The Unbearable Weirdness of Being
Cause and effect.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
It was an elemental theory. Paris Gellar understood it, the way she knew the periodic table in her sleep, could identify why Hardyís Christminister was really Oxford and could quote reams of Blake (his theory on standing water breeding "reptiles of the mind" had always particularly appealed to her). Or the way she could hang sheet-rock if required to and edit a dozen features in under ten minutes, her red pen slashing rapier-like at the stacks of paper.
On elemental levels, Paris understood most things - she was an elemental girl, especially when it came to grass-roots stuff like emotion.
For example, she understood that, despite her lack of experience, she was enjoying this moment immensely. Quite beside the panic, the shaking knees, and the watery feeling of being not-quite-there, it was giving her a giddy head-rush. She was suddenly very, very happy - a singular experience for which she had no precedent.
Therefore, it stood to reason that she would suffer a moment of equivalent unpleasantness, most likely as a direct result of what was happening right now.
Cause and effect.
Paris understood that.
There would be a price to pay for kissing Rory Gilmore.
It was funny, the way it happened. One minute they had been arguing about the Human Condition and the next they were kissing.
"Look," Rory had insisted, sitting up a little straighter in her effort to convince. "Chesterton said-"
"Oh, piss on Chesterton!" Paris exclaimed. "He was obsessed with heretics! What do heretics know about the human condition?"
"Well, he understood the artistic temperament."
"So? Are you claiming to have one?"
"Not really. Except for when Mom and I get the urge to finger-paint the bathroom, which happens much more frequently than youíd imagine."
"I try not to imagine anything you and your mother would do," Paris sneered. "There are just too many loose cannon scenarios. The mind, it is for to boggle."
Rory rolled her eyes. "All Iím saying is, and forgive me if itís been said before, that variety is the spice of life."
"I donít spice my life, thank you very much."
ĎWell, you should. New experiences are everything!"
Paris shook her head. "Personally, I think perfecting the familiar is the way to get ahead."
"Not everything is about getting ahead, Paris."
"In what universe?" retorted Paris. "Look at where we are, Rory. Washington. The capital of Getting-Ahead-Ville. And why? To GET AHEAD."
Rory, frustrated, got up, crossed to the bed upon which Paris was perched and sat down beside her. "Thatís business. Thatís education. Iím talking about life."
"One of its legs are both the same."
"The duck," explained Paris in a long-suffering tone. "One of its legs, yada yada."
"You know," said Rory, tilting her head, "sometimes next to you, Iím actually downright linear."
"Paris, I mean life. Life life. Real life. And the scary things that can happen. Things that make you just tip over backward and re-examine everything. They can be good, yíknow?"
"Well forgive me," retorted Paris bitterly, "for not living in the tilt-a-whirl Gilmore experience where the sky can be green and everything comes up roses without even having to try."
Rory let out an explosion of breath. "Paris, whenís the last time something happened that knocked you off your feet?"
Paris considered this. "Never."
"And the day after never."
The utter calm on Parisís face was driving Rory to distraction. She suddenly had a wicked idea. The idea of the actual execution of it gave her a slight case of the wiggins, but the outcome would be so satisfying that she had to try. She moved a little closer to Paris on the bed.
"Youíre always ready for everything?" she asked, her voice lowering.
"Always," replied Paris, though Roryís sudden proximity was making her a little nervous.
"Nothing ever happens that you donít, I donít know, make a back-up plan for?" Rory continued, lifting her hand and using it to gently tuck a stray strand of hair behind Parisís ear.
"Not in my experience," Paris replied, blinking at the unfamiliar intimacy, but refusing to back away. "I find that most things swing either one way or the other."
Perfect, thought Rory. "Like people?" she inquired sweetly, eyes dropping softly and briefly to the other girlís lips, before returning to meet her gaze.
"Yes. And like people, they can be controlled."
Rory smiled. "Do you think you control me?"
Paris swallowed hard and wondered why the room was beginning to disappear in a fog around her. She knew what game Rory was playing, and she knew she should put a stop to it. She also knew, with certainty, that she really wasnít going to. Quite aside from the fact she might be proved flappable by Rory Gilmore Ė which was unthinkable and unacceptable enough in itself Ė she knew herself well enough to know that there was an excitement in this moment that hinted at something else entirely.
