Story: Somebody Else's Page

Chapter: We Were Begging for the Past

Description: Rory/Logan. Slightly AU. What if Logan managed to take a little less time off during his college career and made it through without overlapping Rory's years at Yale? She's about to start her first internship at the Stamford Gazette, just as it's being taken over by the Huntzbergers.

Disclaimer: I write fan fiction. I own none of these characters. None of this happened on the show, which is the whole point of fan fiction. You get the idea.

She arrived alone to a crowd of overwhelming numbers. She was under the impression that she would be accompanied for the rest of the evening once she made her entrance, even though any mention of the party had been vague and generalized at best. She'd assumed Logan's lack of details had come from the fact that a company party wasn't his first choice of location for an evening out. If she'd learned anything about him, it was that even just two hours at a party praising his father and his empire was pretty much Logan Huntzberger's least favorite activity, under possibly even an exploratory colonoscopy or a painful root canal.

Rory found that she was excited about the evening, not only because of the big names she would be eating appetizers with, but because she knew that a large part of her role that night would be as Logan's distraction. It was a spectacular end to any evening, but his frustrations would kick things up a level. He'd been less chatty and highly sexed of late, pushing her limits as to how much sleep she needed. She hadn't mentioned her afternoon with his sister, or the couple of emails she and Honor had exchanged since. It was Honor that had firmed up the details of the party for her, saying she'd see her there. Logan had mumbled a similar echo, while still sweaty in her bed before he slipped away while she slept the night before.

Even in his state of distraction, her dress was something he'd notice. There was no back to speak of, a contrast to the relatively conservative cut of the front. He'd be happy to see her approach, but the moment her back was turned he'd start to plan their early departure. If she knew anything about him, she knew that.

The party was in New York and the view from the floor-to-ceiling windows was worth far more than a million dollars. It was clear from even the smallest details that no expense had been spared. She took her time wandering around, purposefully not seeking him out, just so she could revel in the space for a little while so she'd be ready to leave at a moment's notice.

"Rory, there you are, perfect!"

Honor Huntzberger was hurrying her way in high heels, dragging along a timid-looking man just a few years her senior. He seemed agreeable to following the outspoken woman's lead, and had no desire to wander off on his own as Rory had been doing.

"This is Josh," she introduced her boyfriend, eliciting a knowing nod and warm welcoming smile on Rory's part. Honor had covered a host of topics during their time together, including a dip into her own personal life. Rory had realized it was an effort to make Rory feel comfortable divulging her own innermost thoughts, but it came off as sincere and forthcoming.

"Nice to meet you. It's a great party, isn't it?" she asked gleefully.

Josh didn't seem too sure of that fact, but Honor nodded dutifully. "Mom did a great job. Of course, all she'll do is complain that no one appreciated all her work."

"We all have to play to our strengths," Josh smiled, despite his discomfort.

Rory did her best to hide her smile, but Honor laughed. "That's right, which is why you're going to get these two beautiful ladies some champagne."

"Yes, dear," he said without any intonation, making a beeline for the bar. It was clear this wasn't Josh's first Huntzberger party.

"Josh doesn't like these things, does he?"

"Josh doesn't like having to deal with my family. It's tiring, mostly because he grew up in a normal family with normal expectations. His father wears those strange Christmas sweaters without irony and his mother matches her purse to her handbags and neither of them drinks more than a glass of wine with dinner a couple times a week. This requires far more energy than one of his parents' get-togethers."

"So opposites really do attract," Rory noted.

"Normal can be a nice break sometimes. Not all the time—I need a little drama to survive. Thank God for reality television," she added. "So, where is my brother?"

Rory shrugged easily, not in the least concerned about his late arrival. "We're meeting here."

"He is such a creep. I know he thinks he's trying to be a modern guy, but it's not charming at all."

Rory chuckled and waved away the negative connotation. "It's fine, it made more sense this way. I had a late class and he had work. We were coming from two different directions."

"Opposites do attract," Honor say with a coy smile as Josh returned with their champagne. Rory took a sip and watched as Honor's face changed from carefree and happy to hard and annoyed. "Oh, crap."

