annoyance only egged him on.

He was even more surprised when he discovered her waiting for him in the shadows. He had been trying to figure out some other way to approach her, one that didn't involve going back to the Yale Daily News, and he hadn't expected her to track him down first. Of course, he didn't expect the bombshell she dropped on him in the form of the Life and Death Brigade. Clearly Logan had underestimated her.

He knew she had him the second the name left her mouth. Many had tried to track them down in the past, but no one had gotten a name that could lead them to an actual member. She approached him with such an assured confidence, throwing his usual confidence back in his face. She was trying to beat him at his own game, giving him just enough information to know that she had him trapped. All she needed was his name and Finn's license plate, and she could go to the cops, although what she really wanted was a story. And she wouldn't stop until she got it either. The point of their meeting in the courtyard wasn't to get him to talk; she was too good a reporter for that. She had to know that he'd deny all allegations made against the LDB. She wanted to let him know that he had a choice: either help her out, or she'd write the story anyway.

He took it as an opportunity. The second he discovered what her intensions were, he planned on inviting her to their next event. Once he knew he would be in control of their next interaction, he couldn't help but flirt with her a little once she gave him an opening. It was adorable watching how uncomfortable it seemed to make her to have him turn her own words against her.

For Logan, the point of the weekend was to challenge her. He certainly wanted to keep her around (although he was still undecided as to what capacity), but he wasn't sure that she could keep up with him and his friends. Sure she was a quick witted reporter. But Logan tended to move quickly and make impulsive decisions. He went with his gut more often than not. (The exception, of course, was deciding what to do about her. He still couldn't figure her out, and therefore wasn't sure what his actions should be.) Of course, he should have known better than to underestimate her abilities. It took her all of two seconds two figure out who was in the car, despite her blindfold, and wasted no time in asking questions in an attempt to figure things out on her own. She didn't even flinch when Logan informed her that it was an overnight trip.

He tried to mostly leave her alone when they first arrived at the event. Logan had his own set of social responsibilities to adhere to. Still, he couldn't help watching occasionally her; at first from a distance, but then eventually sitting down to talk with her when someone saw her go off on her own. He could tell by her demeanor that she was slightly annoyed with the lack of information the other members of the LDB were giving her, but she would not admit it. She was the kind of reporter who would not let a lack of any interviews get in the way of her story. He admired that in her.

Later that night, he found that Steph had told Rory about the Line. Damn Steph and her big mouth! That girl was too nosey for her own good. When Logan had first approached the group about inviting Rory, an outsider, to the event, Steph had refused to accept Logan's reasoning. She read more into his actions than the others did. To everyone else, inviting Rory was about trying to control the story that this reporter would write whether they liked it or not; she had too many names for them not to invite her. Steph saw it for what it was, something that Logan himself didn't even see right away. She spotted his fascination with Rory, and took it as her prerogative to go poking around where she didn't belong.

Perhaps Logan should have put a stop to it right away when Steph asked him what his real intensions were; but truthfully, he was curious. He wanted to know what Rory really thought about him. She had gone from dislike, to slightly hesitant, to a confident reporter, to a seemingly nonchalant girl. Maybe if he knew once and for all what she was thinking, he could gauge his own opinion of her. But why did Steph have to tell her about that stupid line?

He'd never really taken any stock in the line. He thought it was petty, and he never took any girl who thought she needed to wait in line in order to be with him seriously. Did these girls really think they had so much control over his life that he'd give a damn about who had waited their turn? He would sleep with whoever he wanted to sleep with, lines be damned! He called girls when he wanted to, not when it was their turn to be with him. However, he didn't exactly condemn the line's existence either. Who was he to turn away a girl who willingly approached him for sex, especially if he already found the girl attractive? Most of these girls were well aware that it would never be anything more than sex, which often made it easier for him. He wouldn't have to worry about how she'd react when he eventually got bored and moved on. (Because so far in his experience, he always got bored and moved on.)

He wasn't sure where Rory fit in amongst these girls constantly competing for his attention. Perhaps that was why he was so fascinated by her; because she wasn't interested in competing with anyone. So far in the few weeks he'd known her, and with the little he knew about her, he couldn't see himself getting bored with her. She was one of the few girls she really enjoyed talking to, but also felt some sort of attraction towards.