"Is that a challenge, Gilmore?" she asked, firmly meeting the younger girlís eyes without blinking.
Rory, meanwhile, was beginning to lose her nerve. This was not, perhaps, the brilliant plan she thought it had been. She hadnít expected Parisís bravado Ė sheíd expected a wilting flower at best, a screaming lunatic at worst. Either way, she would have been able to say ĎI told you soí or ĎSee?í and that was pretty much all she had been aiming for.
"If I didnít know better, Iíd say you were trying to make me nervous," Paris commented lightly, and smirked.
"If I didnít know better," replied Rory a little unsteadily, "Iíd say you were trying to prove something."
"Arenít I always?" Paris said.
The two girls locked gazes and from that moment, the game was no longer a game.
Rory blinked. "Are you telling me this consists of a normal evening for you?" she asked, leaning a little closer.
"Well, no," Paris conceded softly, "but neither am I bending under the weight of your theory, am I?"
Rory took a slightly wobbly breath. "How so?"
"Do you see me up on the bed dancing and shouting ĎHooray For New Experiencesí?" Paris inquired, mentally willing her hands to stop shaking.
"Thatís because you havenít had any yet," Rory replied, meeting her eyes.
ĎWell," mumbled Paris as the space between them grew even less, "I guess neither of us wins this one."
"Donít be so sure," Rory said.
And kissed her.
Paris nearly passed out.
Rory had kissed her.
On the other side of the kiss, Rory was in a frenzy of disbelief.
She had kissed Paris. More than that, she was enjoying kissing Paris. The other girlís lips were soft like her own, and the hesitant, nervous way in which she was responding brought all of Roryís protective instincts to the fore. Paris was scared. Paris should be made not scared. Because Scared Paris was Scary Paris.
She brought her hand up and cupped Parisís cheek, and almost dropped dead of shock when Paris mirrored her action, running her palm gently down the side of Roryís face.
For Paris, the experience was proving educational in more ways than one. Even though she was pretty untested in this area, she knew when a kiss was a good one. And this was a good one.
When they finally broke apart, both girls were breathing fast and shallow. Paris instantly shifted herself backwards until there was a good three feet between them, mind tangling into a thousand conflicting emotions, none of which she could identify. Rory had lifted a hand to her lips and covered her mouth at the sheer, weighty realisation of what had just transpired.
They looked at each other.
For the brief moment they allowed their gazes to meet, their differing expressions would have been the delight of any photographer. Roryís cheeks were warm, flushed Ė all huge eyes and stunned amazement. Paris, conversely, was white, white to the gills, her mouth slightly open and her eyes stricken.
"Well," said Rory finally, face aflame, eyes on the bedspread.
"Well," Paris managed, clearing her throat, intensely aware of the way her lips were thrumming, her heart beating erratically.
"Iíve never done that with you before," Rory said, and laughed suddenly, a short bubble of mirth from seemingly nowhere.
Paris stood up, the colour rushing back to her cheeks. "Are you laughing at me, Gilmore?"
Rory looked up at her, smile still etched on her lips. "No."
"Then what is that suspiciously-like-snickering thing youíre doing right now?" Paris demanded hotly.
Lithe hands raised slightly, and Paris was not too out of it to notice that Roryís fingers were trembling. "I Ö donít know. I donít know why I laughed. It wasnít at you, it was Ö I justÖ" Rory trailed off, and her hands drifted up to her chest, where they joined and pressed against her heart. "God, donít you feel that?"
Paris swallowed. She did indeed. Which was why she said, "I donít know what youíre talking about."
Rory blinked. "Kinda like Ö happy-sick. Weird. But good. But weird. But good. You know?" She turned her eyes to her almost-friend, and was taken aback by the cool appraisal she saw on Parisís face.
Paris just shook her head slightly. "Mostly I just feel an overwhelming urge to leave." She turned away, heading for the door.
"Donít go," Rory said quickly, hoping her voice did not betray exactly how much she really did not want Paris to leave. She got up from the bed and moved toward her. Paris promptly took a step backwards. "We should talk about this. You donít have to go."
"Actually," retorted her companion, crossing to her own bed and yanking on a black sweater, "I very much think I have to."
"Elsewhere is the first answer that springs to mind. Not that I need to give you one."
Rory grinned. "I hear the foodís good in Elsewhere."
Paris just looked at her.