Rory turned to look in the direction of the entrance, where Honor's gaze was fixed. She stood staring for so long that she knew her surprise was real, a mix of horror and heartbreak. If she'd been able to glance away, she would have been able to play off her feelings as nothing. As it was, she took her time in registering the sight and letting the reality hit her as hard as it could. She'd heard it could be healthy, but in this regard it felt just the opposite.

"I am so sorry. I'm going to talk to him right now," Honor said, at her side and in her defense.

Rory turned to her would-be protector. "No, don't… it's fine. I told you, we're not even really dating."

"He's been with you almost every night this week, hasn't he? When did he even have time to make another date?" Honor asked, speaking seemingly right out of Rory's own thoughts.

"It really doesn't matter."

Honor stopped and listened to Rory. She searched her eyes for any hint of hurt. "Are you sure? I'm happy to take him down a notch or two. It's even more satisfying when it's in public."

Rory gave her best, most convincing smile. "I'm sure. It's better, even. I mean, you're right, we were together a lot this week and I could use a break. You should go say hi; I'm going to hit the ladies room."

Honor accepted Rory's need to flee, and before she knew it she found herself in a very fancy lounge, complete with two chaises and a very long line of lit mirrors. She was sure if she went back far enough there would be sinks and stalls, but her main goal was to calm her nerves. Something had sparked inside of her when she saw that woman on his arm. His escort's dress had left nothing at all to the imagination, a perfect preview of what she'd be willing to offer him. Her blonde hair was smooth as spun silk and everything about her screamed of money and availability. Rory would have felt better if her eyes had been a little more vacant—if she had anything going for her at all, it was her intelligence that made her stand out in Logan's estimation. The thought that she could be replaced so easily did not sit well with her at all.

Her salvation came to her as a passing thought, a memory from the recent past, a snippet of conversation that hadn't meant anything to her at the time. Jess had mentioned that he'd be in New York that weekend, carrying copies of his book from store to store and giving an interview to a free weekly in hopes of selling even a few copies of his book. He could have already fled on a train back to Philly by now, and even if he hadn't it didn't mean he was free on a moment's notice anyhow. But it didn't stop her from pulling her cell phone out and calling him without another thought.

Their conversation was brief, but relief shot through her as he changed the course of his evening for her. It was only after she'd hung up and began considering herself in the mirror that she realized that she'd done her best to level the playing field. The problem was that this was exactly the kind of game she didn't want to be playing.

-X-

Honor was icy to his date, but it wasn't unusual behavior on her part. She treated them all the same, given her propensity to choose topics that made even highly educated women feel stupid, most likely in effort to make him see that they were not going to interest him come sun-up. If he wanted to give a damn about what happened as far away as the next day's dawn, then he'd start to concern himself. As it was, he planned to drink a lot, enjoy what the woman did have to offer, and be in a cab before the first streaky rays of light graced the sky.

He didn't ask his sister why she was shooting him daggers with her eyes as they made polite introductions. Josh seemed as ever on edge, but all these things Logan chocked up to them having had a run-in with either of his parents. Both would be in attendance, both acting as circling satellites, pretending they were too important to get a chance to enjoy the party together—as if they'd want to spend an evening alone.

He announced he'd fetch a drink for himself and his date, only to watch as Honor downed her glass and proclaimed her need to accompany him to get a refill instead of her usual demand that Josh be her faithful servant.

"What's got you so tightly wound?" he asked as they nodded and smiled their way through the crowd

"You're an ass," she seethed as she smiled at one of her mother's friends across the way.

"Ah, an old classic," he mused cheerfully.

She stopped and turned to him on her heel. "You know what? I'm not going to help you with this one. Make a big mess of things if you want, but do not come to me, asking for help or guidance or whatever it is you think you need when this night is through."

He stood in a state of bewilderment, watching his sister stalk away. He'd order a double, he decided, and keep them coming. It was going to be that kind of night.