The first time he almost considered asking her out was when she stepped out of her tent wearing the dress he had picked out for her, silently cursing the day's formal wear theme. He fought the urge to suck in his breath at the sight of her, the light color of the dress and the royal blue scarf contrasting with the striking blue of her eyes. She had always been beautiful, but he thought the dress made her look stunning. But he buried all those thoughts, straightening his jacket instead and touching the small of her back lightly once as they hurried off to join the rest of the group.

He tried to stay away from her and sort out his thoughts the rest of the afternoon, but of course she found him. He was distracted, concentrating instead at firing paintballs at the moving targets rather than answering any of her questions. He couldn't separate himself from being around her; it was pointless trying.

Then there was the impassioned speech he gave her in an attempt to convince her to jump off the scaffolding with him. All of that useless information he had about various reporters was finally put to good use; he knew of no one else who would understand what he was talking about. (Other than perhaps his own father, but Logan tried to avoid ever having any conversations with his father.) But she was hesitant still, and he wasn't going to take no for an answer. It wasn't just about her being a reporter anymore. He wanted her to be part of his group. He wanted to be able to spend more time with her, in any way possible.

"You're scared," he finally said when decision time had come.

"Well, yeah."

"And that stops the greats?"

"It's stopping this great!"

She had already made her decision. Logan didn't care.

"Come on! You look like you need a little adventure!"

"What does that mean?"

"You're just a little sheltered."

"Why? Because I haven't spent time in a Nazi prison, been stomped on by hooligans, been beat up by Hells Angels – and Plimpton got banged up pretty good too!"

"It'll be fun; it'll be a thrill! Something stupid! Something bad for you! Just something different." He took a step closer towards her, gesturing towards the seven story scaffold. "Isn't this the point of being young? It's your choice, Ace. People can live a hundred years without really living for a minute. You climb up here with me it's one less minute you haven't lived."

She took a second to consider his words, and then looked upwards with determination. "Let's go," she said, turning her fierce gaze on him.

He hadn't really expected her to come up with him. Most girls he knew wouldn't have done it. But she took his challenge head on. He wasn't sure if he was just challenging her in that one moment, or if he was trying to challenge her to be with him. He gave her one last out, but she wasn't backing out. "Do you trust me?" he asked.

"You jump I jump, Jack."

The first time he almost kissed her was after they landed. Unconsciously, he took hold of her hand seconds before they jumped. He wasn't sure what had made him do it. He wasn't normally one to be nervous, and jumping off things certainly wasn't new to him. He could only attribute it to her presence, and the effect she seemed to have on him. He had never been interested in a woman for more than just sex before. He'd never been able to immediately read a woman before either. But Logan could neither read her nor figure out how she fit in with his life, and that made him jittery. It wasn't just jumping off a seven story scaffold anymore; it was jumping with her. So he unconsciously grabbed her hand, holding it in his own. They squeezed each other's hands tightly as they fell through the air, and he found the feel of it oddly comforting.

He wasn't sure if it was his own adrenaline rush or the exhilarated look on her face that made him want to kiss her. His heart was pumping fast, and he wasn't entirely sure if it had everything to do with the fall. They were slightly out of breath as the crowd cheered at their landing.

"Once in a lifetime experience," she had said. He thought about kissing her then. Their hands were still clasped together. It would have been so easy. He could imagine himself, running purely on adrenaline, pulling her closer as they tried to regain balance. As he gazed at her he wanted nothing more than to capture her lips with his own. He wanted to know the feel of them moving against his. He wanted to know what her lips tasted like, what it felt like to push his tongue into her mouth. He wanted to wrap his arm around her waist and into her hair. He wanted to get lost in her.

But then the moment was broken, and someone held out two flutes of champagne for them. So they broke apart instead, and he second guessed himself. That might have been the way Logan would act around any other girl he was pursuing, but he'd already established that Rory was different. Kissing her, despite his obvious attraction, was a bad idea when he couldn't figure out what to do with her yet. That might ruin any chance he could have at becoming friends with her. So he buried that impulse, and he called himself a coward.

Maybe it was his inability to act that brought him to the Gilmore's party upon the insistence of his parents; but he attributed it more to his desire to come up with a legitimate excuse to see her again. In his mind he could make everything go smoothly. He could find some excuse to get her alone, or he could follow her when she slipped away for some quiet time to collect her thoughts. Perhaps if it was just the two of them talking, he could figure out what her feelings were about him, and then decide some course of action based on that. His plan changed, however, when he arrived to discover that the whole charade was clearly some kind of meat market to show her off to potential suitors. Even the way she was dressed was ridiculous. Rory didn't need any of that to attract some guy, but her grandparents had her dressed like come porcelain doll incapable of expressing an original thought. It was in appropriate for someone as intelligent as Rory, so instead he decided to give her a way out.

