A Real Yes

"Is this a real yes?" Logan asked. He looked right at her with eyes that held a depth and seriousness surprising to those who noticed only his perpetually playful smirk and his "party or perish" reputation.

"Well, I didn't bother with a certificate of authentication or anything," Rory replied, sounding less playful and more on edge than she'd intended. Not that she was able to gauge her own tone too effectively at the moment: she had a common (but still uncommonly annoying) cold that had blocked part of her hearing and rendered her voice almost unrecognizable. "Seriously," she continued, putting down her book just long enough to reach for more tissues, "it's a real yes. Go, enjoy, and tell everyone I say hi….ACTUALLY, PRETEND I SAID SOMETHING MORE INTERESTING THAN HI. I TRUST YOU TO COME UP WITH SOMETHING TYPICALLY -"

"You'll be missed," Logan said, heading to the door at an uncharacteristically slow pace. "By me especially, not just by 'everyone.'"

Rory wanted to say she'd miss him, too, but somehow the words seemed stuck in her raw, strep-infected throat. Besides, she told herself, when had she been the kind to sit around "missing" a guy who'd be gone just a few hours? She had her beloved books, and her even more beloved Mom and best friend (yes, they were the same person) was just a quick, 100-words-per-minute phone call away. She wasn't the type of girl who needed her boyfriend surgically attached to her on a Saturday night just to feel content, even/especially one she loved with the absurd intensity that she did Logan-or at least she sincerely didn't want to be that girl, which her cold medicine-addled mind told her should count for something. So she just said a breezy "see you", and when he started to turn around to give her a hug and kiss goodnight, she reminded him not very gently that she was probably contagious, and more than probably not in the mood to be touched.

He made it a few steps closer to the door before he turned around again. "So, not to dig up the past, which you know that I of all people think should usually stay buried-"

Rory nervously cut him off. "Logan, I'm too weak to USE A shovel right now."

Logan smiled at her, and then continued anyway. "Let me do the manual labor, then, okay? It's just that occasionally you've said you're okay when you-and we-are not actually okay at all. Which I get, but sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between that real yes we've been talking about and "I'll say yes because I don't want to cause a conflict or risk anyone on earth ever being mad at me, but deep down I really mean no, and the secret resentment I harbor will come out in all sorts of unintended, us-hurting ways."

"Guess the third time you had to take Psych 101 really was the charm for you, huh?" Rory said, smiling weakly. "Maybe you can go into practice with Paris's life coach instead of the whole 'inheriting a media empire' thing."

Logan sat down in a chair that was about halfway between the couch she was sprawled out on and the front door. "So I kind of feel like I should go tonight. It's Finn's birthday, and with the way he drinks and the number of husbands who tend to come after him with shotguns once they hear what he does with their wives, who knows how many birthdays the guy has left?"

"Agreed," Rory said, her brown ponytail nodding along for emphasis. "You should go. It's just that…"

"That you don't want me to?"

Rory nodded, sniffling miserably into a Kleenex. "And it's not because I'm one of those girls who always needs her boyfriend within validation distance," she said firmly, forgetting for a minute that that accusation had come from somewhere deep in her own mind, not from Logan himself.

"You? You've got a ton of non-me interests, people you're close to, and lofty goals to one day break scoops from the ditches of various war zones," Logan agreed readily. "Plus, you need your alone time, or you start to act like an extra from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. It's a good thing I've got this slightly oversized ego, or it'd be enough to make a guy feel unimportant. So, all that established, what's with wanting my company more than usual on this particular evening?"

"Because," Rory burst out, with an intensity she had no idea she felt until it started tumbling out of her mouth, "I need to know you can handle this." She lifted one pale arm from underneath her blanket long enough to wave it rather dramatically around the room.

Logan followed the back and forth motion of her arm with a mixture of amusement and confusion. "Ace, you're officially cut off from that cold medicine. Care to let me in on which part of that nebulous "this" I'm supposed to be proving I can handle?"

"So we don't know if we want to get engaged," Rory began, and before she could continue, Logan gave her a look of quick but raw pain that rendered her temporarily mute.

"You don't know if you want to get engaged," Logan reminded her, in a voice that was soft but firm and so utterly devoid of playfulness that she almost didn't recognize it as his own. "I know. You're unsure, which I'm totally going to be patient about to the point where I'll even give you extra butter and syrup while you waffle, but don't say I don't know. I do."

"I'm just saying," Rory continued quietly, wondering whether her eyes were watering from the cold or some other cause, "that if we're going to be each other's "'til death do they part", there's going to be a whole lot of these nights before that death part inevitably rolls around."

"So you want me to stay home tonight so that we can work on each other's eulogies?" Logan guessed. He grinned at her, determinedly resuming his usual good cheer.

Rory shifted on the couch to look right at him. He met her gaze with eyes that alternated between brown and hazel-at the moment, they were some unnamed but intriguing shade in between-and didn't look away. "It's important, Logan, that we both realize this is what some of our days and nights up to and through senior citizenship will be like, staying in because one of us is too sick or busy or tired even after the usual 37 cups of coffee to go out. There won't always be cliffs to jump off, glamorous parties to go to, friends' birthdays to celebrate with a zillion drinks or new trendy restaurants to eat at, and I wouldn't even want there to be."

