A/N: Finally, we have lift off on the fic that won the poll! lol Well, it only beat out The Blame Game by one vote, so I guess it doesn't make that much of a difference. This is my fourth Literati story that I'm writing at the same time now, so fingers crossed I don't get mixed up! I'm sure you'll all tell me if I do ;) And, if you like this start of this one, please let me know!
Disclaimer: All recognisable characters belong to Amy Sherman-Palladino and other folks that aren't me.
Rory was pretty much mortified when she realised she had been caught out by her grandma. It never occurred to her for a second that the end time of her last final was so important because her grandmother was trying to set her up on a date! Not that the guy who she picked out wasn't cute and everything, but as soon as Emily was gone, Graham started to explain the nature of the event Rory was supposed to be attending. It wasn't really a date, not with a lot of his other friends present. In the end, he confessed it was a pub crawl more than anything else. Rory tried not to look judgemental of his choice when she carefully turned him down.
"Well, it's very nice of you to invite me, even though you were kind of rail-roaded," she smiled. "It's just, I'm not really the crawling to pubs type, sorry. So, thank you, but I think I'll just finish up packing and head straight home."
Graham didn't look too bothered by her rejection. As Rory expected, he was probably relieved to get away without having to babysit the granddaughter of an old acquaintance on his night of freedom and drinks with the guys.
"Okay. Well, it was nice meeting you, Rory," he told her with a smile and a wave as he moved towards the door.
"You too," she confirmed, letting out a sigh she hadn't know she was holding in until Graham was finally gone.
Reaching for her drink, she downed the rest of the contents of the cup in one, wincing at the messed up taste. All the alcohol left on their floor of the building mixed together did not taste good, but the buzz was actually quite nice, especially when added to the high of getting out of college for the Summer. Finally, she was headed home to Stars Hollow for a good long stretch of free time. It felt great.
"Hello?" called Rory as she came through the front door of her home, laden down with a couple of bags.
There were so many boxes still to bring from the car, but she was kind of hoping for help with that. She called for her Mom twice before Lorelai actually appeared, rushing down the stairs in a pretty pink dress.
"Hey, sweets!" she greeted Rory with a wide grin and an enveloping hug that her daughter happily returned.
"Wow, look at you," she commented, when the hug was over. "Very Renaissancey."
"Thank you, daughter dear," Lorelai curtseyed appropriately. "I didn't think you'd be back yet, if I'd known I'd've made sure you had a dress and a flower crown and..."
"It's fine," Rory literally waved away her mother's concerns. "I wasn't even invited to the wedding, so..."
"Honey, it's Luke's sister getting married. You would be invited in a heart-beat if they knew you were here."
Rory squirmed under her mother's gaze. She had her reasons for not minding that she wasn't going to Liz's wedding, most of which she didn't really want to talk about. If her brain had just caught up with her enthusiasm to get home, she might have timed her journey differently. An hour later, maybe even a half hour, and her Mom would already have left for the ceremony, Rory never would've had to feel awkward like this.
"Really, I'm fine," she forced a smile, moving past her mom to grab the bags she had dumped in the hall. "I don't need to be there, I just..."
"The J word?" asked Lorelai, already sure she was right, more so when Rory wouldn't look at her when she next spoke.
"Mom, I told you, you can just call him Jess, it's fine."
Lorelai followed as Rory dragged her bags to her room and dumped them on the bed.
"See, you say that, but then you won't come to the wedding and I think it's because you're avoiding the guy, which I don't hate the idea of, but why should you?" she paused to grab her kid by the shoulders and turn her around to face her. "Honey, this is our town, your town, way more than it was ever his. You should be at this wedding!"
Rory smiled at that.
"I don't think anything qualifies me to be at a wedding more than being the bride's son qualifies Jess," she said definitely. "But if it would really make you happy, I'm sure I can throw together something Renaissance-esque and catch you up," she sighed, knowing her mom was not going to let this go.
"Yes, you should do that!" Lorelai enthused, hugging her daughter tightly one more time. "Oh, sweetheart, I'm just so glad to have you home!"
Rory was glad to be home too and told her mother as much as they parted. Lorelai had to go finish getting ready herself, her hair wasn't finished yet and she needed to get her flower crown pinned up there. Plus she was now insisting on giving Rory her first attempt at a similar crown that hadn't gone quite so well, but she would fix it and it would be fine.
Rory was only half-listening to the rambling as she dug in her wardrobe for anything she could pass off as remotely Renaissance. Even then she wasn't entirely concentrating on the task at hand. It was going to be so weird seeing Jess again after the way they left things last time. He told her he loved her, and then he just ran. Well, to be more accurate, he got in his car and drove, but it amounted to the same thing, running out when things got serious.
Rory hadn't known what to think or feel about Jess from that day to this. Maybe seeing him again was what she needed, to get a little closure or something. She had thought she was over him once upon a time, but the more Paris and too many others talked about Rory's 'dry spell' the more she thought that Jess had to be the reason she wasn't dating anyone else. Even in his absence, he was there in her head all the time. They never officially broke up, he just took off one day and didn't come back. She told him she was done with it, on the day she graduated from Chilton, no less. Since then she had seen him on just one other day, the day he said he loved her. The very memory of it made a shudder course right through her body, and for the life of her Rory couldn't say what the over-riding emotion was that caused that physical reaction.
"Okay, so it's not as perfect as I would like," said Lorelai as she came bounding back into Rory's room with a ring of flowers in her hand. "But I think if you wear that pale green number you got in the sale a couple of months ago, it could work."