The good and bad news was that he was halfway done with his second glass, talking to a magazine contributor that had come up with his father and was relaying a story about the two of them fudging a deadline in college and nodding along without listening to all the relevant details when he saw her. Her back was to him, but he didn't need to see all of her to recognize her and feel her draw. He could have picked her out, even when surrounded with every other person on the planet. The entirety of her back was exposed to him and everyone else, the lithe lines of her torso curving in toward her hips calling to him like a siren song. She was leaning forward, reaching out for a man who was just arriving. Her hands gripped this man like a life preserver in a storm. He kissed her cheek quickly, out of familiarity. It made his stomach hurt and his eyes burn—in that moment all he wanted was to step out with for fresh air. If he was going to be honest, he would prefer to have her at his side, and all these other people would simply fade away. But that was going to have to wait a little while.

There was laughter in a half circle around him, the only clue he had that the story he was supposed to be listening to had ended. He excused himself, leaving his date standing in a sea of strangers. Rory turned to face the crowd with this other man. Her date. He was dark and handsome in the way that women always seemed to swoon over. The guy looked like he'd seen enough trouble in his life to excite the feminine persuasion and make them sympathetic to his plight. He was dressed simply, toeing the line of being young enough to pull off fashionable indifference. He wore dark jeans, a solid color shirt, and a jacket. Simple, if not just effective enough. Logan wanted to have him escorted off premises, but instead he approached the woman he's spent the better part of the last night pleasuring with a smug smile.

"You made it," he said to her and her alone. He would acknowledge the other guy if he had to, but he'd make her do the introductions. How would she introduce her date to the guy she was sleeping with? As her boss, her friend, her what?

"I may not be an integral cog to this empire, but I wasn't going to turn down a chance to see the glitzier side of the business," she said, reminding him that she was still able to see the glamour of such events. She could skim over the surface of most of these people, as she wasn't mired in their underbellies. She was mired in his, but only as much as he'd let her. He was the one bringing her down—he should go easy on her for bringing a date. He'd brought one, after all, knowing she'd be here—hoping to get her to see him for what he really was. His stomach was in knots at the knowledge that he was getting just what he'd wanted.

"If not for you, our office would be a disorganized mess, it not wholly defunct, so you can take some comfort in that," he complimented her, lowering his eyes to the way this guy had his hand at the small of her back. It was skin-on-skin contact that he himself had felt less than twenty-four hours before. Images of her over him as he slid his hands up her body in the dark confines of her room last night kept piercing his conscious mind.

"He's being overly kind. This is my boss, Logan Huntzberger," she said, turning her attention to her date.

"Ah, right," the other man said, in that smug way that practically shouted that she'd shared some sort of confidence with him in regards to their relationship. Had she told him that they were sleeping together or had she just complained about him? He wanted answers from her, but they were questions he wasn't ready to ask. "Nice to meet you."

It wasn't nice, none of it was nice, and they all knew it. This guy didn't want to see him, and he certainly didn't want to chat with her date. "Likewise. Feel free to take advantage of the bar. It's open until they run out, but that's a distinct possibility in this crowd."

Her date raised an eyebrow, probably wondering just how soused he was, but turned in to ask Rory if she wanted anything. He spoke quietly, in her ear, making Logan churn. She asked for a club soda and they watched him leave to fill the order before either spoke. He took the opportunity to come in closer to her.

"I didn't realize you were bringing a date," he said, not bothering to take the edge out of his voice.

She stared at him in disbelief, her inner rage eerily similar to his sister's. "I could say the same to you."

It was only then that he realized he'd left his date somewhere behind him, probably trapped listening to stories about his father, whom she couldn't pick out of a line-up. Her only mental connection to his last name was the fact that it came with money. She certainly didn't care from what industry the money had sprung.

"And yet you brought someone else," he summarized.

"Yes, well, I didn't feel like coming alone, and we are dating other people. That's what we agreed to, right?" she asked in a haughty tone. He might be more used to this kind of interlude, coming face-to-face with such indelicate situations, but that didn't mean she wasn't doing her best to appear indifferent out of spite.

"I couldn't bring you to this," he said haltingly, his eyes darting around the room to see just who might be paying attention to them while they were doing their best not to make a scene. He could feel a fight chasing his blood through his veins. If it's what she wanted, he feared it would happen. He could feel his self-control at an all-time low.