"Me, neither," Logan said. "The portions at those places tend to be way too small, and you wait interminably for a tiny table that..." He cut himself off before Rory could do it for him.

"I'm serious."

"You often are, Rory, and believe it or not, I love you for that."

She felt herself flushing in a way that couldn't be attributed to her fever. "I love you for not being so serious, AT LEAST NOT IN YOUR DEFAULT MODE, but how you know that when the situation calls for it…"

"-And it's calling right now," Logan finished. "The situation's calling for it, and my appropriate seriousness and I are answering on the first ring. Keep talking, Ace."

"The point is that this..." Rory swept that same arm through the air while Logan looked on with the same bemused grin "…has to be enough. For both of us. The quiet nights, the times when all we have for entertainment is each other, books, and whichever famewhores are currently embarrassing themselves on those MTV reality shows. The nights when one of us is too sick to be fun unless pouring our 12th artificially lime-flavored glass of electrolytes and picking up each other's used tissues is your idea of fun. It has to be enough. And if that's not enough, if you need someone who's always glamorous and 'on' and ready to party and who has a last name that your parents will approve of more than mine, then it'll hurt so badly that I almost can't breathe just thinking about it (or maybe I can't breathe partially because of this cold, but you know what I mean.) But either way, Logan, we have to know."

Logan walked over to her, knelt beside the couch and took her soft hand into his own, waving off her half-hearted warnings about germs and general grossness. "I want to spend those nights between now and 'til death do we part with you, Rory. I get that they mention that "in sickness and in health" part because we're not always going to look and feel our best, and maybe someday we'll even have to live less "richer" and more "poorer". Please believe me when I tell you that I'd rather stay home every night for the rest of my life pouring you as many liquid lime electrolytes as your poor bladder can handle than go out and have un-fun "fun" with anyone else in the world. I'm here for better and for worse, though my money would be on us having a whole lot more of the 'better.'"


"Here, I can see you're in absolute desperate need of more Kleenex."

"It's your fault for making beautiful, romantic speeches about ARTIFICALLY FLAVORED electrolytes when I'm already congested," she said, sniffling into the new wad of tissues he handed over to her. She was dimly aware of how unattractive she must look, followed by the happy realization that she didn't care, and that Logan didn't, either.

"I'm sorry I even thought of going out to Finn's bash tonight. It's just you said I should go…"

"That'll teach you to take me at my actual word," Rory joked, giving him a sheepish smile. "Seriously, I want you to go. Really and truly. I'll punish myself with a ban on books, coffee and oxygen-not listed in order of importance, by the way- if I even start to get all passive-aggressive about it tomorrow. Whatever I was feeling weird about, the things you said were enough to de-weird me forever."

"Don't you dare de-weird," Logan warned. "I love you weird. Normal people are scarily boring. Speaking of which, I'll probably find tonight both scary and boring, so I'm sure I'll be back in an hour or so-somewhere in between buying Finn the obligatory birthday shot and watching the ambulance cart him off to get his stomach pumped again."

"Stay out late," Rory urged. "Have the kind of fun you used to have before we were us. Notthe kind of fun that happens to involve a harem of bridesmaids, of course, but feel free to drink, eat and be monogamously merry 'til sunrise"

He cocked his head to the side and looked at her curiously. "What's with you suddenly wanting me to party like Nic Cage in the third act of Leaving Las Vegas?"

"Sometimes I just feel like I changed too much about who you are, and sooner or later, it'll feel like too much of a sacrifice, and you'll want to change back," Rory said. She hadn't realized how much she worried about that until she said it. Maybe they should mention somewhere on the warning label that extra strength cold medication could function as truth serum when ingested by someone suitably neurotic.

Logan smiled at her in a way that still made her heart turn lopsided cartwheels.

"You don't have magical transformative powers, Ace. I hate to break it to you, but we met at a time when I was ready to make some changes anyway. For the right person, that is. And you were that right person. Are that right person. Always will be, even if…" he trailed off with an uncharacteristic uncertainty. "Always."

There was a pause while that last word lingered stubbornly in the air. Always.

Logan stood and resumed his journey towards the door. "I'll be back soon, and with an extra few bottles of that lime green grossness in tow. And with the usual 17 pounds of junk food as well…why am I not remotely surprised that you're the one person whose appetite actually gets even huger when you're sick?"

"Logan, it's a real yes," Rory blurted out.

He paused at the door to grin at her. "Yeah, that's been firmly established. You really do want me to go have the promised birthday drink with Finn; you really won't mind that I took a quick break from my Florence Nightingale duties; you really-"

"Want to marry you!" Rory shouted. She started laughing and crying at the same time, and then punctuated the most important declaration of her life with a violent sneeze. "It's a yes. A real yes. Yes, I will be your wife. Yes, I want to spend the rest of our lives together. Yes, we will be writing our own vows for the wedding, because your speech before reminded me that the traditional ones are kind of generic and antiquated."

"I'm liking this yes thing," Logan said, a hoarseness in his voice that even Rory's clogged ears couple pick up on. "Mind if I play along? Yes, you just made me the happiest man alive. Yes, I will love you for life and longer. Yes, I'm more anxious about your family's reaction than mine…it's a real yes?"

She kissed him, really and truly and completely, by way of response.