He spotted her instantly, cornered by some loser who was being more forward than even Logan normally was (which was saying something). He took the opportunity to rescue her from the trap, playing the part of a late boyfriend. He reveled in the closeness, his arm wrapped tightly around her waist as she leaned into him gratefully. Again he thought about kissing her; it would have made the role he was playing more convincing. But he didn't want to overstep any boundaries. A kiss then could have ended with a slap in the face. So he talked himself out of it.

She fit in perfectly with his friends as they formed a sub party. She took Finn's inappropriate comments with stride, and completely ignored Colin when his disdain for those without as much money as he had shone through. (Colin was never being serious when he spoke this way, but sometimes others didn't realize it. Logan appreciated the fact that Rory seemed to catch on quickly.) Of course, he mentioned her article. He had been impressed with how well it was written. She was a little shocked that he had read it, which was surprising. Of course he had read it. He had been deeply involved in its very existence, not to mention his overwhelming fascination with her. There was no way he could not read it.

He almost kissed her again when her jerk of a boyfriend broke up with her in front of everyone. He was a little surprised that she hadn't brought him up before, although it didn't surprise him at all that Rory had a boyfriend. A girl like Rory was bound to have one. She was a relationship girl.

His desire to kiss her then came entirely from a wish to comfort her. He didn't know where it came from; he'd never wanted to comfort a girl who wasn't his sister before. But it was impossible not to feel for her. Even Logan wasn't so cold as to dump a girl in front of a group of her peers. But as the boy drove away, leaving her standing there, he thought about taking her into his arms and trying to kiss the pain away; an action he'd never even considered doing for any other girl before. He shook it off. Instead he wrapped an arm around her, hugging her to him, and helped out in the only other way he knew how; with copious amounts of alcohol.

That night acted as the signal he had been looking for. It was becoming harder for him to deny his attraction to her. He would watch her at the coffee cart, or from across the courtyard as she buried her head in some book. She was completely oblivious to the world around her, and he wanted desperately to find some way in. These chance meetings were not enough anymore. He needed to just be around her. Then maybe he'd be able to find some opening.

He finally found an opportunity when he saw her in the Sterling Library playing hostess to a girl from her old high school. She was sniffing a book; something one of his usual prospects would never even think about doing. He teased her about it, but in truth he found the action adorable. She had a passion in her that no one else he knew had. She loved being a reporter and she loved literature, and it showed in everything she did. Logan had never felt that passionate about anything before. He wondered if that passion for learning and discovery would transfer into other areas of her life. Would she be just as passionate of a lover?

He tried to shake that thought off. It was distracting.

His suggestion that Rory take Anna to the Pub had nothing to do with showing the high school girl what college life was really like, and had everything to do with getting Rory to show up at one of Logan's usual hang outs. He was a coward, unable to simply ask her out already, not knowing if she'd even say yes.

That's where the idea of the prank came. It was the only way he could think of to let her know that he noticed her. Of course, after she yelled at him for it, he felt like the world's biggest idiot. He thought for sure he'd blown it, thinking that she'd never want to have anything to do with him ever again. She wasn't someone he could smooth things over with by smiling and being charming. But then she calmed down enough to get even. He had to hand it to her; getting her grandfather involved had been impressive. He wasn't expecting it either. Her prank confused him even more than before. This girl certainly kept him on his toes. At the very least, it was nice to know that she wasn't truly as angry with him as she first appeared.

But the way she yelled at him was a bit unnerving. She wasn't just mad because he had embarrassed her in front of the entire class. It was what his actions said about him that upset her more than anything. Logan had never considered that when planning the prank. There was nothing he could really say to smooth things over with her this time.

"I know that classes, and the paper, and Yale in general mean nothing to you. But it means something to me! Professor Bell's course is only six weeks long, and you blew one of those weeks for me. I won't get that week back!"

He really hadn't meant to upset her. He hadn't thought at all, really. Maybe Rory was right. They lead two different lives. She studied all the time and he wanted to avoid work for as long as possible. Originally she came off as a bit sheltered and timid to him, but Logan was starting to see her differently now. He always thought that the things he did, the stunts he planned, and the adventures he went on were about making him feel more alive. But Rory really, truly cared about something. Logan never cared that much about any one thing before; whereas she had a whole list of things she was strongly passionate about.

