Title (for now): Being right is overrated

Rating: PG (will probably change in the future)

A/N: Everything up through Haunted Leg has happened. For those of you who don't have the names of the episodes memorized, Haunted Leg is the one where Jess confronts Rory in Doose's market and certain stealth-worthy information is shared. If our heroes had been paying attention they would have realized that a) Jess is hurt, b) Rory is jealous of Shane and, c) they are both crazy about each other.

This is my happy little alternate universe using the early Season 3 episodes as a launching point. Oh yeah, it's a literati. Please read and review (I live for feedback!)

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It is night in Stars Hollow. The streets have a comforting tucked-in quietness that seems only to live in the kind of small towns where everybody knows your name. Rory wanders down the street, taking her safety for granted as is her privilege for having grown up in such a place. Despite the tranquility of the evening, Rory's soul is turbulent. She nears Luke's Diner and slows, her apprehension centered not on what could happen as she walks alone on the street but on what could happen if she enters the diner.

She thinks back to their argument at Doose's Market. She knows he was probably right about, 'Okay just admit it. . . everything,' she thinks. This thought gives her brief pause but she quickly dismisses it concluding 'being right is overrated.' Shaking her head, she wonders when denial replaced coffee as her principal crutch to get through the day. As an image of Dean flits through her mind, she shakes her head wondering when her life became one big exercise in avoiding people she'd just rather not see. 'Pathetic,' she thinks, 'my life is officially pathetic.'

Stopping in the protective shadows just beyond the front window, she surreptitiously peers inside the glass, surveying the diner. It is empty save one lone person standing behind the counter polishing glassware. Taking in the wearer's flannel shirt and backwards baseball cap, Rory smiles in relief.

Luke looks up as the bells above the door jingle. Seeing Rory enter, he smiles and says, "Meeting your mom?"

"Yeah."

"She's not here yet."

"Oh," Rory replies, looking around pensively.

"Coffee?" Luke asks, already turning to grab the coffee pot and pour her a cup.

"Thanks," Rory says, smiling at him weakly.

Looking at her curiously, he notes her apprehension and guesses incorrectly at its source. "She must have gotten held up," Luke offers, trying to ease her concern. "She's probably already on her way."

"Well, there's a conference at the Inn tomorrow so she mentioned she might be late, something about the National Insulation Contractors Association and Michel and pork barbeque. . . " Rory says shrugging her shoulders. Spying a corner booth she turns to Luke, "I'll just wait here for her if that's OK."

"Sure," he says, picking up another glass to begin polishing it.

Walking over to the counter, Rory picks up the mug of coffee Luke poured for her and heads for the booth. Sloughing off her backpack and winter coat, she slides into it. Fishing a small book out of her backpack, Rory begins reading. Nerves and apprehension fade away as Rory becomes lost in the words on the page.

"Jess!" Luke shouts from behind the counter.

Shocked back into the present, Rory looks at Luke. He has finished polishing the glasses and they are nowhere in sight, having been stowed away under the counter. The upstairs apartment door opens.

A muffled "What?" floats down from the top of the stairs as Jess's voice is heard shouting in reply.

Luke walks to the bottom of the stairs and pushes the curtains aside.

"Get down here. I need you to watch the diner. I have to go to Hartford to pick up the new cabinet hinges from Home Depot," Luke says as he walks back behind the counter, taking off his apron, and heading into the kitchen. "They called. They're in. I have to get them. You have to close tonight."

Footsteps sound on the stairs as Jess comes into view. "I really appreciate all the advanced notice you give me," he says scowling.

"I just found out. Sorry I can't plan around your busy social schedule," Luke says shrugging on his jacket and heading out the door. "I'll be back later. Bye, Rory."

The door slams behind Luke and Jess freezes. 'You gotta be kidding me,' he thinks. Blood drains from his head and rushes speedily to his feet at the mention of Rory's name. Feeling unbalanced, his body remains facing the door as his head turns in the direction Luke tossed his goodbye.

Hoping that Luke had forgotten that she was still in the diner, Rory had been just about to hide under the table. She slid down in her seat, ducked her head to the side, and was dipping out of sight when she heard Luke's departing goodbye. Instantly panicked, she tried to sit back up but she was already too far under the table. Losing her balance, she flailed her arms wildly, desperately attempting to right herself. Instead, her uncontrolled movement caused her to topple sideways where she flopped face first into the booth. Blushing profusely, she pushed herself up with all the force that someone desperately embarrassed can muster and accidentally cracked her head on the table edge. An involuntarily "Ow!" escapes her as her hand flies up to massage her wounded head.

Trying to recapture a small portion of her dignity, Rory forces herself to meet his eyes.

"Let me guess, some new form of seated aerobics?" he asks her, trying to control the laughter so obviously bubbling up inside of him.

Staring daggers at him, Rory mumbles, "I lost my balance."

"You were going to hide under that table," he accuses her, phrasing it as a statement, rather than a question.

