Title: All That's Left
Summary: Jess's return to Stars Hollow leaves Rory confused, but not nearly as confused as his surprising confession. Nag Hammadi re-write. One-Parter.
Spoilers: If you haven't seen the season 4 episode 'Nag Hammadi...' this is spoilerish.
A/N: I wrote this right after the episode aired, but I didn't think it was worth posting. Plus, there were so many great re-writes and mine wasn't going to make a big difference. lol. But I reread it yesterday and decided to just go ahead and post it. It's written from Rory's POV, in first person. (Eek! First time writing in FP for me!)
The past twenty-four hours
have gone by in a blur. From the second I saw his car sitting across the street
from Luke's he's been on my mind, no matter how hard I try to force him out.
Every time I think I've succeeded, or at least pushed thoughts of him to one
side, something reminds me. I see him, or someone says his name, or someone
looks at me as if someone I love has just died. They look at me the same way
they did when I had my arm in plaster after the car accident.
But I'm over it. That's what I tell my mom and that's what she tells everyone else. Just because I can't stop thinking about him and wondering what he's doing here doesn't mean I'm not over him.
I'd have to be stupid to not be over him by now. If you put what he did to me together with how long he's been gone it adds up to me being over him. Over it. Over us.
The line for burgers is moving agonizingly slowly. I just want to get our food and find my mom so she can begin her commentary of the Festival and fill my head with wacky remarks, leaving no room for him. So my own thoughts drown in her humorous waves of words.
But there he is again. In my head and standing right across the street from me. I freeze, wondering which one of us is going to make the first move. Every other time it has been him. He has walked away and left me standing in a flurry of anxiety and confusion. Which isn't fair, because I'm sick of being the one left behind and I'm tired of him walking away from me when he has so much to answer for. I couldn't do anything about it when he was on the other side of the country, but when he's in the same town as me and he still manages to leave me stranded like an idiot it's just too much.
I feel that flurry of nerves in the pit of my stomach and before I know it I'm running away, having declared that 'I'm leaving first.' I feel stupid for saying something so childish, but I finally get to be the one who walks away and I don't care how foolish I sound.
I hear him call out my name and I realize he's following me. I know he's right behind me and I just keep running, so unprepared to deal with this, despite having this confrontation with him in my head so many times.
People watch us as we dash past, dodging and weaving through carts and groups of festivalgoers along the street. He's begging me to stop but I refuse, why should I do anything he asks when he's the one who owes me? That thought sticks in my mind.
He owes me.
He owes me an explanation for his leaving and an explanation for his return, not to mention an apology for it all. He tells me he wants to talk to me and curiosity takes over.
"About what?" I demand, coming to a standstill and finding myself face to face with him, the closest I've been to him in almost a year. "What do you want to talk to me about?"
"When did you learn to run like that?" He asks breathlessly.
That's what he wants to talk about? Is this his shoddy way of trying to break the ice? He should know that the ice is too thick to be broken by some half-ass comment about the way I run. It's going to take the force of a wrecking ball to break through.
"You know, I have actually thought about this moment, a lot." I tell him, recalling moments from last summer where all I could do was think about what I would say to him if he were standing right in front of me.
Sometimes I would listen to him explain his way out of everything and I would somehow understand all the lies and the leaving without a goodbye. And other times I would scream at him until it hurt to talk. Each time I would be unhappy with the outcome and I'd start over, saying or doing something different but still finding myself unsatisfied with all of it.
"What would Jess say to me if I ever saw him again?" I continue hastily. "I mean he, just took off. No note, no call, nothing. How could he explain that?"
Sometimes, in my mind, he would explain it quite well. There were reasons for all of it and they all made sense, and they all made me feel wretched for being so blind to it all. Rationally I know that I couldn't have known exactly what was going on, but that doesn't stop me from blaming myself.
"And then a year goes by, no word, nothing, so he couldn't possibly have a good excuse for that, right?" I take a much-needed breath. Now that I have him in front of me I'm going to get through whatever speech happens to come out of my mouth. "I have imagined hundreds of different scenarios, with a hundred different great last parting lines and, I have to tell you, I am actually very curious to see which way this is going to go."
"Could we sit down?" He asks gently.
"No." I'm being stubborn, but I've earned the right to be stubborn. I am going to stand my ground, literally. "You wanted to talk, so talk. What do you have to say to me?"
I think to myself this had better be good. But a large part of me doubts it will be. He takes a deep breath and I wait for more lies, or excuses that won't nearly explain everything. How could they? There isn't anything he can say or do to explain or make up for any of it. Not now. Maybe back then, when it was all happening… maybe if he had just said something then it would all be different now. He takes another deep breath, and now I'm intrigued…
"I love you." He breathes finally.
I can't feel my legs anymore. I can't really feel much of anything, except my heart beat. And I hear myself breathing. It's loud in my ears and it's drowning out the sound of the festival. And I'm staring. And he's staring. And I can't think of anything to say!
I see him move. He takes a step away from me, and suddenly I'm looking at his back and it's moving away from me, just like the night of Kyle's party. The last time I lost him.
"No." I say quietly, pulling myself back to reality. "No, wait!" I shout.
He stops and turns slowly, I watch his shoulders rise and fall with a deep sigh. He doesn't make a move towards me, and there is no way I am going to have this conversation with him standing ten feet away. So, when I'm sure my legs are working, I walk over to him.
"What do you mean, what?" He frowns.