He had almost changed his mind about asking her out, thinking that ruining a possibly friendship wasn't worth the risk. She made him want to care about something, and he worried that sleeping with her would ruin his chances of learning how to do that. He'd never backed down from a challenge before, but maybe this was a good time to start. But all that went out the window when she offered to help him on an article for the YDN that he originally had no intensions of ever writing in the first place. He had gone to Doyle weeks ago for an assignment to get his father off his back, not really caring too much. Then Rory stepped up, offering to meet him to hand off notes.

She seemed nervous when he approached her, nearly chocking on her coffee. And she was rambling. He didn't look at her directly as he carefully flipped through one of her many folders of notes. He wondered why she was doing all this for him. She hadn't given him any indication that there was something going on between them before now.

"Seems like a lot of work on your part. Going through this stuff, organizing it for me." He phrased it like a question, hoping she'd give him something more to work on.

"Well…I'm kind of an organization freak too."

"Plus, I'm sure it wasn't your idea to give up your evening like this, to come here and meet me. Was it?"

"Um." She looked away nervously. He liked seeing her look nervous. "I'm just doing a little public service, that's all."

"Public service?"

"Yes. Doyle looked like he was about to liquefy after your dad talked to him. So I chose to stop that from happening – for the sake of the janitorial staff."

"Yeah," Logan said with a sigh. "He has a thing for bylines, my father."

"Apparently he has plans for you." She wasn't trying to pry. She truly seemed concerned for him.

"Yes, isn't that thrilling. Sorry Doyle took the hit; my dad can be a bit of a bully when he wants something."

"He's a very interesting man."

Logan looked up at that. Clearly she didn't know his father.

"You met him?"

"No, I've just read about him. I mean, he's a big guy."

"Well maybe you'll get to meet him someday."

He felt much better bringing the conversation back into comfortable, flirting territory and away from his father's expectations. But the flirting made Rory nervous again.

"Oh! Did I show you how I, um, divided these up? Interviews, research, um – "

"So how come I never see you around?"

Her nerves were cute, he couldn't help it. He couldn't stop staring at her. It was the first time she had given him a clue that she'd be receptive to seeing him in a more intimate setting, and Logan wasn't about to just let that go.

"I'm around."

"Yeah? Where?"

"Class. Coffee cart. The student store when I run out of thumb tacks." Her voice shook slightly at the end.

"Wow, thrilling life," he deadpanned.

"I'm really not that boring."

"Oh, I know you're not boring." That thought never even crossed his mind.

"Oh! Doyle told me that your dad is throwing a party for Seymour Hersh?"

Logan hated going to those parties. He was always expected to treat them like some sort of business meeting. "You want to talk about boring…"

"How can meeting Seymour Hersh be boring? I love him! I read My Lai 4 when I was twelve, and I've been obsessed with him ever since."

There she went again, surprising him. Who was this girl? "You read a book about the My Lai massacre when you were twelve?"

"Well, I polished off Nancy Drew that year too."

They were back to flirting, or maybe that was just the way she always spoke. It was hard to tell.

"Well, I guarantee these parties always turn into a bunch of drunks discussing stocks, cars, and their latest friends to be indicted. It's boring. I just go, take a date so I have somebody to talk to, and bail as soon as my dad's back is turned."

"Oh, so you're going?"

"Daddy says."

"Wow. Lucky!" Her enthusiasm was something he could not relate to.

"No."

"To spend the evening with a great writer and to get to meet him, hear him talk! Very, very lucky!"

She had him convinced then. He'd never taken someone to one of his father's parties who actually wanted to be there. Taking Rory would be perfect. He could spend time with her alone, and then maybe by the end of the night he'd decide whether or not he should make a move. He was thoroughly convinced that he would take Rory to the party, and by the end of the night he would have kissed her. It would all work out perfectly.

So of course, he found himself doubting whether or not he should even try to take things the next step with her. There was no doubt in his mind that he wanted to. With each flip of her hair he wanted to run his own fingers through her locks. When she sighed into her coffee, he wondered what sounds she would make as he slowly kissed his way down her neck. Her smile was infectious, causing a grin to spread across his own lips in response. He was amazed at how attracted he was to her, when she dressed and behaved nothing like the girls he usually slept with.