She stared at him as if he'd just suggested they eat off the floor. "Do you think I sit around, hoping you'll call? I'm here because I was invited to a work function, not for you. I can see you whenever I want, and then some apparently."

Her words were cool, too cold for his taste, and they felt like a slap to his cheek. "That's not what I meant at all. I was just trying to explain myself."

"I don't need an explanation. I have eyes, Logan, and now if you're done with your explanation, my date is coming back with my drink."

He tensed, wanting to say something to her, anything that would ease the tensions between them. Instead, he got exactly what he'd asked for, and watched as her eyes lit up at the other man's approach. She was done with him for the moment, and his place was elsewhere.

-X-

"So, that's your boss," Jess said with a knowing smirk after he handed her a cocktail. She might have known he would have brought her something more fortifying than her non-alcoholic order, but she didn't argue as it smelled vaguely fruity and her ire was up over Logan. She was pleasantly surprised at her first sip with how much she enjoyed it.

She winced at having pulled him into the situation. "That's him."

"Let me guess… you had another misunderstanding."

"I won't blame you for taking off. I had no right to drag you into this."

He lifted his glass. "It's worth the free booze to stay a little while longer. I was just going to watch some awful movie on cable and go to bed early. You may have saved my night."

She laughed a little. "I sincerely doubt that. It gets worse."

"The story or the function? They aren't going to bring out some kind of weird entertainment like monkeys dancing on dogs or some shit, are they?"

She giggled at his overactive imagination. "We're holding the entertainment," she lifted her glass. "But if they do bring out monkeys, we're staying."

He smiled. "What's the rest?"

She took a fortifying breath. "I thought… I was under the impression that I was meeting him here."

"Which makes me, what? A placeholder or payback?"

She took another sip and regarded him hopefully. "More like a shoulder."

He straightened up for effect. "I have two of 'em, strong ones."

"I'm sorry. Drink up and laugh at me if you want. I totally deserve it. What kind of idiot am I, anyhow?" she asked, more of herself than Jess.

His expression turned serious, and he took a moment to stare into his drink. It looked far stiffer than hers, and she couldn't imagine it tasted anywhere as good. It was the kind of drink that stung by way of warning not to take on too much too fast. "I don't believe in keeping track of wrongs, but I know that between the two of us, I owe you more than you owe me."

She shook her head and stepped in closer to him. For a moment, the party faded to a barely existent backdrop. "I'm not asking you for anything, I can't use you like that."

"It's not a hardship for me, to be here with you. That dress alone should be enough to make any guy see reason, but if you want to make him sorry he brought the airhead blonde instead of you, it would be easy."

Her eyes fluttered a little, and she found that it was effortless to allow a little nostalgia to mix with the smooth sound of his voice. "Easy is a relative term."

"Night's young. The offer stands," he said, tipping his glass once more.

"Rory!"

Rory and Jess turned to see Honor on a mission, waving them to her.

"Who's that?" he asked in her ear, linking them as people who would share private confidences, at least until the end of the night. She'd found herself a partner in crime, though she knew it was wholly undeserved, no matter how Jess framed the situation in his own mind.

"Logan's sister. The boss' daughter," she amended. "We're friends, sort of."

He looked impressed, which wasn't something she was used to seeing. "Of course."

"It's a long story."

He smiled. "Aren't they all?"

Rory took her steps in stride, bolstered with Jess at her side. She didn't have to wonder what being with him meant, or what it might look like to anyone in that crowd, save for Logan. She stopped just short of her intended target, however, when she saw just whom Honor had been speaking with.

"Rory Gilmore, I'd like you to meet my father, Mitchum Huntzberger."

-X-

He's positioned himself to keep an eye on her and her date while remaining fully engaged in the party. He wasn't going to have his father complaining later about him sulking or disappearing or not being a team player. He spoke to those he knew his father would most want him to, pulling his date along whenever she wasn't in the restroom to keep an even exchange of fluids as she continued to drink out of boredom.

