RATING: PG
CONTENT: mild cursing, kissing
SUMMARY: Sequel to Ticket Stubs. Rory tries to prepare for finals while the guys in her life complicate things..
PAIRING: R/T, R/D
DISCLAIMER: None of the characters belong to me.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I am heading in a R/T direction, but I don't feel I can just ignore the season finale which was pretty clear that Rory wanted Dean back, so there is R/D stuff in here as well. Ultimately, it's a R/T fic though.
AUTHOR'S NOTE 2: I was half done with the fic when I saw "The Breakup, Part 2" again, and I realized I had them taking French and they're really taking Spanish. It was a bit late to change it, so try to forgive the screw up. :)


Examination
by Rebecca Carefoot
_ _ _

Part 1


Rory slammed her math book shut in frustration then dropped her head heavily on her folded arms. She sighed and rubbed her forehead against her forearm. Sunday already, and after Sunday would come Monday with its fabulous Chilton hell.

"Homework got you down?" Lorelai said, sitting down at the table next to her.

"Let's just say I'm glad there's only a week and a half left of school," Rory said, banging her head lightly against the table a couple times. "I'm pretty sure my brain is full."

"You'll have the whole summer to empty that sucker out," Lorelai said with a grin.

"Maybe I should just start summer today," Rory said. "How important are finals in the long run anyway?"

"Awww, babe," Lorelai said, gently stroking her daughter's hair. "Still upset about Paris and the big ostracism of 2001?"

"No, it's been two days, I'm over it," Rory said sarcastically.

"It's going to be okay," Lorelai said. "Paris came around before, she will again."

"Don't bet on it," Rory said.

"Well, there are other kids at Chilton. Maybe you can start a counterrevolutionary group and overthrow Paris' regime."

"Great plan. Too bad everyone else hates me too."

"Not everyone."

"Tristan doesn't count."

"Well, good lord, how did he get into 10th grade if he can't count? I thought Chilton had standards!"

"Mom," Rory whined.

"Rory," Lorelai whined back. She tapped her daughter on the head with her hand repeatedly. "I would be more sympathetic if you hadn't just spent Friday night at a great concert with your friend from Chilton. You know, your Tristan shaped friend who doesn't count?" She stopped talking, but kept tapping. "Is this annoying?" Rory raised her head and swatted at her mom's hand. "I'll take that as a yes."

"What am I supposed to do?" Rory said. "If Paris sees me and Tristan hanging out it'll only make her hate me more."

"I guess you have a choice," Lorelai said. "You can ditch Tristan in the hopes that it'll get you more friends. Or you can stick with the one friend you have now. Hey, it's like gambling. You have to know when to hold them, and you have to know when to fold them. And you have to know when to take one for the money and when to take one for the road."

Rory snorted, and gave a little smile despite herself. "I guess I can stand a year of writing articles about parking lots and hall monitors."

"And while you're writing your ridiculous articles, you can secretly work to undermine Paris' authority at the paper and then you can emerge the year after as the new editor." Lorelai laughed evilly. "All the power! All yours."

Rory stared at her mother. "You're insane."

"It helps when you're trying to take over the world one high-school newspaper at a time." She grabbed her daughter's arm. "Hey, you know what we should do today? We should have an almost-summer celebration. We could get ice cream and wear bathing suits around. Oooh! I think I still have your old slip and slide."

Rory raised her head. "Have I mentioned that you're insane?"

"And enjoying every minute of it."

"I guess the ice cream part of the plan could work."

Lorelai grinned. "Ice cream it is."

*

They emerged from the ice cream shop holding triple scoop cones that balanced precariously under the pressure of licking tongues. "So what about your Chilton-y more than friend?" Rory said, trying to keep the ice cream drips from reaching her hand.

"Are you referring to El Duche?" Lorelai answered.

"Yes, your secret affair with the headmaster."

"Darn it. I thought I had covered my tracks... It was all for you, you know. And I think you'll thank me when you see your report card." Lorelai took a bite of ice cream, and glanced over at Rory. "I don't know, Rory," she said. "I mean, I love Max. I really do. And the thing with the daisies is just..."

"Incredible," Rory supplied.

"To put it bluntly, yeah. But it's a really big decision, you know?"

"Yeah, you've never been married before."

"Exactly. And I think I kind of like it that way," Lorelai said. She put her arm around Rory and bumped her playfully with her hip. Rory bumped back and tried to keep the top of her ice cream from falling to the sidewalk. "We have a good thing going here, kid."

Rory nodded. "But..."

"I don't know," Lorelai said. "I just...have to think about it some more I guess."

"Thinking is overrated," Rory said, using her tongue in an attempt to shape her ice cream into a lopsided duck.