And therein lay the problem. She wasn't like his usual girls. She was someone he enjoyed spending time with socially, but he also wanted her. Bad. What's worse is that he couldn't stand the thought of seeing her hurt again. He remembered the look on her face when her boyfriend dumped her, and how utterly broken she seemed. He remembered watching her wrap her arms around her stomach, as though physically trying to hold herself together. He hated to see her in that much pain. Could he risk being the cause of it? He wasn't a relationship guy, and she was. Inevitably, trying to date her just because he wanted to sleep with her was selfish of him. It would only lead to him having to let her down eventually.

So he backed out. Despite having implied that he wanted to invite her to the party, he left alone. He hated to let her down; knowing that he'd already gotten her hopes up. But maybe it was better this way. Disappointing her now was better than the inevitable heartache later. Wasn't it?

He almost changed his mind again when he was invited to the Gilmore's vow renewal ceremony, knowing full well that he'd have to see her. He was notorious for sleeping with girls at weddings; it was almost his trademark. He wasn't sure if he trusted himself enough to be around her in this setting, so he invited a friend that he's known forever as a date. He was determined to keep himself away from her.

He should have known better, of course. Nothing ever went as planned when it came to her. He tried to avoid her at first, but his eyes were drawn to her. She looked adorable dressed up in a suit, playing the part of her grandfather's best man. It surprised him little that he still found her attractive when dressed slightly masculine. He figured he'd have to approach her eventually, but the longer he held it off, the better for his sanity. He wasn't sure if he'd be able to keep his desire to touch her under control.

She approached him first, walking towards him with such purpose. He recognized in her that same determination she held when she tracked him down in the courtyard to talk about the LDB with him. She was on a mission, one that she would reveal in time, and it was easier to go along with her than to fight it.

"I like the suit. Cashmere?" he said, trying to keep the flirting under control.

"I didn't know you were going to be here."

"Really? I thought you put my name on the list." He didn't entirely believe her. When he initially received the invitation, he thought it had been in response to the way in which he left her hanging the other day with his father's party. Maybe he was wrong.

"Nope."

"Aw, well it must be your grandparents who invited me. My parents are around here somewhere."

"Oh, so you came with your parents?"

"Yup."

"…And?"

He knew what she was hinting it. She wanted to know about the girl. But he was going to make her say it. "And, what?"

"Where's the blonde?"

"She's at the bar."

"Oh. She's pretty."

"Yeah? You want me to hook you up?"

"No, I was just saying…"

"Yeah, you were just saying…"

They were playing games; talking in circles. He wasn't ready to give in until she said what her angle was. "That…she's pretty. That you brought a pretty girl. She's pretty, and the two of you look pretty together, in case you were wondering."

Jealousy looked good on her. He smirked. "Jill's a friend of the family, I've known her forever. She's visiting her parents in town and, uh, she had nothing to do and asked to tag along. We're not dating."

He was met with silence as she weighed his words. "Do you want to dance?"

Yes, she was certainly on a mission. He didn't know what, but Logan expected something was about to happen. He could feel everything leading towards some sort of conversation that the two of them had been dancing around for weeks. He felt his pulse quicken slightly as he buttoned his jacket and placed an arm on her shoulder, leading her towards the dance floor. He would step back from the situation and let her take control of it. He wanted to hear whatever it was she had to say, and he'd judge from there what to do next.

He could see her struggling to say it as he smiled down at her, her eyes drifting away from his gaze. "What?" he asked.

"Why did you come?"

"Open bar."

"Quite a draw for a guy with an American Express black card."

"Band, salad, butter pats."

"Logan – "

"Little knit bags full of those Jordan almonds."

He was stalling.

"Are you ever going to ask me out?"

He wasn't expecting her to be so straight forward. He expected her to press for the truth. But she clearly already knew the truth; that he couldn't stay away from her, even if he was unsure as to whether he should do something about it.

"You flirt with me. You act like you like me a little. You show up here, with a friend, not a date. I mean, aren't you? Ever?"

He tried to find the correct way to answer her. He wanted to ask her out, badly. He wanted to take her right there in the middle of the dance floor, not caring that her entire family was there to see, or that his parents would be there to witness it either. He almost kissed her, but he needed to get his words out first.

"You do like me, right?" she asked again, hesitating at his lack of a response. It made him smile.