"What did you say?" I ask uncertainly. I have to know that I heard right, I'm going to make a fool of myself again.
"You heard me." He says uneasily, avoiding eye contact.
"Did I?" I shake my head. "Did you say…?"
"Yes." He admits quietly.
Now he looks back into my eyes and I look away instantly, as if his eyes burn mine and it hurts too much to look into them. I still can't believe what he has said. The words swim in my mind, refusing to settle and sink in. My effort to process this new information is interrupted by another thought, one that forces me to look at him again.
"And now you're leaving?" I ask incredulously.
He looks away again and I have my answer. I feel anger shoot through my body and if looks could kill I would be annihilating him with mine.
"So… what am I supposed to do with this news, Jess?" I ask, folding my arms across my chest. "How am I supposed to respond? Do you expect me to say 'Oh, gee, that's nice!'?"
"I think the you can leave out the 'Oh, gee' part." He says sarcastically, his defenses going up for a second before he can stop them. He takes a moment to start again. "You aren't supposed to respond…" He begins to explain, but I'm irritated all over again and I cut him off.
"So I don't get to say anything?"
He looks defeated. "Say something if you want." He offers apprehensively.
"No. I don't have anything to say!" I insist defiantly.
He nods and turns to leave again. I feel my mouth fall open in surprise and I start to follow purposefully.
"So you're just going to walk away? Get in your car and drive off like nothing happened?"
"You said you didn't have anything to say. And… I don't have anything else to say. So unless you want to stand in the middle of the street in complete silence…" He says, slowing his pace as we reach his car.
He opens the door and I push it shut again.
"You can't just show up, out of no where, say something like that and then drive off into the sunset!" I inform him.
He looks around and then his eyes meet mine. "There is no sunset."
"Jess!" Somehow I manage to restrain myself from stomping my foot on the ground like a petulant child.
"Seriously, Rory, what do you want me to say?"
"Well you could start by saying you're sorry."
"I'm sorry." He says effortlessly.
"And mean it." I snap.
"I did." He says simply.
He did mean it, and I know that. But in all my imagined scenarios his apology never came so easily.
"And… you could tell me why you're back." I stammer, trying to sound as strong as before.
He nods to his car and I glance towards it. It's a heap of rusting metal on worn tires. That's what he came back for?
"I see, so… if I hadn't been home this weekend or your car hadn't needed fixing then you wouldn't have had to say what you just said?" I roll my eyes. "That's great. I'm so glad that you can find the time to come back here to retrieve that," I thumb at his car. "But for the past nine months you couldn't find a moment to call or write to me? I can't tell you how great that makes me feel, Jess."
"There wasn't anything to say."
"Apparently there was!"
"You would have preferred I said that over the phone or in a letter?" He asks skeptically.
"Maybe." I know I wouldn't have. "At least if you'd said it in a letter I would have had a chance to think about it. But instead you just come here and dump it on me and put me on the spot. But I can't blame you for that, right? Because I wasn't supposed to know you were here! If only the food at my grandparent's stupid charity event had been more filling. Then I wouldn't have needed a burger and we wouldn't have run into each other tonight and then you would never have had to bother telling me how you felt. Ever. Which, I assume, would have suited you just fine. It certainly did when we were together!" I bite resentfully.
"Look, I said I'm sorry and…"
"And that's supposed to make it all better?"
"No. But aside from getting down on my knees and begging for forgiveness I don't know what else you want me to do!" He looks around, as if the answer will present itself if he looks hard enough.
There's a long silence where neither of us look at each other but instead focus all our attention on the ground and our feet.
"Please don't make me get down on my knees and beg for forgiveness."
I feel a small smile tugging at the corners of my mouth. But he doesn't deserve it and so I force it back before looking up at him, straight faced.
"It just doesn't make any sense." I say quietly. "It didn't last year and it still doesn't now."
"A lot of things don't."
I feel tears stinging my eyes and I blink them back as I nod. "A lot of good things."
I don't elaborate on that. It's up to him if he chooses to see every meaning it could possibly hold. I'm not going to spell it out for him. I don't think I need to.
"I am sorry, Rory."
I nod again. "I know."
Another silence descends on us and, thankfully, it doesn't feel as awkward as I imagine it should. There isn't anything else to say now. I know he can't stay. I know he doesn't really want to. He never really did. It doesn't make it any easier to know any of this, but I get the feeling that nothing is going to make it easier.
"My mom is waiting." I exhale, looking up at him through glassy eyes.
"Ok." He recognizes the easy out I'm handing him. "I should go then."
"So… this is it?"
"For now, at least." He admits sadly.
I can't bring myself to say 'goodbye'. It sounds as lame and stupid as it did last summer and for that, and many other reasons, I'm not sure I want to say it. So instead I take a few steps back and turn slowly, as if I'm in some kind of daze. Just when I think it's over, again, I hear his voice.
"Did you let it go?"
I stop in my tracks, my eyes closed tightly. I don't need to think hard about that question. The answer isn't as simple. One answer closes the door on a possibility I'm not sure I'm ready to shut out yet. The other answer could blow it wide open and expose me to something I'm just as unsure I want. So I settle for the middle ground instead. Leaving the door ajar.
He doesn't respond, and maybe that's for the best. I put one foot in front of the other and feel myself walking away from him. It doesn't feel as satisfying as it was supposed to.
As I make my way down the street I see his car pass me out of the corner of my eye, but I force myself to look straight ahead. Because what's ahead is all that's left now.