"Says the smartest girl I know."

Rory smiled. "Just keep me in the loop once you figure it out."

"You and me *are* the loop," Lorelai said. "It's kind of a line rather than a loop, but you're point B to my point A."

"Good, cause..." Rory looked up from her ice cream as she ran into someone. "Oh," she said when her eyes met Dean's. "Oops. That was... I'm sorry."

"It's okay," he said, meeting her eyes. She held his gaze for a long moment, her heart stuck in her throat, then looked down when she felt ice cream dripping onto her hand.

"Well, I'll see you around," she muttered and stepped around him. He turned as she and Lorelai continued walking.

"Wait!" he said. She stopped and turned to face him. "I mean," he said. "Can we talk?" She looked at Lorelai in confusion, then shrugged.

"I've got to stop by Luke's anyway," Lorelai said. "Nothing goes better with ice cream than coffee."

"You'd say nothing goes better with tuna-fish than coffee."

"Well, it's true." Lorelai held up her ice cream in a salute. "Bye, Dean." Then she turned and strolled away, leaving Rory to shoot Dean a nervous look.

"Um, let's talk then," Rory said.

"Do you want to sit?" Dean said, looking across the street to the park.

"No, let's stand," Rory said. "Here in the middle of the sidewalk is good, but maybe it'd be even better if we moved to the middle of the road."

"Rory," he started. "I don't know what's going on. You were at my house.

She shook her head. "Me? Nope."

"My sister recognized you from the pictures."

Rory blushed. "I'm sorry. I don't know what I was- You still have pictures of me?"

"And then at the town meeting... The stuff about the song."

"I'm insane," she said. "It runs in the family."

"So what then? You weren't- None of this was about me."

She hesitated, then shook her head. He studied her intently, his eyes on hers. Then he shrugged. "Okay, Rory. Never mind." He turned away from her.

"Yes," she said. He stopped. "It was about you." He faced her.

"What do you want, Rory?"

"I don't know," she said, fighting confused tears. "I miss you."

He tilted his head, and spoke softly. "I miss you too."

"Good," she said. "I mean, that's not good. But it is." She took a deep shaky breath.

"But that doesn't tell me... I mean, do you want to get back together? Or what are you doing? What are you thinking? I need-"

"I just," she said. "I care about you so much. And I do want to be with you. I never wanted us to breakup."

"I love you, Rory," he said. "I do. I'm not just saying that. And I need to know-"

"Dean," she said. "Why does it have to be... Why can't I just feel how I feel? Why do we have to put these labels on it?"

"Because I can't be with you if you don't-"

"I don't even know what that kind of love is," she said. His jaw clenched. "But I know I've never felt the way I feel about you. I don't feel that way about anyone else."

He stood still for a moment, looking at his hands, then he raised his eyes and gave her a small smile. "Then do you want to get some dinner later tonight?"

She nodded eagerly, and dropped her ice cream with a splat when he moved closer. She twisted her hands in his hair, and he pressed his lips to hers, kissing soft at first, tentative, then harder. His arms wrapped around her waist, his hands pressed to her back; and she was so consumed, she didn't even notice that Miss Patty was standing in the door to her studio dialing on her cell phone.

*

"Well," Lorelai said as Rory entered the house, her face flushed. "Aren't you the little tramp. First in the supermarket, then in the middle of town? I thought I raised my daughter better than that. Back-seat of the car I told you, but did you listen?"

Rory turned a brighter shade of red, but she was grinning from ear to ear. "Miss Patty?"

"Actually, it was Kirk, who heard from Jackson, who heard from Trevor, who heard from-"

"Got it," Rory said.

"So?" Lorelai said, her eyes dancing. "So? Details! Sordid details!"

"We're back together," Rory said, grabbing her mom's hands. Lorelai started to jump and Rory joined her. "He asked me to dinner, and then we kissed, and I dropped my ice cream."

"We'll get you a new one!" Lorelai said, drawing her daughter into a hug. "This is great, babe. I'm just glad to see you happy again."

"I am," Rory said. "Happy, I mean."

"So this was a banner weekend for you," Lorelai said when the hug ended. "PJ Harvey. Non-fighting with Tristan. You and Dean. All you need now is to be crowed Miss America, and win the lottery."

"Oh yeah, the crown's in my pocket," Rory said. "In all the excitement I forget to tell you."

"Ooh...did you remember to act surprised when they gave it to you?" Lorelai said. "And to cry? You have to cry when they put the crown on you."

"It was great. I cried, but my make-up stayed perfect." She grinned. "I have to call Lane!" She ran into the kitchen to get the phone, and Lorelai watched her go, humming "Here she is, Miss America" under her breath.

continue