"I was not!"

"What were going to do? Crawl out when I wasn't looking?"

"I was not trying to hide from you!"

"That door has a bell," he says, pointing at the front entrance to the diner, amusement dancing in his eyes. "I would have heard you leave."

"I wasn't planning to sneak out."

"So you were just going to stay under there? Maybe sleep there tonight? I haven't tried it but it's probably not very comfortable. Of course, I'm just guessing here."

"I dropped my pen." Rory lies. "I was just bending down to pick it up."

"You mean that pen that's sitting in the middle of the table?" he smirks, his eyes shifting to the pen and then back to her.

"Oh," Rory says, surprised. "I thought I dropped it."

"I hear that's the first stage of caffeine-induced psychosis."

"What?"

"Hallucinations. Maybe you should see a doctor."

Sighing, Rory continues rubbing the sore spot on her head.

"Does it hurt?" Jess asks, his voice softening.

"A little."

Jess walks over to her, his hand reaching up and catching hers, pulling it away. At his touch, Rory stops fidgeting, stops breathing. His other hand reaches up to move her hair out of the way, as he tucks the loose strands behind her ear. Rory's breath catches at this intimate gesture that nevertheless feels natural, normal. Leaning closer to inspect her forehead, Jess' fingers skim the delicate skin on her face.

'He is so near, only inches away,' she thinks. 'He smells great, like Jess.'

"It's already swelling," he tells her. "You're going to have a bruise."

"Oh. . ." Rory says, realizing that he has not yet released her other hand and unconsciously, their fingers have entwined.

Jess looks away from the bump on her head and his eyes meet hers. He hadn't realized their faces were so close together. 'It would be so easy to kiss her right now,' he thinks, his eyes falling to her lips. 'She really has amazing lips.'

Her mouth suddenly dry, Rory unconsciously licks her lips.

Almost imperceptively Jess leans slightly forward, as though gravity is shifting and he is unable to resist. 'Oh my God, what are you doing Mariano?' he thinks suddenly. Swallowing hard, he stands abruptly and backs away, dropping her hand.

"I'll get you some ice for that bump," he says, retreating into the kitchen.

Rory stares dumbly at his retreating back. 'I thought he was going to kiss me,' Rory frowns as disappointment washes over her. Tears form behind her eyes as she curses silently, blinking rapidly to clear her vision. 'What is wrong with me? I shouldn't care that he didn't kiss me. In fact, I shouldn't want him to kiss me at all. This is all wrong.' Trying to gain control over her emotions, she turns towards the window and breathes deeply, inhaling and exhaling long breaths through her mouth.

"Here," Jess says returning to her side. He crouches in front of her and places a clean dishtowel filled with ice on her injured forehead.

"Ouch."

"I know, but it'll help," Jess grins at her.

Rory reaches her hand up to hold the ice pack herself and accidentally places her hand directly on top of his. "Oh. . ."

"Uh. . ."

They both look down at the floor. Rory blushes while Jess clears his throat, removing his hand.

"Thanks," Rory whispers, looking at him.

"No problem," Jess answers, standing. 'I can't do this anymore,' he thinks. 'If I keep letting her in, she'll just keep hurting me. ' Quickly, before she can see the pain and want in his eyes, he retreats behind his protective walls. Casting about for something, anything, to put some distance between them, his eyes fall on Rory's book lying forgotten on the table. "Pablo Neruda?" he questions, smirking. "Isn't he a little. . . mature for you?"

"Mature?" Rory says, repeating his word.

"Yeah, especially that one," he states raising his eyebrows. "Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair? That's pretty serious stuff."

"It's a good thing you're here then. You can explain all the big words to me," Rory says, her irritation returning.

"As I recall, those poems are mainly about sex. Are you sure the words are the only things you need me to explain?"

Rory's face burns while a mild pain sprouts like a seed inside of her. "Don't you have work to do?" Rory questions flatly, pretending to return to her reading.

"Nope," Jess responds, sliding into her booth. "You're my only customer. So how do you like it?"

"This is called ignoring you. It's what I'm doing now," she retorts, not looking up from her book.

"I thought it was called reading. Huh. . . learn something new every day. What's it called when your face turns red like that?"

At this comment, Rory looks up at him, her eyes stormy, angry.

"C'mon Rory," he entreats, "How do you like the book?"

Knowing in her heart that he is not going to leave, Rory sighs loudly. She makes eye contact with him. He raises his eyebrows, as he silently challenges her to answer his question.

"Neruda's amazing," she finally admits.

"So, you like it?"

"Yeah. You know, he was part of a Latin American counterculture at the turn of the 20th Century that was very similar to what happened in the US with the Beats in the 1960s," Rory explains, beginning to grow animated.

"How so?" Jess asks.

"Well, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Creely, Ferlinghetti. . . those guys, wrote about defying conventions, about human needs, love, emotions, question for religion, even mixing science and religion in an experimental spirituality. . ."