"Oh." She dropped her hands away from him. "Um, okay. No problem. I'll just, um, let you go back to your table, and I'll just start burrowing directly into the ground."

"Rory – " She was trying to pull away from him, but he held on tighter. He wouldn't let her get away from him.

"I should be in China by midnight."

"Rory!"

"…You called me Rory." Her hands came back up to him, their bodies closer than they had been before.

"I want to be clear."

"Oh. Good."

"I have thought about asking you out, several times. I just don't think it's such a good idea." He hated himself for having to say that. His body was screaming at him for turning her down. But what other choice did he have? The only thing he had any control over was his dating life. He couldn't be tied down to one girl. Could he?

"Why not?"

He hesitated before responding. "Because you're special."

"Special? Like…stop eating the paste special?"

"You are beautiful. You are intelligent. You are incredibly interesting. You're definitely girlfriend material. I, however, am definitely not boyfriend material. I can't do commitment, and I don't want to pretend to you that I can. If I were to date you, there would be no dating. It would be…something, right away, and I'm not that guy."

He wished he didn't have to say those things to her. She meant something to him, and it would be hard for him to ignore his attraction to her. But he would do it if he had to in order to protect her.

She surprised him again.

"But I'm not looking for anything 'something-like,'"

"Rory …" His voice drifted off n disbelief.

"I'm not! I've done that. As a matter of fact, I just did that. And…that's not what I want."

"I'm not saying you want that right now."

"No, I don't want that at all. No, I'm not expecting anything." She gazed back up at him, and he wasn't quite sure he was hearing her correctly. "I just…I like you, and I want to spend some time with you. No strings attached."

It was exactly how he felt. "No strings attached, huh?"

"Hey. Girls just…want to have fun. Stringless fun."

He couldn't help but laugh a little. "You may feel like that now, but – "

"I do feel like that now!"

"Okay, but – "

She took his hand, leading him off the dance floor with a smile. "Where are we going?"

"How should I know? What, do you think I have a plan or something? Geez! Live in the moment, Huntzberger!" She grabbed a bottle of champagne, and he followed her out of the ballroom and into an empty dressing room.

He wanted this. Boy, did he want this. But in the time that he'd known her, Logan had never seen Rory make an impulsive decision like this without being pushed towards it first. She thought things through carefully. He needed to make sure she'd thought about this first. There could be consequences to her decision, and he hated to be the one to accidentally cause her pain. Especially since he did legitimately like her.

"Look," he said after they had both taken a swig of champagne directly from the bottle. "You sure you want to do this?"

She placed the bottle down, taking a step closer towards him. "I just want to know what it would be like." And then she placed a hand on his neck and kissed him.

He was surprised that she had made the first move. But then again, he shouldn't have been. Her lips were soft, and only held a taste of what was to come. It was over too quickly. But maybe that was a good thing. She still had a way out, if she wanted to take it.

"I feel like I'm kissing a guy." It was the completely opposite of what he wanted to say. In reality, he wanted to slip his hands up her shirt to feel the smooth expanse of her skin. He was giving her one last opening to walk away from this.

She was unmoved by his words. She kissed him a second time, pulling his lower lip between her lips and sweeping her tongue across it. His eyes fluttered closed as she, once again, pulled back too soon.

"And, apparently I had no idea what I was missing."

Their lips came crashing back together. He wanted more of her – he wanted all of her. He could already feel his own words being thrown back at him. He'd never kissed anyone that he actually cared about before. Was it always this different? Did it always feel this electric? He felt alive at her touch, her lips and fingers eliciting a stronger reaction in him than any other girl had ever been able to bring out so quickly. She sighed into him, and it only spurred him on. She was incredible. He was on fire.

He wondered how long he could pull it off. He wondered if he'd ever be able to look at another girl the same way after being with her. Would anyone else be like settling? He wasn't sure he'd be able to go back to being with a bunch of brainless idiots after being with her. He was slowly coming undone with just the feel of her lips.

He almost changed his mind. He almost told her that he didn't think he'd be able to keep it stringless with her. He almost thought that it would be worth it, being a boyfriend for her sake. But he was a coward, and he wasn't really sure he'd be able to do it anyway. So he kept his thoughts inside as her hands pushed his jacket off his shoulders and untucked his shirt from his pants. And he thought himself a coward for being unable to take that risk. So he took her insistence at a no strings attached arrangement at face value. He wanted her too much to risk saying something.

Still. He wondered how long they'd be able to keep this up.