It wasn't enjoyable for him, to bear witness to Rory leaning in closer to her date or the way this guy whispered into her ear. They bore a familiarity, one that spoke of intimacy, either from the past or the very near future. Not that it made a difference, but he hated not knowing her motivation. It was in his realm of control until he lost sight of her, only to scan the crowd and find the pair opposite his father, as her date shook Mitchum's hand.

Honor stood nearby, beaming over the transaction like a madam at a whorehouse. He moved without a thought to his date, who was yet again in the ladies' room, and made a beeline for his sister. He approached from her rear, simply reaching out and pulling her toward him by the elbow.

"Rude," she admonished.

"What are you doing?"

"Mingling. And drinking," she added, as if attempting full disclosure with three whole words.

"Did you have to bring Dad into this? My punishment wasn't bad enough?"

"She's a person, Logan. A smart, driven, and enigmatic person with feelings, which is more than I can say for you. In fact, I'm not even sure why she's bothering with you at all. But you can't just ignore her because it's easier for you."

"You know nothing about her or us, so please, give me a break."

Honor smiled, pleased with herself. "She didn't tell you?"

He braced himself for whatever trick his sister no doubt had up her sleeve. "Tell me what?"

"She and I are friends now. We ran into each other and hit it off instantly. And since you mentioned that Dad hadn't actually met her yet, I figured someone had to introduce them. I mean, you did promise her face time, right? Plus, she works for him, through you, so it's the perfect time. I must say, he seems to like her. And, bully for you, I never mentioned you in the intros, so he has no idea she's the one you're … oh, what was that lovely term you used to describe your relationship? Screwing, I believe it was?" she asked for effect.

"Enough. I mean it, Honor, butt out. Forget your little ill-conceived friendship that you've developed out of spite, and let me handle this."

"Because you've been handling it so well thus far? Please. Do I need to point out the differences in your choice of escorts? Your little girlfriend keeps getting lost on the way to the loo while Rory managed to hook the hottest guy ever to grace this block."

"I see what you're doing, and believe me it isn't going to change anything."

"If that's true, then just ignore us. Block out the way Dad's listening to her date tell a story, and the way the guy's hand is resting around her waist. His thumb is brushing her spine, just above the cut of her dress. But none of that changes anything, does it?" she asked pointedly.

"I need some air," he said roughly, turning and trying to keep his words true. He didn't stop, even though he heard his name called several times as he passed by hundreds of people, until he reached the outer balcony where the few impervious had braved the winds and were either smoking or seeking solace.

-X-

"You're surprisingly good at all of this," Rory said as they reached the edge of the room closest to the windows, where it was considerably cooler, much to her relief.

"I have many talents you're unaware of," Jess teased her.

"I have no doubt," she said agreeably, enjoying seeing this side of him. "He's going to read your book, you know."

Jess scoffed at her optimism. "He'd have to find a copy first," he said, the first of many roadblocks to such an event.

"I'll put one on his desk. Or have Honor do it. I have access, sort of. And do you know what will happen after he reads it?"

"It will promptly move to his recycle bin. He strikes me as an avid recycler," Jess mused.

"His business is publishing," Rory reiterated.

"Newspaper publishing. I write fiction," he informed her slowly, as if she needed the difference spelled out for her. "But at least I know you haven't read it yourself yet."

"As a matter of fact, I have, and it was great. Admit it, you're schmoozing, and I might have just done you a favor."

"I'm already in your debt, name your price," he said, offering her a wrist with a melodramatic flair.

She swatted him away. "I'm just proud of us, that's all."

"You were doing some schmoozing of your own. No matter what his son thinks of you, you just impressed the boss. Add that to the way your boy stormed out of here, I think you win. And sadly, I didn't even have to ravage you to accomplish that."

"That was your plan, to ravage me?" she asked with a lilt in her already amused tone.

He shrugged. "Wouldn't have sucked."

She ducked her chin modestly. "Um, thank you? Seriously, though, what you did for me tonight, we're more than even, in whatever your view of things between us were. You let me not only survive this night, but actually enjoy it."

He nodded. "Good. You deserve more than that guy. You shouldn't let him put you in the background because of his shit."