"Low taxes, too," Rory continued, her eyes glinting with humour. "Halcyon days. Like a Dido song that goes for forty years."
Paris snorted. "Oh, please. Dido? Iíd have thought sheíd be a little derivative for someone of your discerning Ė air quote - tastes."
Rory stepped a little closer. "Well, sheís no Dave Matthews Band, but sheíll do to get you out of those low-down dirty Fica-induced blues."
Paris shook her head. "You talk and you talk and you talk, and nothing you say makes sense. You are a person completely without reason."
Rory smiled. "Thank you."
"Because I think thatís the best kind of person." The timbre of Roryís voice lowered a fraction. "Join us, Paris Gellar. Become one of us."
Paris raised an eyebrow. "When David Hasselhoff is elected king. Of Marseilles."
"One of us," Rory intoned darkly, a wicked grin on her face. "One of us, one of usÖ"
Paris felt an answering smile surfacing against her will, so she bit her lip. "Stop trying to use the patented Gilmore powers of enchantment on me," she muttered. "Or whatever it is youíre doing."
Rory crossed to her, careful not to get too close. "Then stop trying to run away." As Paris opened her mouth in protest, Rory added, "Or whatever it is youíre doing."
Paris shrugged. "Iím just going before things get weird."
Rory spread her arms wide. "Weirder than us kissing?"
Paris sucked in a sharp breath. Rory had said it, named it, given it form, made it real. This was too much. She looked at the other girl. "Look, Rory. You win, okay? Is that what you wanted to hear? You freaked me out. You win."
Strangely, Rory took no pleasure in hearing those words. "That doesnít mean you have to leave."
Paris savagely ran a hand through her hair. "I donít do the morning-after thing. Well, the moment-after thing, anyway."
"How do you know?"
This hit Paris where she lived, and her face darkened. "I donít. And thank you so much for pointing that out, by the way."
"But Iím not going to stay here and be proved right as usual." Parisís flight for the door was interrupted by a soft hand falling on her shoulder. "Rory, just donít."
"Then just wait. Wait!" Rory implored, turning the other girl to face her. "Donít leave, okay? This doesnít have to be so weird. We donít even have to talk about it if you donít want to Ė we can just sit and, um, watch TV. Look, Picket Fences re-runs in five minutes."
"No, we canít."
Paris shook her head. "No."
"We canít sit down and watch TV?"
"Not in this room. Not after what just happened."
"What, thereís a law or something?"
"Against the potential humiliation of me? A thousand."
Rory sighed. "Paris, you werenít kissing yourself, you know. I was there too."
Paris averted her eyes. "I noticed."
"Did you? Because youíre acting like youíre the only person who gets to freak out here. Where are my freak-out coupons?"
Paris said nothing, merely studied the toes of her shoes, the sinking feeling in her stomach rising to claim her throat. She swallowed. "This was not in my plan," she blurted suddenly, looking up at her vice-president.
Rory took a small step forward. "Me neither."
Paris realised how that had sounded and back-tracked quickly. "I mean," she rushed on, panicking, "my plan for this summer, this, this, thing. Not a plan involving you. I didnít have a plan of any kind that involved kissing you, okay? Thatís what I meant."
"I donít think of you that way."
"I know," Rory said.
"At all, ever."
"I donít kiss girls," Paris went on insistently.
"Ever, I mean. I never kiss girls."
"Well, just so weíre clear."
The two girls stood there, eyeing each other. Suddenly, Rory brightened. "But you liked it, right?"
"WHAT?" Paris asked incredulously.
Rory tilted her head slightly. "You liked the ki-"
"Hello! I know what youíre referring to!" Paris interrupted. "It only happened like, two point five minutes ago!"
Rory grinned. "Well?"
"Did you like it or not?"
Paris shook her head, unable to believe the turn the conversation had taken. "I donít know," she said finally. "Are we grading on a curve?"
Rory laughed again, the melodious chuckle loud in the small room. "Is that a yes?"
Paris shrugged, unable to stop herself from cracking a small grin. "As these things go Ö and considering youíre a girl Ö and considering youíre a girl thatís you Ö it didnít suck."
Rory mock-staggered, her hand to her brow. "High and balmy praise indeed."
"Hey!" Paris objected. "Donít think that just because this is an incredibly embarrassing situation Iíll let you get away with misquoting the Bard. Itís high and palmy."