"Sure, but what made the Beats different was their rebellion against seriousness in writing," Jess counters. "They maintained the modernist ideas about form but closed the gap between art and life, making art more relevant. They used the pages differently, arranged words in shapes, ignored conventions of grammar, punctuation. . ."

"I know! My point is that some of these Spanish writers like Neruda got there first. Take Miguel de Unamuno. He wanted something more real than what he thought were the false traditions of Spain. He questioned his own existence, ultimate truth, and examined a possible balance between faith and reason to understand the existence of God. . . .and did all this in the late 1800's."

"What's this got to do with Neruda?"

"Neruda followed closely on the heels of Unamuno and others like him. Neruda wrote love poems but he also wrote about social injustice and the disparity between rich and poor, powerful and exploited."

"Interesting," says Jess, staring intently at Rory.

"Isn't it?" Rory agrees.

"Well, yeah, for sure. What I meant though was. . . it's interesting that you're reading a steamy book of love poems and when I ask you how you like it, you start talking about the author and a Spanish literary revolution that happened 100 years ago."

Rory sucks in her breath. Coloring deeply, she stammers, "My interests are varied. . . I look at the poems in their context and the author's intent when writing and what was happening culturally and socially at the time. . ."

"Rory," Jess interrupts her babbling. "What do you think of the poems?"

Rory stops talking and blinks at him. "They're beautiful," she finally whispers.

Jess smiles. "Do you think they were all written to the same woman?"

"Probably not," Rory muses. "In one he talks about a woman with 'milky white breasts' and 'exquisite sadness' which doesn't sound even remotely like the woman he wrote about in 'Girl Lithe and Tawny.'"

"I agree, there's probably more than one woman in there. I wish I could read the original Spanish."

"You don't speak Spanish?"

"I speak Span-glish. You know, street Spanish. Just enough to understand the curse words the Puerto Rican kids in my neighborhood used to yell at me, " Jess grinned.

"Gotcha."

"When did you start reading Neruda?"

"I've always been a fan but for some reason the words came alive to me when I was in Washington last summer. I must have read 'Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair' 20 times."

"Any part stand out? Do you have a favorite?"

Before she thinks twice, Rory closes her eyes and quotes "Why must the whole of love come on me suddenly when I am sad and feel you are far away?" Rory opens her eyes and sees Jess staring at her strangely, intently. Only then does she realize what she has said, what she has told him, admitted to him. The seed of pain planted earlier sprouts tiny roots. Trying to cover and deflect, she says, "Do you have a favorite passage?"

Jess hesitates before answering. After long moments, his voice husky, he whispers, "You are here. Oh, you do not run away. You will answer me to the last cry. Cling to me as though you were frightened. Even so, at one time a strange shadow ran through your eyes. How you must have suffered getting accustomed to me, my savage, solitary soul, my name that sends them all running."

Silence descends.

"Rory. . ." "Jess. . ." They begin simultaneously. At that moment, the bells of the front diner door sound.

"Offspring!" Lorelei shouts in greeting.

The moment is sliced in two by the entrance of a third person. Jess breaks eye contact with Rory by standing. Quickly he walks behind the counter cursing his shaking hands. Rory feels slightly dizzy, her thoughts a jumble.

"All problems solved at the Inn," Lorelei announces happily. "Except, tomorrow afternoon, you have to come to the Inn and pick up Michel's car, change the oil and wash it."

"What?" Rory asks snapping out of her stupor.

"Well, you don't have to change the oil. You can take it somewhere and have someone else do it."

"Oh, that changes it entirely," Rory notes sarcastically.

"I had to promise him SOMETHING in exchange for coming in on his day off."

"Well, promise him a different day off! Do I look like a Texaco station to you?" Rory grumbles. "I am so not doing that."

"Hey, he wanted me to throw in a waxing and I said absolutely not. See how I look out for you?"

"My best interests are always in the front of your mind, aren't they?"

"Always," Lorelei agrees. "I think it won't seem so bad to you in the morning. Besides, you can always sweet talk Narcolepsy Boy into doing it for you."

Anticipating their need for coffee, Jess has already prepared two go-cups for them. He flinches at the reference to Dean. Rory notes his discomfort and looks at her feet.

"Hey look!" Lorelei says. "Coffee! And I didn't even have to beg. Wow, Diner Boy may not be as bad as I thought." Lorelei grabs her cup and starts heading for the door.

Picking the Neruda book off the table, Rory lags slightly behind. Carefully, she looks at Jess. He looks hurt, angry, disappointed. "Thanks," she whispers, wishing she had more words to say and more courage to say them.

Knitting his eyebrows together, Jess nods and looks away.

Rory leaves the diner and Jess watches the Gilmore girls walk together past the front window. 'Pathetic,' he thinks. 'My life is officially pathetic.'

A/N: Thanks for reading. Part 2 coming soon (well, maybe soon-ish is more like it!) Please review! (