She leaned in and kissed Jess' cheek. "I'll remember that."

"And if nothing else, you have his sister in your corner. And I'm guessing his dad, too. I'm just a train ride away, if you ever do want to give him a little competition."

He sounded more serious with that last round of offering. She put her hand on his shoulder. "We probably shouldn't. I mean, we're in a good place. Why risk that?"

He smiled wistfully. "'Cause it's fun. Wanna share a cab? I don't think there's going to be any dancing monkeys at this thing after all."

She shook her head lightly. "Nah. You go on ahead. I should say some goodbyes before I take off."

If he saw through her, he was kind enough to let it go by without mention. "Goodnight, Rory."

"Night, Jess."

Her savior left as quickly as he'd arrived. She turned and gazed out past the few people on the balcony as she took in the view one last time. Her glass was one taste from being drained, so she completed the task and left the empty glass on the bar on her way out into the breezy night.

"It's freezing out here," she complained as she huddled near him.

"Is it? I'm a little numb. You should go inside," he said sullenly.

She wrapped her arms around herself and shivered, not willing to be so easily swayed. "I wanted to say goodnight."

He took off his jacket at her insistence on standing in the cold with him. It was a simple act, his covering her bare skin with the heat it had collected from his body, but the gesture's meaning was not lost on her. "Are you staying in the city?"

"I didn't have a solid plan for this evening," she admitted.

"I think my date left," he said without any sorrow, not even bothering to glance inside.

"Her loss," she said simply.

"I get it, okay?" he said without looking at her. He continued to stare out at the bustling city, which was quietly illuminated from their great height.

"Get what? Because I don't get it at all, Logan. Some nights you act like being with me is as vital as air or food, and then a switch gets flipped and you're too busy or can't be bothered."

"It's just how things are," he said cryptically.

She nodded resolutely and put her hand on the railing as she looked anywhere but at him. "It's how things were. I should go."

He reached for her, his hand staying her with the surprising warmth of his palm at her waist under the jacket. "You're leaving?"

"You weren't very nice earlier, and I didn't deserve that. Just because I did exactly what you did, bringing a date to a function that you didn't want to attend with me… it's fine if we're not exclusive, Logan, but I don't want to be treated like a second-class citizen because you don't think I'm good enough for all occasions."

"That is not what this is about," he said sternly, his mournful manner replaced with a hastily assured measure.

"If it was just the fact that you didn't like seeing me with another guy, that's one thing. I can accept a little petty jealousy, but it was more than that. You weren't willing to even admit your glaring hypocrisy."

"I admit it, okay? The truth is you're too good for all of this. I don't want to put you through meeting my family and the drama that holds, all when I'm not even sure I can do this," he practically shouted into the night.

Wind began whipping her hair into her face. She pulled a strand away from her face despite the inevitable futility of the act. "I've met your family, Logan. They're not as evil as you make them out to be, at least as far as meeting strangers goes. They aren't the problem, you are. If you aren't sure you can do this, then don't do it."

She turned and left him with his jacket in his hands, holding firm until she reached the elevators. It was only then that she wished she hadn't sent Jess on ahead. She could have used a strong shoulder at that moment. It was a long ride down to the ground floor, and she couldn't help but let a tear or two fall. Apparently losing something that never really existed could hurt as much as the loss of something real.

She stepped out onto the pavement, noticing the rise in temperature from the last time she was outdoors, so many floors above street level. People were walking past, hailing cabs, and oblivious to her state of unrest. She hadn't made a plan, and therefore she wasn't sure which direction to go. A brief glance to her left didn't inspire her, so she looked to her right. There, leaning against the door to a closed Laundromat while smoking a cigarette, was her escort for the evening.

"Jess?" she asked, stepping to him like a beacon. He lowered his cigarette and held it down near his thigh as he blew smoke out the side of his mouth, keeping both away from her.

"Hey."

"Still a smoker?" she queried unnecessarily. She wasn't sure quite what to say to him. She'd wished for him to still be around in the elevator and the universe had been awfully quick to grant her.

"Sometimes," he said as he dropped the butt and used the heel of his shoe to put it out on the marred cement.