"I know, Paris."
"In the high and palmy state of RomeÖ"
"A little Ďere the mightiest Julius fell," finished Rory. "Itís called dramatic license, Paris. Interpretation. Look it up."
Paris raised an eyebrow. "An exegesis. An explanation or conceptualization by a critic of a work of literature, painting, music, or other art form. Or perhaps more appositely, a performer's distinctive personal version of a song, dance, piece of music, or role."
"Yeah. Hey, by any chance do you have a microchip in your head?"
"Nope," Paris smirked. "Just superior grey matter. Plus, interpret? Please, give me something harder."
Rory sucked in a breath. "Okay. How would you interpret what just happened here?"
Paris lowered her eyes. Their arguing banter had restored her to a certain balance, a place where intellect could supersede emotion, where reason could overcome feeling, and where she could ignore the fact that she actually quite wanted to kiss Rory Gilmore again. Roryís question had returned her to earth with a thud.
She swallowed. "I think that would best be described as an anomaly. Which is-"
"A deviation or departure from the normal or common order, form, or rule," said Rory smoothly. "Or a person that is peculiar, irregular, abnormal, or difficult to classify."
Paris nodded. "Both of which sum you right up, donít they?"
Rory sighed. "Paris, if youíre trying to hurt my feelingsÖ"
"Do you or do you not have a boyfriend?"
"I have a boyfriend."
"Do you or do you not profess to love that boyfriend?"
There was a slight pause. "I love him, sure."
"Well then. Simple equation. We can put tonight down to an anomaly and never have to think about it again."
Rory tried, and failed, to cover the sting the remark had pricked her with. "But Paris, what exactly happened? Thatís what I want to know."
Paris leveled a stare at her. "You decided to explore the other side of your personality. Beth, lesbian extraordinaire."
Roryís cheeks darkened. "And you were exploring what? The real you?"
Paris flushed. "Temporary insanity."
Rory shook her head. "Bad excuse."
"Itís not an excuse!" Paris shot back, eyes flashing. "Anyway, I seem to recall I was the jump-ee!"
"Right! Except for thatís not how it was at all. You practically dared me!"
"GOD!" exploded Paris. "You just keep running at walls donít you, Gilmore? What is it you hope to achieve by talking about this anyway?"
Rory took a step forward, bringing the two of them within arms distance of each other. "Nothing! And certainly nothing that Ö would involve it Ö um Ö happening again?"
Parisís head shot up. The slight upward lift of Roryís voice had turned the statement into a question, albeit a terrified one. Paris felt her stomach clench and her cheeks grow warm.
"YouÖ" she managed, and cleared her throat, "want it to happen again?"
Roryís cheeks flamed. "Thatís not what I said." Then, in the smallest voice Paris had ever heard her use, she added, "Don't you?"
The silence hung heavily between them, charged with shock, panic, and something else. Paris took a second to chase it down for identification. Oh, god.
In fact, Paris knew exactly what it was, but didnít want to give voice to the word. It left her with a hollow hunger in the pit of her stomach, a feeling like her knees would give way from beneath her at any moment. She found herself counting her breathing just to stay upright.
Rory was in some kind of OtherWorld. An OtherWorld where OtherRory was saying the most unbelievable and terrifying things, and looking at OtherParis like she was on the dessert tray at Lukeís. OtherRoryís heart was pounding and her lips felt dry. She ran her tongue over them perfunctorily and saw with amazement that OtherParisís eyes had followed the movement with what looked like Ö hunger?
"Well," Paris said finally, slowly. "I guess I should get going."
She didnít move.
"If thatís what you think you have to do," Rory agreed, taking another step forward.
"Itís the practical thing to do," Paris muttered, trying not to be aware of the lessening distance between them, and failing miserably. "I can go down to the front desk, get another room."
"Completely different room," Rory assented softly, eyes on Parisís lips.
"As far away from this one as possible," Paris said, her own gaze drifting across the flush on Roryís cheeks, the brightness of her eyes.
"Elsewhere," said Rory softly, a hand floating upwards to land gently on Parisís shoulder.
"Elsewhere," agreed Paris in a haze, her fingers twining with Roryís own.
"I hear there are good hotel rooms in Elsewhere," Rory whispered, before lacing her free hand through Parisís hair and closing the last gap between them.