"Good thinking," Rory smiled, immediately turning back to her closet and looking for the very dress her mom was talking about.
Even as they both got dressed and fixed their hair, acting as girly as women getting ready for any event were want to do, Rory couldn't stop her mind wandering, or her stomach churning if she were honest. Going to a wedding was a fun idea, but seeing Jess just made her nervous. She had no idea what to expect.
It was a real surprise to see her. At first Jess thought he might be hallucinating the most beautiful girl he ever met in a long flowing green dress and carefully made ring of flowers atop her head. When she sat down with Lorelai and Luke, looking all around at the festivities of the wedding, he knew for sure it was definitely Rory.
She wasn't supposed to be here, Jess was sure on that. He had asked Luke if she would be coming and his uncle confirmed she wouldn't be home from college until later today or maybe even tomorrow. Apparently things had changed, since Jess couldn't imagine Luke lied, not about Rory of all people.
He was sneaking glances at her the whole time he was waiting for Liz to appear on her ridiculous carriage. Rory didn't seem to notice, and Jess was mostly glad about it. He couldn't imagine she would really want to see him, and yet she had to know he was here at the wedding. He was giving away the bride for crying out loud, and the way people talked in this town, there was no possible way she didn't know.
It was only when Patty approached the front of the crowd, saying something that caused Lorelai to jump up and run, that Rory finally looked in Jess' direction. Their eyes met for a brief second and he tried for a smile that probably didn't quite come out right. She looked away so fast, Jess was surprised she didn't give herself whiplash. He had no idea how bad Rory felt for doing that, though Luke noticed from two seats over.
"Ah, this is awkward for you," he said, noticing how quickly Rory had looked away from the far end of the aisle. "Because of Jess."
"Yeah, a little," she admitted, facing front on purpose. "It's not like I didn't know he would be here, he's your family after all..."
"Hey, you are too," said Luke, patting her arm lightly. "Oh, except... well, not family in a way that'd make you and Jess dating wrong, not that you're dating now, but... You know what I mean, right?" he asked desperately, hoping to God he didn't have to try and explain any further.
"I get it," said Rory with a genuine smile as she looked his way, finding his sigh of relief just a little amusing. "And thank you, I appreciate what you were trying to say, and I'm fine, honestly. Things with me and Jess, they were just so... unresolved, I guess. It feels weird seeing him and not really knowing where either of us stand."
"Uh-huh," Luke nodded. "I get that, Jess might've mentioned what happened last time he was here. For what it's worth, I think he knows he handled things badly."
Rory squirmed under Luke's gaze then. He meant well, she was sure, but talking to Luke about her relationship with Jess, even hearing him talk about it, it was weird in the extreme. Luke was so much a father figure in her life, even though Rory did have a real dad that she loved so much. With him being Jess' uncle too, it felt strange to be talking about things like what she and Jess once meant to each other, what they might still mean now.
"And I'm back!" Lorelai declared as she returned to her seat between Luke and Rory. "Dress all fixed, and this wedding is a go!"
Luke shifted uncomfortably, knowing he had to say something, anything else, to remove the awkwardness of his previous comment. Looking from Lorelai to Rory and back, he smiled.
"Did I mention that I am very honoured to be sitting with the two prettiest girls in Stars Hollow?" he told them. "You both look beautiful."
"Oh, Mr Danes!" gasped Lorelai, in a Southern belle accent as she pretended to fan herself. "Well, we're just mighty glad you approve."
The laughter between the three then felt good, at least until they were forced into silence by music and the start of the ceremony. A carriage arrived, and out stepped Liz in her perfectly sewn up dress. She grabbed Jess' offered arm and her son escorted her down the aisle to where T.J. waited, in the tights he refused to shut up about! Rory couldn't help but smile as Liz was 'handed over' to her husband-to-be, and the happy couple shared a look of love. It was oddly beautiful.
Of course, it was very distracting when Jess moved to sit right in front of her. Rory couldn't think of much else and almost felt the need to lean back in her seat just so she was a little further away from her ex. Lorelai had to have noticed.
"You okay, hon?" she checked.
"Fine," Rory promised.
All attention then went to the strumming of a guitar as the so-called minister appeared from the gazebo, singing about childhood toys and games of all the crazy things. There was no time for Rory to be thinking about Jess and what would happen next with them right now, she was way too busy trying not to laugh. Unfortunately, no amount of serious topics her mother came up with seemed to help either of them, or Luke for that matter, to be calm and straight-faced. It was physically painful not to laugh out loud!
Then things changed. The song was over and the vows began. Liz and T.J. might not be the youngest people, the most eloquent, or even the best at relationships in the past, but Rory could see they were definitely in love. Her eyes drifted from the happy couple getting married to the back of her ex-boyfriend's head. She had been in love once, maybe twice if she counted Dean, but Jess definitely had to be a consideration too. She never told him she loved him, not implicitly. She said she thought she had been in love, during their final phone call on her graduation day, but when he said those three little words to her, she hadn't replied. To be fair, he hadn't really given her a chance, but even now Rory wasn't sure what her response would've been.
As the minister (or minstrel, or whatever he was) pronounced that Liz and T.J. were now husband and wife, Rory's attention came back to the matter at hand. A quiet applause and a few cheers rippled through the crowd as the newly married couple sealed their vows with a kiss. It was only when Lorelai glanced at her with a look of concern that Rory even noticed she had started to cry.
To Be Continued...