Title: Burned

Author: Shine7

Rating: PG (could go higher later)

Summary: Rory has broken up with Dean. She may or may not be with Jess already. I haven't decided. Takes place during a fictional season 3.

Disclaimer: I clearly own nothing affiliated with "Gilmore Girls."

Chapter 1:

He made smoking look sexy.

That was it, she thought. Sure, she knew smoking was horrible and that it could kill him someday. But when she looked at him, really looked at him, she came to the simple realization that some people were born to smoke and he was one of them. It was an imperfection, of course, but somehow it was a comforting one on him.

And then he turned around and looked right at her.

She froze.

Rory hadn't meant for Jess to see her. She was watching him from 20 feet away on the bridge, bundled in a sweater. It was a cold October night, with New England fall readying for the harsh winter. She could see her breath. She could see his breath. And to her dismay, she had been caught.

"Hey," he said, lowering his cigarette to his hand, studying it.

"Hi," she said. "I couldn't sleep."

"Neither could I," he said. "Come here."

She tentatively walked toward Jess, looking at him. He gazed back at her, and in a swift motion, hurled his cigarette into the water below.

"You didn't have to do that," she said, once she was standing just a few feet from him.

"That's okay. I know you hate it when I smoke," he said.

She could still see his breath. It almost looked like smoke. But somehow, it wasn't quite the same. She missed watching his hands carefully, but expertly handle the Camel Light, and the smooth motion of him cupping his hands to light the stick despite the wind.

"No, I don't," she said. "I mean, smoking is bad for you and all, and I would never do it, but somehow it suits you."

"Really?" he asked, shocked. "You mean Rory Gilmore doesn't mind that someone isn't perfect?"

She looked at him, pained.

"How could you think that I expect you to be perfect?" she asked.

She didn't want him to think that she was perfect, or that she expected him to be. That was the last thing she wanted. And she wasn't perfect, she thought. Would a perfect girl have broken up with her perfect boyfriend despite the perfect town wishing they would live a perfect life together?

She sat down, defensively, with her feet over the edge of the bridge. She crossed her arms. And looked up.

His gaze met hers. He looked to the side, pondering his next move.

And then he made it. He reached for his pack of Camels, and hit the bottom a few times against his side, to make his next smoke easier to light. After carefully drawing a cigarette out of the pack and tucking it smoothly behind his ear, he sat down, bundled in his lined leather jacket. Right next to Rory.

And did nothing.

It was so quiet, and so cold. All either of them could hear was the chirping of birds and insects. They gazed at the water below. Soon, it would freeze over. Time seemed to stand still. They heard each other breathe.

Finally, Jess made a move.

He reached inside the pocket of his jeans and withdrew a lighter. Nothing special, just one of those candy-colored Bics that he purchased outside town, since Taylor refused to sell him any smoking paraphernalia.

And he flicked it. Once. Twice. Three times.

Rory watched the flame, enthralled.

He was flicking out of habit, out of boredom, out of a desperate need to do something rather than staying put in this uncomfortable situation. But he stopped, realizing flicking a lighter would hardly solve his problems.

Then, she made her move.

Rory reached for the lighter. He let her. He placed it in the open palm of his hand, and she grabbed it, feeling his cold skin as she took the even colder plastic.

She studied it, looking at the silver top and feeling the harsh metal of the circular lighting mechanism. She had never actually held a lighter. In fact, she didn't even like to light a match. She had been afraid of getting burned since she was a small child.

And now, sitting next to Jess, she was once again afraid of getting burned.

But, with the force of the cold night behind her, she decided to let caution to the wind for once.

After all, she wasn't perfect.