Disclaimer: I heard a rumour they don't give under-qualified, TV addicted, writing, reading, high school students the right to any TV shows. Not even Gilmore Girls. That sucks, eh? This is in effect for this and any subsequent chapters in this story.
This is an AU Rogan fic. It starts the summer between the sixth and seventh seasons. Other than the obvious AU factor, Rory never received a loan from her grandparents for Yale.
Anyway, enjoy! Reviews are always welcome.
Chapter 1: Bitter Taste
The first time he saw her, he was sitting in a low-rent bar, twenty miles from his apartment in New Haven, drinking alone. He was putting back shots of tequila, when he noticed her. The little blond girl who'd been serving him had stopped to chat with her. For such a small-town, two-bit, haystack kind of place, there was an awful lot of college girls in there. Two, that he could see. And when he was halfway to being drunk, two was what he could count. He had been expecting some middle-aged women who were still trying to pretend they were twenty-one, and would flirt with him. Instead he found two bored, weary, exhausted girls of his own age.
The blond girl had been holding a tray with one hand, in the way that only waiters and waitresses could achieve, standing three feet away from him. In the other hand, she held his third shot of tequila. He wasn't going to make it home. He'd have to call Colin or Finn.
Wait a second. He had a driver with him tonight. Besides, it was Finn's car.
She had put his tequila on a lower counter, less than two feet away from him, in an attempt to fix her hair. 'Rory," she said, flagging down her fellow waitress, "this is for table five."
"Great," the other girl replied.
"Here," the blond said, handing her the tray. She also gave him his shot. "Sorry 'bout that."
"No problem," he managed, still fixated on the other girl.
"Anyway," the blond began. "You take that, I'll bus the tables."
"No, honestly, it's fine. We can keep -"
"You look like you're about to drop dead any second. Besides, since Alice called in sick, you've been doing everything. You can cover that tray and the bar."
"You sure know how to command, Carly," the other girl conceded, accepting the tray.
"I know." The blond tucked an order pad in her pocket. "Have fun." She made a beeline for a recently vacated table.
The other girl sighed. "Yeah. Have fun," she echoed. She moved down to the other end of the bar and started wiping the surface. He watched her movements, furious swipes of the cloth. She didn't want to be here, serving drinks and wiping counters, but he got the feeling she had to be. There was no other way.
She was pretty, with long reddish-brown hair and very fair skin. She towered over the blond girl, so presumably, she was a good height – he couldn't tell. The uniform she was wearing – a t-shirt and dark pants, standard clothing – showed off her curves, and he couldn't help staring. All the girls that alternated in his circle of friends were twig-thin.
He followed her walk to a point right in front if him. "Excuse me," he asked, pushing away his untouched shot, "could I have a plate of onion rings?"
"Sure," she replied, thumbing through the bills. Evidently, she had found his order, because she scrawled something on it. "They should be a few minutes." She gave him a smile.
"Thanks," he muttered, startled. If she had been just pretty before, now she was dazzling. Her eyes were large in her face, giving her an innocent appearance, and they were a perfect sapphire shade. He blinked his own eyes, No, he wasn't hallucinating. They were really that lovely.
The girl seemed to notice his scrutinizing of her, because the smile dissipated, and she rushed into the kitchen – needlessly; there was a window right there. He reached for his still-full shot glass, and threw it back. He waited.
The blond girl ran by him, carrying a tray he suspected was bigger than she was. He glanced around. There was a middle-aged man sitting in the corner, and a few middle-aged women chatting in another. He figured that the middle-aged guy was drunker than he was. It was nice to know he wasn't the only one who was completely wasted. However, if he'd brought Colin and Finn, Finn would be winning hands down.
Thank God he hadn't brought his alcohol-adoring friends. This wasn't a social kind of drink – it was brooding. His father was at it again, forcing him to be more and more a part of the family business. Soon he would be sucked in too far and he would get the stick to shove up his ass. He was, in fact, expecting it any day, even if it had only been a few weeks since graduation.
The brunette emerged from the kitchen. She held the plate of onion rings n her hands and the smell wafted over to him. He was starving. She handed him the plate, not quite meeting his eyes. After his intense stares directed in her direction, he had expected her to stare back. He was used to girls looking back. But she didn't offer up as much as a glance, and that's what made him wonder.
He wolfed down the onion rings. They were excellent; his friends would've approved. He wasn't so sure they'd go for a drink menu that advertised, "Founders Day Punch! Available every Saturday night, happy hour only!"
He wasn't sure why he was worried about their approval. It wasn't like he'd be back. As much as he eschewed the society life – some parts, the money wasn't so bad – he still had some sort of need to know how it would look. Even if he hated that particular trait and had groaned every time his mother had started in on it. Hypocrite.
The plate of onion rings was no empty. He checked his watch. The bar had probably closed a few minutes ago, but he had one good thing to say about small towns: they didn't rush you out.
The blond girl gave him his bill on the way by; he paid her and put his card back in his wallet. The brunette girl was back to clearing; this time, the bar itself. He reached into his wallet and took out several bills, placing them as a tip. He started for the door.
He was pulling out his phone to call the driver and ask him to top cruising around and come get hi, when he heard footsteps behind him, and a, "Rory, where are you going?" He turned around. The brunette girl was standing there, holding out the bills.
"I was wondering…" she started, "if you hadn't made a mistake. It's a lot of money, just for a tip, and -"
"It's yours," he said. "Split it with your friend."
He retained one thing from that night: her name was Rory.
Rory was sitting at the last stool in the bar, counting tips. She felt the door open, and someone step inside. "I'm sorry, but we're closed," she said.
