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They were sitting at the table, and Rory looked mournfully into her empty mug.
"That's just pathetic. I even added cream in it to make it more pregnancy friendly. It undermines everything I believe in." She sadly clanked the spoon to the side of the mug.
"Don't read pregnancy blogs then," he said, and got up to pour himself another cup of coffee. Rory emitted an envious sigh. "There's all that stuff about no Pop Tarts there too."
"No! Say it's not true!" she exclaimed, and he laughed openly.
"Well, not specifically Pop Tarts, but I'm sure you can find 'nothing out of a box' amendment somewhere there, on at least half of them."
Rory groaned, and dropped her head on her folded arms. She felt Jess's warm hand pat her shoulder, and he sat down again.
"What do you want to do today?" he asked, and she groaned again, without lifting her head again. "Rory?"
"I officially have nothing on my to-do list."
"How about that book of yours?" he asked in a fake light tone, and she lifted her face.
"Did you read it?" she asked in a small voice.
"The first three chapters you gave me?" he asked, and she nodded. "Yeah."
Rory lifted her eyebrows in a universal move encouraging him to speak, but he just sipped his coffee with a calm face. Normally, she wouldn't press. Who'd want to sound needy and seeking validation? But she was sleepy, coffee deprived, feeling insecure - and then she remembered it was Jess; and maybe, these days, when everything seemed so strange, she trusted Jess.
"So, what do you think?" she asked, and he lifted the mug to his lips. "Jess!"
"I won't tell you."
"I'm not telling you. Because it's your book, and you shouldn't be influenced by anything. Not me, not a potential reader, not your mother..." He gave her a lopsided grin.
"Well, you and Mom surely don't matter," Rory drew out, and he chuckled. "But a reader… Remember what John Cheever said?"
"I do not understand the capricious lewdness of the sleeping mind?" Jess asked, and she snorted.
"No. 'I can't write without a reader. It's precisely like a kiss - you can't do it alone.'" And then she realized she'd just mentioned a kiss. Was it childish to get flustered over it at thirty two? Maybe. But yet there she was thinking back at a few minutes ago, in her bed. She shook off her ridiculous daydreaming. "I need to know how it reads, Jess."
"No, you don't." He leaned back in his chair. "You know you write well. You have the right education, and enough experience in all those newspapers you edited. Your skill is there; your language, your style are great..." He shrugged. Rory sensed a 'but' there.
"No but's," he answered nonchalantly.
"Breathe out, Gilmore." He got up and put his mug into the sink. "Just write, OK? And when it's done, I'll be there." He sounded really serious, there at the end, and she suddenly felt a surge of affection for him.
Funny, it had been just a few days ago when he was just Jess, a guy from her past. The one she hadn't seen for four years. He had been Luke's nephew, and a guy she'd briefly dated. And suddenly there he was, standing in her Mom's kitchen, saying he'd be there for her - to say nothing of the fact that he was one out of the two people she'd told she was pregnant.
"How about we sit in front of each other at this table and both write?" he asked. Rory whipped her head to stare at him.
"Are you writing something too?"
"Yeah, it's… just an idea for now. Nothing big."
"Nothing big..." she repeated slowly. "How many pages do you have by now?"
"Three..." Jess cleared his throat. "Hundred..."
"What? Wow..." She wasn't sure what she felt. Sadly, there might have been a bit of envy there. "Three hundred pages… What is it? What's it about?"
"OK, OK, back off." He waved his hands in the air with a laugh. "How about we work for couple hours, and then later, in the evening I'll let you have a peek?"
"Deal," Rory agreed readily.
Writing in front of Jess proved itself completely impossible. He wasn't looking; he kept typing, and clicking something on his Mac, probably doing research; he was even wearing earphones. But he was here, and his eyebrows were jumping up and down; then he was frowning; and he smelled so nice!
"You are not working," he said, each word separate.
"You know that calling this 'work' kills any joy I was getting out of it?"
He looked at her over the screen.
"It is work, Rory. The whole inspiration-art-tapping-into-the-universal-absolute-of-human-creativity thing that they preach? Bull. You sit down, write, edit, hate it, and then something works out."