"You didn't have to put it out on my account," she said, feeling a bit guilty for interrupting his post-party reward.

He met her eyes. "I know you aren't keen on the smell."

"Yeah, but I've since developed an understanding of the need for vices," she said with a shared smile.

"Rory," he began, his eyebrows furrowed from the weight of whatever was running through his mind. Most likely it was the same topic that had pushed him to reach for a cigarette the first chance he got.

She studied him in the time he took to make his decision. Being with him that night had felt so comfortable, in a way that surprised her. He was a part of her past, not a stable part or for even very long, but being with him had always felt significant. He'd changed her, how she experienced things. His influence on her life had reached into so many different aspects that being with him now felt reassuring. Seeing herself in his eyes once again was like looking into a mirror into the past.

He moved fast. His right hand cupped her jaw and his left hand pulled her to him at the waist. His lips were warm and soft. She felt a little dizzy, but she wasn't sure if it was the speed, the nicotine, or just Jess. She put her hand on his shoulder to steady herself, letting the kiss flood her senses. It was not unlike looking at an old photo. The feeling of being transported to a time gone by, captured forever in one object, came rushing back at once. Once it was over, she knew it had nothing to do with her current reality. The kiss was intense, like a fast-burning flame, but as soon as their lips parted, his grip on her loosened. They stood there in the night on the streets of New York, their foreheads pressed together as they both felt the same flood pass.

"Sorry."

She smiled sadly. "Don't be."

"Guess our timing is never good," he stated, but she could hear the question in his voice.

She leaned up and kissed him again, willing the parting gesture to serve for her answer. She was all out of words and tired of their ineffectiveness anyhow.

-X-

It hit him hard, the sight of her walking away. He'd heard her words, but they didn't penetrate. He had always trusted action more than words. Words were fleeting; words could be amended or retracted. She wasn't just trying to get his attention, playing at some petulant game like so many others might have; she was leaving. He didn't slow to make his own goodbyes, as he made for the elevators to catch up with her. She'd disappeared through the crowd, and caught a ride down before his hurried gait could catch up. He could only hope she would have to wait to secure a cab once outside.

He was too late. She wasn't gone, but it seemed that she was set in her decision. Logan stood just outside the revolving door, as people pushed around him on their way, watching her have a very private moment for all to see. It wasn't a first kiss he was witnessing; it was far too intimate for that. He wasn't one to delude himself—he called a spade a spade. And what he saw was her kissing a man a way she'd never kissed him.

Upon his re-entry to the party, he walked in a cloud. He landed at the bar, seeing no reason to pretend to feel anything. His fight was gone. His father came to rest next to him, and for the briefest time they stood in silence. It almost made him feel like his father understood his need for solitude.

Almost, but not quite. "Now that we have a moment alone," Mitchum said. Logan knew that voice. It was a lowering boom. "There's something we need to discuss."

Logan sighed and met his father's sharp eyes. It seemed only one of them had been taking advantage of the open bar. "Can't it wait?"

Mitchum shook his head. "It can't. Monday morning we're going to start dismantling the Stamford paper."

Logan froze. "Wait, what?"

"You heard me. And as you're the most intimately connected with the staff, I'm going to need your input on how to best redistribute the talent."

"I have advertising money coming in. Circulation is up, and the online readership is up thirty percent," Logan argued.

"I know, and it was a successful test case. Your methods will be useful in other markets, which warrant salvaging."

Logan remained stunned, staring at his father in confusion. He'd been blindsided by Rory's change of heart, but this was too much, all at once. Everything he depended on twenty-four hours prior had been swiftly pulled from his reach in the space of fifteen minutes.

"There has to be another option," he said, grasping for a second chance, even just a fake appeasement. Anything to get him through the night.

Mitchum clapped him on the back. "It's done. I'll see you first thing Monday morning."

He had been wrong about a lot of things that night, the least of which being the fact that his date had left. He ran into her on his way out for good that evening, at which point he wrapped an arm around her shoulders and led her drunkenly back to his hotel room. If he was going to go out, he was going to go out with a bang.