"Relax, Rory, it's just me." Lorelai took the stool next to her.
"Mom?" Rory pushed back her hair. "What are you doing here?"
"Picking you up," Lorelai replied. "It's late. I don't want you walking home alone."
"In Stars Hollow?" Rory took half of the tip money and shoved in an envelope. "Am I going to be mugged by Babette's gnomes or something?"
"I see we have entered the no humour zone," Lorelai quipped. "What's wrong? Bad shift?"
"It wasn't a good one." Rory pointed at the envelope, as her fellow waitress emerged from the kitchen. "That's yours."
"Thanks, Rory." She stuck the envelope in her purse. "I owe you one. By the way, I just called Alice, she will be here tomorrow. If you want, you can take tomorrow off."
"No, that's okay," Rory murmured.
"Alright. See you later, Rory, Lorelai." She moved quickly, seemingly determined to leave as fast as possible, as if that would help something.
Lorelai watched her go. "Is that Carly Van Shaick?"
"Wow, she did not grow at all. Pretty, though. Wasn't she some super-athlete when you guys went to school?"
"Soccer. She's nice."
"Yeah, I guess we can't detract the sports-thing from her after all." Lorelai propped her chin up. "So, what happened tonight that's put you in such a cheery mood?"
"I spent six hours serving drinks and buffalo wings to already drunk people. If you're going to come to a bar, why would you show up already drunk? Doesn't that defeat the purpose? It's not like we don't have any alcohol here!" Lorelai looked like she wanted to say something, but Rory plunged on. "On top of that, I ended up bussing tables, because Alice was sick and I got hit on by a very drunk Al."
Lorelai frowned. "Oh, hon, I'm sorry."
"Yeah, well." Rory swept up her half of the tips and put them in her purse.
"The Summer Days festival was tonight," Lorelai finally offered, after a few minutes of Rory's impassioned search for her wallet. "That's probably where they got drunk first."
Rory clapped a hand over her mouth. "And I missed the festival!"
She did not point out that Roy hated that particular one. "How about we go home and get some sleep?" Lorelai suggested, guiding Rory to the door. "And then, tomorrow, I'll take you to Luke's for brunch and you can talk with him about how much people suck, okay? Sounds good, huh?"
"Isn't Luke at the house anyway?"
"It's past his bedtime." Lorelai opened the Jeep's passenger door. "And b the looks of it, yours, too."
"I have to do something to pay for Yale," Rory pointed out.
"I know. Grandma and Grandpa's college fund for Rory only goes so far," Lorelai replied. "And this was the only job you could get here, since Andrew gave the inventory job at the bookstore to his niece and Luke already has Lane, and probably Zack, when she can't work anymore because of baby It."
"Have I said all that that much?" Rory asked, incredulous.
Lorelai waved a hand. "I have a really good memory."
"That's where you get it, mini-me."
"So you keep saying."
"Correct." Lorelai started the Jeep. "Was there anything good about your shift?"
"I made really good tips," Rory admitted.
"There you go. One ray of light."
"How poetic, Mom."
"I know. I'm working on my first poem. it'll be famous once I'm dead."
"Sounds great." Rory leaned her temple against the glass of the window. Not the wisest of ideas: their street, being a side street, a dead end and not one tourists would visit, was patched and at the same time, filled with potholes. As the Jeep bounced around, so did Rory. Lorelai glanced over at Rory, and saw her daughter's forehead hit the window fiercely as they hit a patch that was more accurately described as a speed bump.
"Town meeting's tomorrow night, right?" When Rory nodded, Lorelai felt it was okay to continue. "I think I'm gonna demand Taylor to fix this road. It's shameful. And Monty's offended. We can't have offended rooster statues."
"Mmm-hmm." Rory sat back up. "Taylor isn't going to listen to you."
"If I yell loud enough. I'll bring Luke. Maybe with Luke yelling at Taylor, too, I'll stand a better chance. Besides, Luke is always whining about the suspension in the truck getting potentially wrecked driving home."
"You're not listening anymore, are you?"
Lorelai stopped the Jeep. "I didn't think so." She guided Rory across the lawn and into the house. "Alright. good-night. You sleep in. And don't get up too early, or Luke, Patty Babette, Lane and the rest of the town will kill you." She kissed Rory's forehead. "'Night, babe."
"'Night, mom." Rory sat on her bed and eased her feet out of her shoes. The pain shooting up the soles of her feet just reminded her of working the next night. she crossed the room to look in the mirror. Her hair was sweaty. She was glad that she had pinned back her bangs, otherwise they'd be plastered to her forehead. Her makeup was minimally smudged – something she was thankful for.
Sill, she looked like hell. Absently, Rory wondered what Emily and Richard would say if they could see her. They knew she was working to help pay for Yale and ensure that she had a bit of money left, but they didn't know what. She liked it that way. If they didn't know, there would be no explosive Friday night dinners over it.
They had offered to cover what the money in the college fund they'd set up for her didn't cover – "other" expenses – but Rory had protested.
Pride, she told herself as she took out the hairpins. Pride is why you keep going back there, Gilmore. Don't you wish you hadn't inherited that particular trait?
Rory took off the t-shirt and searched for pyjama top. She finally found a tank top, wadded up underneath a copy of Alias Grace. She shook it out, suspecting that it was Lorelai's. She also suspected that it had been there or several months. She remembered Lorelai complaining about its absence around Christmas. Well, then. She dug around some more, unearthing a pair of sweatpants, fortunately hers.
She climbed into bed, hitting the switch on her lamp and narrowly missing knocking if off the night table.
Yeah, pride, she thought. Which keeps you from being able to sleep at normal hours.
Her clock read 3:41 AM.