"Sore spot?" she asked, and he barked a low laugh.
"Yeah." She smiled to him. "Sorry."
"No worries. But what's this about?"
"It's… how it's perceived. Like it's a hobby, you know? You know those question that follow when you say you're a writer? The whole 'oh OK, but what do you do for living?' kind of questions. Like if I write, I don't work. And can't support myself. Or someone else..." He suddenly stopped, and hid behind his screen.
"Someone else like a..?" She knew he'd just slipped, said too much, and prodding him was maybe not something a good friend would do, but something pushed her. Maybe, the strange closeness of the last hours did. Or a small voice in her head, whispering that it was a big deal.
"Like a family, Rory. OK?" he snapped, and then sighed. "Sorry. I was just thinking this morning… I mean…"
"When did you even have time to think some complicated deep thoughts?" Rory asked, trying to lighten the mood. But he pressed his lips and closed his computer.
"Listen, I'm going to say something right now, and I want you to give me the benefit of the doubt, OK?"
"What do you mean by the benefit of the doubt?"
"I mean, try to take it the best way possible. I know, I don't have the best record here, and there's no good way to say it… But if you ever need any help, with the baby… and the money, I want to help." He exhaled sharply, and gave her a cautious look as if expecting her to yell at him.
"Did you expect me to feel like a charity case, and get defensive?" She laughed softly. He smiled back with relief.
"Yeah… Or remind me that you could never rely on me before, and that every time you needed me to be there, I didn't come through."
"You're here now." It sounded very cliché - but he was.
He squirmed on his chair in discomfort. It looked rather... endearing, to be honest; since he was so buff and gruff these days, but the same boyish gestures were there. "OK, now go back to work."
"Aye, aye, captain." He snorted, and opened his laptop again.
She did very little, mostly wasting time on social media, when it was finally time to take a break. He apparently now cooked, and there were even some groceries in the house, since an actual living cooking person resided in it these days. Rory pretended to read her What to Expect while he was slicing chicken and boiling pasta.
"All this is mildly terrifying," Rory mumbled, eyeing a picture of a fetus.
"That's too cliché even for a journalist, Gilmore," Jess answered, without turning away from the stove, where he was frying vegetables. "How about 'ominously daunting?'"
Rory gave his back a sarcastic look. And then she had to once again cut her eyes away from the muscles under the t-shirt, asking herself yet again if her sudden interest in his physique was indeed hormones. Not according to her book, actually; excessive libido was supposed to kick in later.
"Have you thought of calling him?" Jess suddenly asked, and that was like a bucket of icy water.
She decided that not answering was an obvious answer, and dropped her eyes to the page. A drawing of a fetus was surely less 'ominously daunting' than a conversation about Logan.
Apparently, Jess's back had the same super power as Luke's: they both could express a wide range of emotions with it, and currently Rory was getting a clear insistent vibe. She sighed and put the book down.
"I decided I'll let him know in six weeks. If everything goes well," she added in a meaningful tone.
Jess hummed confirming, and sprinkled some unknown spices over the vegetables he had in the pan. It smelled mouth-watering. Rory decided that was as much of this conversation as she was prepared to have, and she got up and looked over his shoulder.
"That looks amazing," she murmured, and stretched her hand to an especially delicious looking piece. A gentle tap of his wooden spoon made her jerk it back, and then she slapped his shoulder.
And then she choked in her own laugh, because he was looking at her, and she knew that look! Lowered lashes, his eyes on her lips, his own lips softly parting - and then he jerked, and cowardly shifted his eyes at his cooking.
Rory fled. She didn't know herself why. Maybe, because it was so new; maybe, because he was right, and she was vulnerable. So, mumbling something about forgetting her phone in the bedroom, she backed out of the kitchen, and ran.
She flopped on her bed, and immediately sat up with a jerk, since there was still that vanilla spicy smell on her sheets and her pillow. She didn't lie though. Her phone was on the bedside table. She absentmindedly picked it up and saw that there was a missed call on it.
And it was from Logan.