-X-

It was early for anyone to be at her door on a Sunday morning. But the insistent pounding kept going, alerting her to the fact that her roommate wasn't about to get out of bed to answer and the person in question wasn't going to go away. Rory left her bed empty and shuffled, bleary-eyed and slightly hungover, to the door.

"What?" she yawned as she opened the door.

"Hi."

She straightened up at the sight of him. He had the look of someone who had never quite made it to bed, but rather found a lesser second wind and that coupled with some hair of the dog kept him upright and mobile. "What are you doing here?"

"Can I come in?"

She didn't want to fight. The night before had been a mixed bag of emotions, but when it came to how she'd left things with Logan she was pretty sure she'd firmly closed that window. "If you think there's anything left to discuss," she said haltingly.

"This isn't about us," he said simply.

She drew her hand back to usher him in. He stepped around her and sat on the couch. "My father pulled me aside last night. He's shutting down the Eagle Gazette."

If it was his way of hurting her, it worked. "What? Why?"

He laughed. "Funny. That's what I said."

"Did he give you a reason?"

Logan sighed heavily. "It was his plan, all along. Herr Huntzberger won't be waylaid for anything. He let me have just enough time to make sure I thought I was being successful before he took it away. He'll start dismantling operations this week. In a couple of weeks, it'll be empty office space for lease."

She sat down hard next to him, flummoxed. "The semester isn't over."

"We have other papers," he said gently.

Her eyes widened in surprise, touched as she was by the gesture. "You'd put me somewhere else?"

"You'll be an asset to any paper. This will double your exposure, for you it's probably the best thing that could happen," he said, trying to put a positive spin on it for her.

"What about you?"

"There's talk of London," he said, his face stoic and his outlook grim.

"London? Wow, that's…" she said, trailing off without certainty as to what London might mean for him, much less anything else.

"What you said last night, you were right for saying it."

She shook her head. "I'm not sure I meant it," she began.

He put a hand on her knee. She stared down at their juncture, wanting to hit a rewind button on their whole relationship. The only problem was she wasn't sure where to stop the tape to make their situation better, to make it not end like that. "If that other guy makes you happy, then you should be with him. I'm not a viable option for you. If you want to fall in love and be happy, you should have that. I'm going to be flung anywhere and everywhere my father deems fit until I drink the Kool-Aid."

"Other guy? What are you talking about?" she asked, not hungover enough to warrant such confusion.

"I saw you. Last night, I came after you, and saw you with him, on the street."

She paled instantly. "What? No, that was… that was just," she closed her eyes, remembering the bittersweet moment. "We were just saying goodbye."

"I would have preferred if our goodbye looked a lot more like his," he said quietly.

"Logan," she said, reaching for his hand on her knee, but he withdrew it and stood up.

"I should go. I just wanted to give you a heads up before you showed up to a sinking ship. I'll try to process your transfer before everything gets lost in paperwork and pink slips."

"Did you really come after me last night?" she asked softly.

"For as much good as it did," he answered in kind, watching her like a child looking into the window of a storefront that he couldn't access. Her chest began to hurt, but she couldn't quite bring herself to negate all she'd said to him before. It had come from a real place, but of frustration, but not of finality. She'd thought they would still have time together, to at least end things on a friendlier note. This seemed so rushed, so unfinished.

"That's it? It's all done now," she said slowly, trying to absorb the information.

"Everyone but me was on the same page. For what it's worth, I wouldn't have chosen any of this to end so soon. Goodbye, Rory," he said. He stood there, just inches from her, staring at her. Her heart was pounding hard in her chest and in her ears, willing her to act. She just wasn't sure how to fix all that had broken down between them. She couldn't force his father to keep the paper, and without that what reason did they have to go on seeing one another?

She could see he had no more answers than she did. If neither of them were willing to stand and fight for what they were losing, everything else would eventually fade away. It would taint her memories, and he'd go to London to start over with a new paper and possibly a new intern.

He could have kissed her in that moment, giving at least the façade of a proper goodbye, but instead she just watched as he let himself out without waiting for her to say anything in return. She felt as if she'd finished a chapter in a book, but she'd missed a page somewhere along the way.